By Adelaide Cromwell-Keenan
One of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains plans to increase the number of locations implementing the weekly ‘Quiet Hour’ to help people with autism.
Coles has been working with Autism Spectrum Australia and has decided it will increase the number of participating stores to 176 across the nation.
During “quiet hour” the stores will reduce lighting, sound and increase staff to help those with heightened sensory perception found in conditions like autism.
About 400,000 Australians have been diagnosed with autism and Coles hopes the move will help them more comfortably do their grocery shopping.
A Coles store manager (who didn’t want to be named) said the allocated hour has created a comforting environment for parents and their children.
“Customers with hearing and light affected children really enjoy it,” said the manager.
“The bigger stores aren’t as popular, as there are still a lot of noise generated by our customer, but in the smaller stores it is quite effective.”
Special needs teacher Liz Love claims these “quiet hour” sessions will cause less discomfort for children with autism, making it easier on children and parents during their shopping trip.
“For some children it is as though fluorescent lighting is like sticking a hot poker in their eye,” she said.
“[With the] fluorescent lights and the noise, it can be too much for them.
“Having these issues removed will improve their experience and make it less likely for the children to have a meltdown in the store.
“We need sensory sensitive allocations in more locations to ensure families always have a pleasant experience,” Love said.
The “quiet hour” happens between 10:30 until 11:30 on Tuesday mornings at many locations around WA.
A list of them can be found on the Coles website.