A hush descended over Coles Inverell on Tuesday morning, November 21, when lights were dimmed and noise limited for the store’s first low sensory shopping hour.
Coles Inverell is the first store in the region, and one of 68 supermarkets across Australia, to trial a quiet hour for customers on the autism spectrum, or who are sensitive to lights and noise.
“It was an absolute success. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from our customers,” store support manager Bronwyn Hall said.
“I did have a person come in who did shop with an autistic child at that time, and they said it was fantastic.”
Every Tuesday morning, from 10.30-11.30am, the lights will be dimmed to 50 per cent, the radio and registers muted and the trolley collection stopped.
The PA system will only be in use for emergencies, and free fruit will be on offer at the service desk.
“It’s actually great to have that inclusion and to have that awareness of these big shops that are trying to make things easier for us,” Nicole Webb said. Ms Webb said that she usually avoids shopping with her son Ethan, who has autism.
“Ethan would get distracted by various noises and stuff and it just becomes overwhelming for him,” she explained. She said sensitivity to lights and sounds was common in people with autism, and many others not on the spectrum could also benefit from the low sensory experience.
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) community engagement and operations manager Linzi Coyle, said Aspect was proud to help Coles create the quiet hour.
With autism affecting one in every 100 Australians, she said the low sensory experience would significantly improve many lives. She said the quiet hour wasn’t just about limiting physical and sensory stimulators.
“Together with Coles, we’re achieving a ‘no-judgement’ shopping space where people on the spectrum and their families can feel comfortable and welcome whilst grocery shopping,” she said.
Ms Hall said she hopes to see other stores in the region follow suit once the trial is completed.