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Supermarket Launches 'Quiet Hour' To Help Shoppers With Autism

Lights were dimmed, radios were turned down and free fruit was given out.

16/08/2017 10:15 AM AEST | Updated 16/08/2017 10:15 AM AEST

Two Australian supermarket outlets went quiet on Tuesday with the aim of making the shopping experience easier for people with autism.

Coles supermarkets and Autism Spectrum Australia launched the trial program 'Quiet Hour', at the Coles Ringwood and Balwyn East stores in Victoria to create a 'low sensory shopping experience' for people on the autism spectrum.

This initiative follows a study conducted by Aspect, which asked people who have autism and their families about their shopping habits. The study found that bright light was the most common cause of difficulty when shopping, and that loud music, cash register noises -- like beeping-- and long queues also caused significant distress. The research also concluded that the most common shopping time for people with autism and their families was on a Tuesday morning.

'Quiet Hour' was developed in light of this information. The trial is held every Tuesday between 10.30am and 11.30am at both of the participating stores.

During the hour, both the radio in the stores and the registers are turned to their lowest volume and loudspeaker announcements are avoided. The lights in the store are also dimmed to 50 percent and general supermarket activities like trolley collection and removal of roller cages are also avoided. Customers are offered free fruit during 'Quiet Hour'.

"We have invested in training for team members to increase their understanding of sensory overload and how to best respond to customer needs," said Linzi Coyle of Aspect Community Engagement and Operations in a statement.

"Although we have modified some of the physical and sensory stimulators in store, we also hope to achieve a 'no-judgement' shopping space for people and families on the spectrum, where customers will feel comfortable and welcome."

'Quiet Hour' is open to all shoppers, whether they are on the autism spectrum or not. The trial will run until the end of October.

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