A supermarket chain in Poland is set to introduce an initiative across its stores with designated shopping hours during which it will adapt conditions for people on the autism spectrum.
Auchan hypermarket's "Hours of silence" will be rolled out in shops across the country after one store trialled the initiative in early April on World Autism Awareness Day.
The scheme was a grassroots initiative of Auchan Częstochowa North, located in Silesia Province, in cooperation with local charity "Daj mi czas" (Give me time), according to a press release.
Several other stores have since followed suit, including Wrocław, Gdańsk, Radom, Kielce and Rzeszów.
"At this specially appointed time in the hypermarket, the lights will be dimmed, no messages will be broadcast on the loudspeaker, no music will be played, and all TVs will be turned off," the statement read.
A separate cash register will be also be made available to autistic customers during these time slots.
Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society — the UK’s leading charity for autistic people —, said: “We are very pleased to hear that Auchan is introducing this initiative, which we hope will make shopping a little easier for autistic people and their families.
“Our research suggests that 64% of autistic people avoid the shops and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. This is not good enough.
“The smallest changes can help open up the high street for autistic people. Things like staff finding out a bit more about autism and making simple adjustments like turning down music or dimming the lights.”
Lidl Ireland introduced a similar scheme in all its stores at the beginning of 2018.
The company made an “unreserved” apology to an eight-year-old boy and his mother in March 2018 after they were told to leave a store with their autism assistance dog.
It now offers Autism Aware Quiet Evenings to all customers every Tuesday from 6pm-8pm.
Features of the evenings include:
- Reduced lighting
- No music or announcements
- Lower till scan sounds
- Priority queuing
- Assistance dogs welcomed
"We are offering customers a calmer shopping environment and the security of knowing that additional assistance is available if necessary," Lidl Ireland said in a statement.
Autism is a lifelong disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world, according to the National Autistic Society.
It is a spectrum condition, which means autistic people have their own strengths and varying and complex needs.
Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum can be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, as well as being unable to or finding it harder to speak, needing longer to process information or finding it hard to hold conversations
They can also experience intense anxiety around unexpected change and in social situations, as well as becoming overwhelmed so that they experience debilitating physical and emotional "meltdowns" or "shutdowns".
For more information visit: www.autism.org.uk