Preface By Christopher Wyatt | TLB staff writer/documentary producer
You can file this one under Autism with a sub-title, “Partial Solutions.” Super Store ASDA Living in Manchester England decided to make shopping easier for those suffering with Autism and other disabilities.
This past Saturday ASDA staged its first ever ‘quiet hour’, to help autistic and disabled shoppers who felt intimidated or stressed by noise and disturbance, by opening one hour earlier than normal. It was such a success that EIGHT other shops at Manchester Fort are set to do the same.
It is a comfort to know ASDA recognizes that victims of Autism think differently, learn differently and shop differently than most of society. They can function and be productive with a little encouragement, patience and understanding. Way To Go Manchester! Do I hear the “wheels of thought” turning at Wal-Mart? (CW)
From The Manchester Evening News
ASDA held its first quiet hour for autistic and disabled shoppers – and now eight other shops are going to do the same
A superstore opened early for a ‘quiet hour’ to help autistic and disabled people.
Karen Dennison, whose son has autism, manager Simon Lea, Mark Kirkwood who has autism, and his key worker Steve Coleman
A superstore staged its first ever ‘quiet hour’ to help autistic and disabled shoppers this weekend… and now EIGHT other shops at Manchester Fort are set to do the same.
Simon Lea, manager of the ASDA Living store at the Cheetham Hill complex, came up with the idea to helping people who felt intimidated or stressed by noise and disturbance.
And his idea for a super-quiet shopping environment struck a chord with thousands of people around the country with autism or other conditions and their families.
On Saturday, the store staged its first-ever quiet hour which saw escalators, in-store music turned down and display TVs switched off.
Autistic and other disabled customers were given a map of the store featuring pictures instead of words when the store opened at 8am – an hour early – on Saturday.
General manager Simon, who brought in the concept after seeing a boy with autism struggle to cope in the store last month, now says many neighbouring stores at the out-of-town shopping complex have told him they are also planning to follow his store’s example.
He told the M.E.N.: “It went really well. The store was silent, and we had great feedback from the families who benefited. Now it will be a regular event for us – every Saturday.
“We have eight other stores on board now at Manchester Fort who will be doing the same.I will also be meeting my bosses to feedback how it went.”
Watch: Dad’s inspiring film about autism
“Personally, I suffered for many years with anxiety and I used to absolutely hate going into busy stores. We knew that if we could make a few small changes to give these customers a better shopping experience then the store would be a better place to shop for everyone.
“It’s all about helping people really. Six months ago I would have said ‘control your child’ even though I’ve got children. But speaking to people with autism and disabled people has helped me think about how I can make it a better place to shop.”
Delighted Joanne Baines, who visited the store on Saturday with her daughter, posted her praise on Manchester Fort’s Facebook site: “My daughter and myself came in this morning to get a school skirt and what a huge and positive impact your store and more importantly your manager and staff have had on my daughter this morning.
Watch: ASDA manager Simon Lea speaks about the autism hour
“She not only managed without her wheelchair and ear defenders but she coped and didn’t go into crisis. This for us is huge. No head banging, biting or screaming.
“Once we returned to the car told me she enjoyed shopping this morning and would be happy to go back she’s never said that to me before so thank you.
“My daughter doesn’t cope with over stimulation of noise, lights and crowds but today she has learnt that she can do this and that is so important for her and us as a family especially for when she becomes an adult. Thank you x.”
Praising the scheme, Mark Lever, CEO of The National Autistic Society, said: “We’ve recently launched our biggest ever awareness campaign called Too Much Information, so people can learn about autism and feel encouraged to respond with the same kind of understanding shown by Simon and ASDA.
“Last year, we surveyed over 7,000 autistic people and their families ahead of our campaign and shops were among the most popular choice to become more autism-friendly – we hope other supermarkets are inspired to follow ASDA’s example.”