Stores all around the UK will participate in “Autism Hour” in an effort to raise awareness of autism. This event was organized by the National Autistic Society to help draw attention to the difficulties that people with autism can face in noisy environments.
This first started when an Asda superstore staged a quiet hour to help individuals with autism and individuals with disabilities shopping in May 2016. All music and display TVs were turned off and customers were given a map of the store, featuring pictures instead of words. Simon Lea, manager of the Asda Living store at the Cheetham Hill complex, came up with the idea to help people who were overwhelmed by noise and disturbance. Lea thought of the idea after seeing a boy with autism struggle to cope in the store in April 2016, and has since said that many other stores plan to follow his example.
Lea told the Manchester Evening News, “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.”
In addition he shared, “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.”
This event in 2016 has now inspired stores all over the UK to participate in “Autism Hour.” In the first week of October of 2017, businesses will turn down music, reduce announcements, and dim lights to help create a calming and less intimidating environment for families and individuals with autism. Store workers have also been educated about autism and how they can provide support.
As reported by Independent, research by the National Autistic Society shows that 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated and 64% avoid going to stores. In response, there has been a growing trend towards autism-friendly events in public places. A recent example would be the store Tesco trial an autism-friendly hour in its Crawley store in February of this year.