Coles introduces 'Quiet Hour' to make shopping easier

To help shoppers who find the heightened sensory environment of a supermarket - the constant music, beeping scanners, bright lights - to be challenging, a low-sensory shopping experience designed to be easy on the eyes and ears will be offered from Tuesday.

For an hour each week, Coles will dim store lighting by 50 per cent, switch the radio off and reduce volumes of their registers and scanners to the lowest level.

No trolley collections and roll cages will be removed from the shop floor throughout the hour, announcements will only be made in emergencies and additional staff will be available to support customers during the trial phase.

The national supermarket chain partnered with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) in August to trial Quiet Hour at two Victorian stores to support customers who live with autism, or have family members who do.

Following a successful trial, Quiet Hour will be offered every Tuesday between 10.30am and 11.30am, at 68 supermarkets across Australia.

These include 20 stores in NSW, including Pyrmont, Brighton-Le-Sands, Epping and Castle Hill in Sydney.

Linzi Coyle, Aspect's community engagement and operations manager, said a simple trip to the shops can be difficult for many individuals and families.

"People on the autism spectrum often have difficulty processing sensory information and can find sounds, light, smell, touch and taste overwhelming," she said.

"Together with Coles, we're achieving a 'no-judgment' shopping space where people on the spectrum and their families can feel comfortable and welcome whilst grocery shopping."

Peter Sheean, Coles' accessibility sponsor, said the company wanted a good geographic spread of participating stores. "We were really pleased to receive a positive response from our customers and team members, who welcomed Quiet Hour and provided feedback on social media," he said.

Those affected by autism praised the initiatives. "This is absolutely amazing," one person wrote on Aspect's Facebook page.

"I know my son struggles going to the supermarket because of sensory overload so this would help make the stress of going to do the shopping alot [sic] less and more of a positive experience."

This story Coles introduces 'Quiet Hour' to make shopping easier first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.