Coles is expanding its autism-friendly “Quiet Hour” shopping experience to an additional 103 supermarkets across the country in a bid to provide a more inclusive shopping experience for customers.
The grocery chain will dim lights and reduce in-store noise and distractions in 173 of its supermarkets every Tuesday from 10.30am to 11.30am.
The announcement comes after an initial trial of the “Quiet Hour” initiative received an outpouring of support from parents of children with autism and community advocates last year.
Fifty-six stores in New South Wales, 20 in Western Australia and 27 in Queensland have been added to the program, more than doubling the number of participating supermarkets.
“We’ve listened to our customers, and our store teams have worked hard to make our stores more welcoming and responsive to the needs of the local communities in which we operate,” Coles managing director John Durkan said in a statement provided to news.com.au
During Quiet Hours, Coles staff switch off in-store radio, reduce the scanning volume at registers, pause trolley collections and put on additional customer service staff.
In a Facebook post about the initial trial last year, mum Emily Dive said supermarkets can be a “sensory land-mine” for those with autism.
“Crawling under shelves, running out of the store, screaming, running, and yelling are our ‘norm’ when we visit the supermarket. Behaviours that are his way of communicating ‘I can’t cope’.” Dive wrote.
But after visiting Coles during a Quiet Hour, Dive reported fighting back tears.
“We spent 40 mins in the store, casually walking up and down each aisle selecting the items that we needed.”
Coles said it hopes to further expand the program to additional stores in Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania in coming months.