Autism is a learning disability which can affect people for the entirety of their life and causes individuals to find communication and social interaction increasingly challenging.
The supermarket giant Asda has recognised this as one of its ‘Asda Living’ stores, located in Cheetham Hill, Manchester is set to begin the running of a dedicated hour of complete silence in a bid to make its shopping environment more enjoyable for people with autism.
The hour will take place between 8am and 9am every Sunday whereby escalators, music, tannoy announcements and even televisions in the electronic department will be turned off completely in a big to minimise the levels of ambient noise on the premises.
Loud noises can make it difficult for people living with autism to cope and can be very unsettling which is why this dedicated hour will help people to enjoy the shopping experience far more than in they would in the usual environment.
These changes (which will commence as of 7th May) are being implemented by Store Manager Simon Lea following his observation of young boy with autism in distress on the shop floor at a very busy and loud time of the day.
Furthermore, these changes may create a generally more peaceful and enjoyable shopping experience for people living with other issues including anxiety - an illness which Mr Lea himself states he suffers from.
Whilst plans are only in place for the one store at the moment, a spokesperson for Asda has stated the company will be analysing the feedback from the Cheetham Hill trial in order to identify opportunities for introducing the changes to additional shops in the future.
This is great news and a clear demonstration on the importance of prioritising customer satisfaction, as well as identifying specific requirements of certain groups and how to tailor services to meet these.
The changes have received praise from Tom Madders, head of the National Autistic Society, who has stated shops and public places are regularly expressed by autistic people as being challenging areas to cope with as a result of loud noises, smells and large crowds of people.
He also conveyed his wish for the news to be inspiration for other supermarkets and retailers to adopt similar approaches in order to improve the experience for even more customers in the future.
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