Once a week from 10:30 to 11:30am, the harsh fluorescent lights in 173 Coles stores across the country will dim, the blaring cheeriness of Coles Radio will be switched off, and more staff will be on hand to help at registers. This is Quiet Hour, a concept developed in conjunction with Autism Spectrum Australia to better accommodate customers with sensory issues, and it's now being expanded to more than twice as many stores as were initially included.
For people with autism or other conditions that effect sensory processing, something as mundane as grocery shopping can be a challenging and difficult situation to navigate. The same goes for parents who are accompanied on shopping trips by autistic children, who struggle with similar issues.
Quiet Hour was first introduced late last year in 70 stores, and after overwhelming positive feedback the program is being extended to another 103 stores, with more planned to be added to the list soon.
Aside from the store lights and the lack of Coles Radio, other Quiet Hour amendments include the lowest volume being used on registers and scanners, a cease in trolley collection and roll cage transportation, no PA announcements, free fruit at the customer service desk and additional staff on hand.
Quiet Hour is, to the best of my knowledge, the first autism-friendly shopping experience of its kind, and it's only surprising that more stores and chains haven't jumped on board with similar initiatives. Around 1 in every 150 Australians are on the autism spectrum, and as many of 75 per cent of people with autism experience some difficulty with sensory processing.
You can see the full list of participating stores here.