SYDNEY – A supermarket chain in New Zealand announced on Wednesday that it will implement a weekly low-sensory “quiet hour” to make shopping easier for customers with autism, anxiety or those who want a more peaceful experience.
Every Wednesday from 2:30-3:30 pm, noise, lighting and other distractions will be reduced, the in-store radio will be turned off, checkout volumes lowered and trolley collection and shelf stocking will be minimized, Countdown said in a statement.
The measure, which will take effect on Oct. 23 nationwide, takes place after a pilot program implemented last year at the suggestion of a child with autism.
“The lovely thing about Quiet Hour is that we have had very positive feedback from so many customers. Our older customers seem to really enjoy Quiet Hours too, as well as many other Kiwis who actually just find shopping a bit stressful and can now visit at a more peaceful time,” said Countdown General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability, Kiri Hannifin.
Dane Dougan, chief executive of Autism New Zealand, which developed the idea with the supermarket, said that the “invisible nature” of autism makes it difficult to create understanding and awareness of the difficulties faced by those with the condition as they carry out their day-to-day tasks.
“We are excited that Countdown offers ‘quiet time’ in its stores and highlights that small changes can create a more inclusive environment that has an important impact on people,” he said.