Supermarket Chain Morrisons Introduces ‘Quiet Hour’ For Shoppers With Autism And Noise Sensitivities

Lefteris PitarakisAP Images

According to the BBC, supermarket chain Morrisons has introduced a weekly “quieter hour.” Aimed at reducing stress during shopping by eliminating loud music and minimizing other noises and lighting, the initiative is designed to create a welcoming atmosphere for shoppers with autism or who shop with children with autism, or others who are disturbed by bright lights and loud noises.

Morrisons has announced that on Saturday mornings between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., they will be dimming lights, turning music off and check-out beeps down, and avoiding using the tannoy (PA system) at all of their 439 UK stores. Movement of trolleys and baskets will also be reduced, and signs will be posted during the hour to inform about the “quieter hour” and encourage other customers to be respectful.

According to the National Autistic Society, this is a “step in the right direction.”

Last year’s nationwide “autism hour” was participated in by many larger establishments and chains, including more than 600 Sainsbury’s stores across the UK, but Morrisons is believed to be the first supermarket to implement the idea in all of their stores nationwide.

Other stores are starting to get on board with the concept. Toy shop The Entertainer has a “quiet hour” aimed at children with autism right after opening every Saturday, with in-store music turned off in the company’s 145 UK stores.

Asda says it has been working with specialist charity groups to improve inclusivity, and introduced a similar scheme in a Manchester location in 2016, with more stores following suit. Tesco is leaving the matter up to individual store managers, and it has been reported that a store in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, has begun the practice.

Autism Hour will return nationwide in 2018.

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According to mother of two Charlotte King, who spoke to the BBC, the initiative has made it easier for her to complete shopping trips with her son, Darcy (who is 3 and undergoing diagnosis for autism), in tow.

“It is the noise, the lights, it is tannoys. It is too much for him to take in. It looks like you are a bad parent with a naughty child. Parents will be more relaxed knowing there will be people there that understand and won’t judge them, this will help reduce anxiety levels for everyone.”

Adults with autism or noise sensitivities are also finding the progress beneficial, according to 61-year-old Julie Titmuss, who called big supermarkets “deafeningly dreadful” and hopes not only that such hours will be expanded, but that other retailers will follow suit.