Stores turn down lights and music to welcome autistic shoppers

Autism hour 1main

A new National Autistic Society campaign is educating shops about how to make their stores less stressful for people with autism

Susan Smith's photo

8th October 2018 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

Major high street retails including Sainsbury’s, Argos and Schuh are making their stores more autism friendly this week.

The stores have agreed to takes steps such as turning down music, dimming fluorescent strip lighting and sharing information about autism with employees.

For one hour this week, they will make sure their stores are less frightening for people with autism.

The move is part of the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) new campaign, Autism Hour, which runs from 6 to 13 October.

It follows research from the charity that shows everyday experiences such as shopping can be challenging for autistic people with 64% saying they avoid shops and 28% saying they have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.

Celebrities such as Chris Packham, Anne Hegerty and Christine McGuinness are backing the charity initiative.

Over 10,000 stores have agreed to take part. Other high street stores that have signed up include The Entertainer, Pets at Home, Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and the Co-op.

TV presenter and NAS ambassador Chris Packham is autistic.

He said: “I rarely go into supermarkets. I find that environment really challenging, all of the bright lights, the confusion of the enormous complexity of goods in there, plus all the smells andthe sounds. It’s a difficult environment. And that’s why I’m very keen to support Autism Hour, those shops which offer an hour where they make the whole atmosphere a lot more relaxingfor autistic people.”

Mark Lever, chief executive at the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many well-known high street retailers have already signed up – and ready to make the world a more autism friendly place. Autistic people represent a huge part of our society and it is a disgrace that 64% of autistic people avoid the shops. And, shockingly, 28% of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated to their autism. They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.

“The National Autistic Society want a world which works for autistic people. With Autism Hour, we want to show retailers the small things they can do to help open up the high street for autistic people."

The Autism Hour website has a map of stores taking part in the initiative.

9th October 2018 by Derek Manson-Smith

For some time now, before 10 on Saturday mornings, Morrison’s in Partick, Glasgow, has all the overhead lights out - just the display cabinet lights. The first time I came across it, I asked if there was a problem with the lighting and was told it was told it was to create an autism-friendly atmosphere. Certainly very calming.