Woolworths introduces new initiative for people with special needs

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Supermarkets can be a nightmare for those with autism, so Woolworths has followed in the footsteps of Coles and launched ‘Quiet Hour’ to assist shoppers with sensory needs.

Quiet hour launched in late August after a successful trial, with 260 locations across Australia taking on the initiative.

The small gesture means a lot to those with specific and special needs, including autism, by providing a quieter and less stimulating environment in store.

During Quiet Hour, Woolworths customers can expect reduced volume on music, store phones and registers.

On the left is a stock image of a woman at self-serve registers. On the right is a Facebook photo of a sign announcing Woolworths' 'Quiet Hour' initiative.
'Quiet Hour' at some Woolworths locations includes dim lighting, no loudspeaker announcements and lower volume on the scanners. Source: AAP;Facebook/Lindel Gooch

Between 10:30 and 11:30 each Tuesday morning store lights will also be slightly dimmed, roll cages will be removed from the shop floor and no PA announcements or buzzers, with the exception of emergencies.

Autism Spectrum Australia estimates 1 in 70 Australians are on the autism spectrum.

Woolworths hopes by providing a quieter and less stimulating environment, it will reduce anxiety and sensory stress for customers with specific needs.

The low-sensory initiative was developed in consultation with disability service providers at Life Without Barriers and is receiving a positive response from shoppers, even those without special needs.

“It’s just a more calming way to shop,” one woman wrote, responding to a discussion about the program in the Facebook group Markdown Addicts Australia.

Woolworths offers quiet hour for children and adults with autism and sensory issues. Pictured is a stock image of a child in a trolley grabbing an apple.
Woolworths hopes providing a quieter and less stimulating environment will reduce anxiety for shoppers with special needs, including children with autism. Source: Getty stock

Another woman said grocery shopping in store was something people with disabilities may find difficult and they shouldn’t have to “miss out” on.

“Going to the shops can be the best and most exciting thing for those with disabilities, people who have disabilities shouldn’t just have to shop online,” she said.

A third person said it was a step in the right direction, hoping other stores would follow.

“This is proactive positive forward thinking for a better future!!! Let's all support people with disabilities in anyway we can,” the person said.

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