Feel like grabbing something quick for dinner but don't want to drag your sensory overloaded children through a noisy supermarket?
Well, that regular witching hour for parents, is now the Quiet Hour at Coles.
Coles in Katoomba has expanded its low-sensory shopping experience - Quiet Hour - to five days a week, at a time that better suits many customers and working parents.
Supermarkets nationwide are offering the experience from 6pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday, to enable those customers who find high sensory environments challenging a convenient and accessible time to do their grocery shop. Changes include the in-store radio turned to the lowest volume, reduced register and scanner volume and no announcements - except in emergencies.
A Katoomba staff member said it is "to support those in the local community who may find high sensory environments challenging. We look forward to strengthening the commitment to meeting the diverse needs of customers through this initiative".
Coles was the first major supermarket to introduce Quiet Hour in 2017, with select stores reducing sounds between 10.30am to 11.30am on Tuesdays. Woolworths followed suit in 2019, also lowering the lights.
Autism Spectrum Australia estimates about 350,000 (or 1 in 70) Australians are on the autism spectrum.
Coles Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Katie Wyatt, said not only is Coles expanding its popular Quiet Hour to support those on the autism spectrum, but Coles has also invested in a number of Own Brand products that have seen accessibility improvements, made digital upgrades to the app and has increased representation in the workforce, with 7.6 per cent of team members identifying as having a disability.
"We are always looking for new ways to serve our customers with disabilities and their carers ... up to 70 per cent of autistic people experience sensitivity to sounds, with autistic adults reporting that these symptoms worsen with stress and anxiety. Quiet Hour promotes increased opportunity and enhances the shopping experience for thousands of customers."
Coles has been working with the not-for-profit autism organisation, Amaze, since 2021, collaborating on the store environment to improve accessibility.
Amaze CEO Jim Mullan said the company had shown a "commitment to building an environment and a workforce representative of the community they serve, including autistic people".
"The expansion of their low-sensory shopping experience is just another example of the many steps that they have taken over the years to understand and purposefully meet the needs of not only their Autistic customers but also their autistic employees."
Coles has also been nominated for Corporate App of the Year at the Centre for Accessibility Awards 2023. Features include tailored text sizes and a simpler experience by reducing the number of swipes and taps needed to navigate the app.
Meanwhile Woolworths is also extending its quiet hour over the holiday period. The holiday Quiet Hour program starts on November 28 and runs until December 15. It is on Monday to Thursdays from 10.30am to 11.30am.
Half the lights are turned out, there are no announcements (except in an emergency), no in store radio, the registers and phones are turned down and the oven buzzers are turned off.
The Woolies initiative was developed in consultation with disability service providers Life Without Barriers.
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