Coles Kangaroo Flat has introduced a 'quiet hour' in their store so people who experience sensory overload can shop with ease.
The initiative has been implemented at over 150 Coles stores around the country since August 2017, but the Bendigo establishment is one 60 stores in Victoria to start the program this month.
From today, on every Tuesday between 10:30-11:30 am the lights will be reduced, Coles radio will be switched off, and register and scanner volumes will be reduced to the lowest level.
There will also be no PA announcements, no trolley collections, and roll cages will be removed from the shop floor.
Coles Accessibility Sponsor Peter Sheean said it was about making the store a more inclusive environment for everyone.
“At Coles, we are passionate about improving accessibility in our stores," he said. "We are always looking at ways we can make life easier for our customers and how we can respond to the differing needs of communities."
Coles said there were currently no plans to implement the program at other stores in Bendigo or the surrounding region.
“Our goal is to offer Quiet Hour at every eligible Coles supermarket by 2023," he said. "Unfortunately, not all supermarkets currently have the ability or technology to offer Quiet Hour at their store due to control of lighting or audio and store locations."
The Bendigo Autism Asperger Group (BAAG) welcomed the new program at Kangaroo Flat.
"I think it's a great initiative that would be great in other supermarkets," BAAG committee member Fiona Dower said.
"A neurotypical person is able to tune out a lot of sensory information," she said. "But a lot of autistic people can't cope with fluorescent lights because they can hear the buzzing sounds."
"There is so much information in their brains from the light, the sounds and the noise that it can cause a meltdown," she said.
Ms Downer, who is the parent of a child on the spectrum, said a 'quiet hour' would be great for children and adults alike who experience sensory overload.
"To have a quiet hour where they turn the lights down and don't have any announcements is going to make a huge difference," she said. "It will make a trip to the supermarket much more easier to cope with."
Woolworths is currently testing its own quiet hour program, with its store in Epsom one of 32 around the country taking part in a trial.
"We’re always looking to improve the shopping experience for our customers," a Woolworths spokesperson said.
"We're pleased with the response from customers so far and will continue to monitor the feedback as the trials continue."
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