‘Quiet hour’ shopping promotes inclusiveness for people with autism

Amanda Lyons

24/11/2017 1:11:05 PM

The Coles supermarket chain has collaborated with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) in the roll out of its ‘Quiet hour’ initiative, helping to create a welcoming shopping space for people on the autism spectrum.

Coles partnered with Autism Spectrum Australia in developing its 'Quiet hour' shopping.
Coles partnered with Autism Spectrum Australia in developing its 'Quiet hour' shopping.

Quiet hour is designed to make shopping more accessible for people on the autism spectrum, many of whom experience a phenomenon known as ‘sensory defensiveness’.
‘Sensory input, what you hear and see and feel, can be quite overwhelming in some individuals on the autism spectrum,’ Dr James Best, a GP with a special interest in the disorder, told newsGP.
Quiet hour takes place at 68 selected stores across Australia every Tuesday between 10.30–11.30 am. The initiative adopts measures such as avoiding announcements over the PA system, dimming the store’s lights by 50%, and reducing the radio, registers and scanners to their lowest volume. Aspect has also provided Coles staff members with some training to help them understand sensory defensiveness.
‘I think it’s a terrific idea, because there are certainly some people on the autism spectrum who will be quite distressed by [usual supermarket noise] and it might present a barrier to them to go to the shops or to do their own shopping,’ Dr Best said.
Removing these types of barriers is key to the initiative, according to Linzi Coyle from Aspect Community Engagement and Operations.
‘We’re achieving a “no-judgement” shopping space where people on the spectrum and their families can feel comfortable and welcome whilst grocery shopping,’ she said.
Dr Best feels the idea of creating an open and welcoming space is the most valuable aspect of Quiet hour.
‘I think this is really sending out a message of inclusiveness,’ he said. ‘It’s sending a message that people are thinking of [autism] and making an effort, which I think is very positive.’
With autism affecting one in every 100 Australians, Dr Best also believes similar initiatives could be valuable in other settings, including general practice.
‘Having a certain time of day or a session where you’re saying to people, “We are going to make a time and effort to include you as being able to access our facilities”, is absolutely a good idea,’ he said.

autism-spectrum autism-spectrum-disorder quiet-hour

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Marie   28/11/2017 11:38:37 AM

What a good initiative to show inclusiveness!...we still have a long wary to gob but it's a good start.

Matthew Harvey   28/11/2017 6:38:01 PM

So, for one hour, on one day during the week, in the mid-morning, the sensory environment gets modified in 68 of the 801 (according to Wikipedia), or just over 8% of, Coles Supermarkets in Australia. That doesn't sound like inclusion to me.

It sounds more like segregation.

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities, and is bound by this convention. Article 19 of the CRPD states:

"States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:

a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;

b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;

c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs."


The Disability Discrimination Act (Cth) 1992 is Australia's legislative response to the UN CRPD. Section 23 (b) and ( c) of the Act deals with access to premises, and states:

It is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s disability:

(b) in the terms or conditions on which the first‑mentioned person is prepared to allow the other person access to, or the use of, any such premises; or
(c) in relation to the provision of means of access to such premises

I think we all have a long way to go to even come close to complying with our own legislation and obligations as parties to the UN CRPD.