The Asda Living store at Cheetham Hill, an inner city area in Manchester, will introduce a "quiet hour", where complete silence would be maintained for 1 hour to help autistic and disabled shoppers. The move is planned by the store's manager, Simon Lea, and will be applicable on all Saturdays, beginning 7 May.
The "quiet hour" will make shopping easier for people with autism and other disabilities, as loud noises can sometimes make the experience difficult for them. As per the plan, the store will do everything possible to reduce sound at the store, including stopping its escalators, switching off its in-store music and turning off TV displays. For the benefit of disabled customers, Asda will be providing maps of the store, which will include images instead of words.
"When we open the doors you will be able to hear a pin drop. That's the plan. It's all about helping people really. Six months ago I would have said 'control your child' even though I've got children. But speaking to people with autism and disabled people has helped me think about how I can make it a better place to shop", Lea said.
He explained that the move was planned after he noticed an autistic boy having difficulties while shopping at the store a fortnight ago. "This boy was playing absolute blue murder, kicking and screaming. His mum just looked drained. She told me he suffers from autism. He was having a meltdown", Lea stated.
The store's manager posted on Facebook that the "quiet hour" was not only for disabled customers, but for anyone who wanted to do their shopping in a silent environment.
Lea went on to state: "I suffered for many years with anxiety. I used to absolutely hate going into busy stores. There are a lot of people out there who have mental health issues. There are many people who don't talk about it."
The Asda store is not the first to help autistic customers. Cheshire Oaks, the designer outlet shopping centre at Cheshire, introduced autism-friendly shopping evenings in February, according to the Manchester Evening News.