A major supermarket is hoping to make life easier for people with autism and people caring for autistic children by introducing a calmer shopping experience.
Morrisons is planning to introduce a "Quieter Hour" every Saturday which will see harsh lights dimmed, bleeps, music and radios and other electrical noises turned off. The store has also assured customers that no tannoy announcements will be made during the hour.
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The move which has been supported by the National Autistic Society has been planned in a bid to help customers who need a quieter shopping experience.
A spokesman for Morrisons said: "It is designed to help customers who currently struggle with music and the other noise associated with supermarket shopping.
"The Quieter Hour initiative has been created with the support of the National Autistic Society. Many people who are autistic or those with autistic children can find shopping in a supermarket an anxious experience.
"We carried out a trial earlier in the year in three of its stores - Lincoln, Woking and Gainsborough - to find out what improvements can be made and to find a convenient time each week for the ‘Quieter Hour’ to take place.
"Listening to customers we found one in five had a friend or family member with autism and many appreciated the option to shop at that time on a Saturday."
Bosses at Preston's Space Centre - a charity dedicated to helping children with physical, emotional or learning difficulties, welcomed the change.
Alison Birch, Centre Manager said: "Many children and adults with Autism over react to certain stimuli particularly sounds, this can be very distressing for them and lead to "melt downs"
"For the untrained eye this can look like a child is just being naughty and can result in people staring or making rude remarks about the child's behaviour which in turn is very upsetting for the parent.
"This can make shopping trips distressing for all concerned and lead parents to actually avoid the situation. Therefore Morrison's efforts to have "quiet times" to shop is a brilliant innovation and hopefully more places will also introduce this.
It is planned that Quieter Hour will take place every Saturday between 9-10am in all 493 of its stores nationwide.
Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns and Public Engagement at the National Autistic Society, said: “Around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK. This means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way, which can make shopping a real struggle.
“At the National Autistic Society we know that even small changes can make a big difference to the lives of autistic people and their families. Shops can help by lowering lighting and noise levels and giving staff training about autism.
“Morrisons’ Quieter Hour is a step in the right direction for autistic people and their families, making shopping more autism-friendly.”
Angela Gray, a Morrisons Community Champion said: “I was involved in the initial trial as my son is autistic and we found that these changes made a real difference. The trial showed there is a need for a quieter shopping experience for some customers.”
People wanting to visit the store during the quieter hour will be able to take advantage of the initiative at the following locations from Saturday July 21:
Preston - Riversway, Blackpool Road, Mill St, Kirkham
Fylde Coast - Amounderness Way, Squires Gate Lane
Bamber Bridge, Station Road
Leyland, Olympian Way
Chorley, Brooke Street
Morecambe, Central Drive