Imagine a superstore so quiet you could “hear a pin drop.” It’ll be a reality when an Asda store in Manchester, England starts a weekly “quiet hour” for customers with autism and other sensitivities.
No in-store music, no flashing lights from TV screens, even the soft hum and rumble of escalators will be silent as they’re turned off. Workers will also hand out store maps featuring pictures instead of words to further help people with sensory challenges.
Store manager Simon Lea came up with the idea after watching a mother struggle to help her autistic son. Lea helped her calm and focus the boy by giving him a football.
Afterwards, he talked with an employee who had an autistic child about what else he could do. They settled on the quiet hour.
On May 7, employees will come in an hour early, at six a.m., for the first trial run of Lea’s plan. He plans to make it a weekly event every Saturday after that.
“It’s all about helping people really,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “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.”