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Retailer Asda to launch 'quiet hour' for shoppers with autism, special needs

The Manchester, England, branch of superstore Asda is making one loud contribution to autism awareness — simply by being quiet.
/ Source: TODAY

A superstore in Manchester, England, is making one loud contribution to autism awareness — simply by being quiet.

The Asda Living's Cheetham Hill branch plans to launch a "quiet hour" aimed at providing a comfortable shopping environment for those who live with autism and other disabilities.

Shopping in loud environments leads to stress for those with autism

Beginning May 7, the store will turn off all music, television displays, escalators and the announcement system from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Saturday.

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The Cheetham Hill manager, Simon Lea, first came up with the idea after watching a young shopper with autism struggle to cope with the store's loud sounds and bustling environment.

He explained more about the special event — and what he hopes it achieves — on his Facebook page.

"This hour is going to be tailored towards individuals with autism and any customers that are in any way disabled or have restrictive access," he wrote. "I am trying to create a less stressful, quieter shopping experience."

TODAY reached out to Lea for additional comment, but hasn't yet heard back. In a blog post on Asda's website posted earlier today, he said, "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.

"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."

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The responses on social media have been overwhelmingly positive, and many users called for other stores to follow suit.

"(This) will make a big difference for so many people," one commenter wrote. "Hats off to you."