Why all stores should introduce autism hour

Navigating normal, everyday activities can be difficult for people with autism.  Often, supports are needed to make them successful in ordinary activities. We always want to help Logan live as independently as possible. Autism hour is one way to make that happen relatively easily. Supports come in all shapes and sizes.

What does ADA mean?

There are many laws that regulate how stores have to make themselves accessible for people with physical disabilities, but not much thought is given to those with autism and their families.  Stores have to follow ADA or the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

Who is covered by the ADA?

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

ada.gov

A great idea that is taking off in various countries around the world, including the UK, is Autism Hour.  As part of autism hour, stores make a number of changes to make it less stressful for people with autism to shop. They then open up the store for people with autism to shop successfully.

These small changes include things like creating more space within the shop floor, dimming the lights, and reducing the amount of noise in the background such as music or announcements.  Having multiple cashiers open and having the deli not make new hot items to keep the smells to a minimum are also possibilities for a grocery store. The changes don’t have to be extraordinary.

Not only are the physical aspects and surroundings of the store taken into account, but they also aim to spread awareness of autism within wider society by encouraging their staff to learn about the condition.  

Autism Hour is a great first step but we must encourage stores and malls to take it much further and introduce these special shopping periods on a regular basis.  Here’s why it’s a good thing. 

Many more people will become educated about autism

Just like any neurological condition, education is the key to understanding its effects.  Education on conditions such as autism, Aspergers, and dyslexia help is finally becoming more normalized in society.   According to the CDC, in 2014, one in every 15 children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. 

There are millions of people working in retail across the country.  Some of them will have direct experience of autism, either through there own condition or that of a loved one. Many though, will not, and an initiative such as autism hour is a great way to educate a large section of society about it. 

It inspires businesses to go further

Autism hour is just the first step. As the event increases in popularity and attracts good PR, more stores will begin to run these types of sessions regularly, allowing families to experience a level of normality not often possible due to the crowded, loud, and overpowering environment in most malls. 

It’s simple to do

The financial cost to business is small.  The event is not designed to discourage other shoppers, but to make the environment more comfortable in general.  It’s a win-win for stores both financially and from a corporate social responsibility standpoint.  

Final thoughts

Autism hour is an idea that is taking off around the world, which can only be a good thing.  The accessibility of stores and malls for autistic people should be something that is taken into account on a regular basis, not just a solitary day.  That’s why we need to encourage and lobby retailers to make it a regular event and support them when they do.