23 August 2019

Five Woolworths supermarkets to go quiet across Canberra

| Lachlan Roberts
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Woolworths Belconnen will take part in the weekly quiet hour. Photo: Supplied by Westfield Belconnen.

For one hour every Tuesday morning, five Woolworths supermarkets across the nation’s capital will go quiet.

Between 10:30-11:30 am every Tuesday, the five supermarkets will dim the store lights, turn down the radio, lower the volume on the registers, remove roll cages from the shop floor and won’t make announcements over the PA, unless in an emergency.

The quieter environment might not seem like too big a deal for most, but for customers with specific needs and in particular autism, it will make the groceries run easier.

The rollout of the low-sensory “quiet hour”, which is sweeping across the nation, is hoping to reduce the anxiety and sensory stress for customers with specific needs. Woolworths in Tuggeranong, Calwell, Majura Park, Belconnen and Cooleman Court are taking part in the hour, along with 255 Woolies supermarkets across the nation.

The initiative was developed in consultation with disability service providers Life Without Barriers and was trialled with success at stores in New South Wales.

Life Without Barriers executive Chris Chippindale believes the hour will be welcomed by staff and customers alike.

“If you went into any Woolies store at any time of day and really opened up your eyes and listened, I reckon you will find that it is really bright and really loud,” he told Region Media. “Then times that by two, three or even four for someone who has autism, it must be overwhelming.

“The hour is so nice and calm and I know that people living with a disability will respond so well to the welcoming, non-threatening environment. It is tremendous.”

Mr Chippindale said the quiet hour gives people a way to do their shopping and increase their independence in an environment that is not stressful and overwhelming to them.

“We would certainly encourage Woolworths to think about running quiet hours throughout the day,” he said. “Quiet hour gives people with specific needs lots of confidence and it gives them the ability to shop in what sometimes can feel like a threatening environment.

“You and I take shopping at Woolies for granted but that is not normally the case for people with autism. Woolworths have really thought it through and have done a great job.”

Coles also introduced the quiet hour at its Woden store in December 2017.

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