According to the World Health Organization (WHO), autism occurs in 1 out of 100 people, which means that there are over 400,000 people with autism living in Poland. That is not all, however, because in addition to the people on the spectrum there are also their families, siblings and caretakers, which means that autism affects as much as 3 million people in Poland. All of them live their daily life just like every one of us.
More than half of people with autism are afraid to leave their home. That is because the public space is not suitable for people with autism, and this includes stores too. Although noise, strong light and crowds are the norm in Polish stores, such factors cause great discomfort or even physical pain to people with ASD. That is why we encourage chain stores to cater to the needs of the people with the autism spectrum by introducing suitable measures as part of the “Quiet Hours” initiative.
Date from the report prepared for our foundation indicate that the most urgently required changes in the functioning of the stores as indicated by people with ASD include noise reduction, cash register for the disabled or priority at the cash registers, introduction of quiet hours, dimmed lights and less people.
By training their personnel. We provide chain stores with graphics prepared by us, and we encourage them to communicate the graphics in the staff areas and via a newsletter. The graphics show the difficulties faced by people with the autism spectrum as well as the ways of making it easier for them to shop at the store.
By specifying a day or days with the “Quiet Hours” and communicating this information to their customers. During the “Quiet Hours”, the stores should implement measures designed to accommodate the needs of people with autism. We encourage them to broadcast a message via the public address system of the store to announce the “Quiet Hours” and place a sticker at the entrance with details of the initiative at the store.
By changing the noise level and dimming the lights. Excessive light and audible stimuli are a very frequent cause of discomfort and uneasiness of people with the autism spectrum. To them, less noise and light makes shopping a more comfortable experience.
By providing a priority cash register for people with autism to help them avoid crowds and stress.
By preparing a map of the store showing the conditions that can be expected in the individual areas. The map should indicate places where the temperature is lower, where strong smells may be expected and where there is noise that the store cannot reduce. We also encourage the stores to mark any crowded passageways to the backroom areas and places where products such as alcohols, detergents or household chemicals are easy to access.