Adding accessibility to your basket

A lack of accessibility, assistance and sensory overload can make shopping a stressful experience. During Autism Hour Week, we take a look at the stores removing the strain from shopping.

Doing the weekly shop, finding a new outfit or taking the kids out or a treat can cause unnecessary stress. Thanks to adapted store experiences, online shopping and delivery services: the shopping experience can seem like less of a chore.

QUIET HOURS

After a successful pilot during February, The Entertainer toy retailer has introduced a weekly quiet hour that will take place every Saturday in all of its UK stores. The hour aims to create a more welcoming environment for autistic children.

Managing director of The Entertainer, Gary Grant, says that the weekly quiet hour is in
response to positive customer feedback from February’s pilot. “We continually look for ways to improve customer experience as it’s hugely important to us that all children feel comfortable in our stores and are able to explore the toys we have available,” Gary explains.

One of the ways the retailer makes the stores more accessible is by turning down the music – a simple step that can have a significant impact. Autism development manager for the National Autistic Society, Daniel Cadey, believes this is a positive move.

“Small changes, such as removing in-store music, can make a huge difference to autistic people, who can struggle to filter out background noise,” he stresses. “We hope to see other stores follow The Entertainer’s lead and make whatever changes they can to support the needs of all their customers.”

Last year the National Autistic Society introduced their Autism Hour campaign: which saw more than 5,000 retailers hold quiet hours over one week to help make hopping easier for autistic customers.

The campaign is preparing for its second year and will run from 6 –13 October nationwide, but, like The Entertainer, some retailers are making the hour a permanent fixture in their stores. Supermarket chain Morrisons has introduced a weekly quiet hour in all of its 439 UK stores.

Every Saturday between nine and ten in the morning the stores will adjust lighting and reduce noise levels so that autistic shoppers can have a stress-free experience. Sainsbury’s will also take part during this year’s Autism Hour campaign.

FOOD DELIVERY

If going out to do a weekly shop isn’t an option or cooking is a difficult task, food delivery services can be a lifeline. Whether it’s from your local supermarket or a specialised meals-on-wheels company, food delivery removes barriers to eating a balanced diet.

All major supermarkets offer online shopping services that allow you to order a shop and have it delivered to your door. Some providers will even put the items in your cupboards for you. For people who are unable to access the internet to arrange a food delivery, a friend, family member or carer can place the order for you.

Supermarket Waitrose offers an extra level of security when using their online shopping service. When ordering your weekly shop, you can leave the phone number of a loved one or carer through their Secondary Contact Alert service. If you don’t answer
the door when your shopping is delivered, the driver will alert a team who will then make your direct contact aware that something could be wrong.

CLOTHES SHOPPING

Fashion is also becoming more accessible. Earlier this year fashion giant ASOS released a jumpsuit suitable for wheelchair users while lingerie brands Figleaves and Aerie, along with Primark, used amputee models in campaigns.

Despite increasing representation within campaigns and production of accessible clothing for large fashion brands, shopping for clothes is still an area where more attention on inclusivity is needed. The opportunity to try items on before you buy them can make clothes shopping more appealing. Before rumours of the ASOS jumpsuit emerged, the online store introduced the option to pay with Klarna.

Klarna is a Swedish bank that effectively allows customers to buy items on finance: for ASOS it’s the equivalent of a try before you buy service.

If you are working to a strict budget or aresick of ordering multiple sizes and styles to find the right fit, this option can save you time and money. You are given 30 days to pay, but if you return items before this time period is up you will only pay for what you keep. That
means no waiting for a refund to clear into your bank account. Topshop, JD Sports and Schuh also offer the service.

If you are able to get to the high street, personal shopping services can make the experience more accessible. This can be prearranged allowing shoppers to phone ahead and make the store aware of any special requirements or specific items that you are looking for.

High street shops Topshop, Debenhams and John Lewis all offer free personal shopper services in store – who said fashion doesn’t have to be accessible?

The high street is gradually becoming more inclusive for shoppers of all abilities. From quiet hours, improved home shopping services to in store support: it won’t be long before every
store is considering the needs of all their customers.

Checking a store’s accessibility before you leave the house can set you on the path to a good shopping experience. DisabledGo allows you to search for places to visit alongside viewing a detailed access guide for each location.

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