Thrifty Foods in Tsawwassen is making the store more inclusive for those with autism.
Starting this Sunday from 6 to 7 p.m., and taking place on a bi-weekly basis, the Town Centre Mall supermarket is creating what it’s calling the sensory friendly shopping hour.
Store lighting will be reduced, overhead music will be shut off, announcements and intercoms will be delayed, shopping cart collection will cease and store department noises will be kept to a minimum. Staff will also be instructed to keep any talking to a whisper.
“This started in Sobeys Atlantic and manifested this way. Willowbrook Safeway did this about a month ago and then the company threw the idea out and I thought it would be a great idea,” said store manager Ryan Bancroft.
“We’ve tested the lights, the cash registers and I can’t see how this can’t be a success. Just today I’ve been putting posters up around the store and a couple of customers commented that this was a brilliant idea.”
Bancroft said two of the store’s employees are autistic.
“Given that, they manage to work under the current conditions, which is a tribute to them, so if we can support them or family members we want to do that,” he said. “This just makes getting out into the public a little easier. I believe this is going to be a fantastic thing for the area. It’s a matter of time before other businesses do this. Our staff is in full support and are excited to try this.”
Front end manager Michelle Olson points out that it’s just not those with autism that will benefit from the sensory friendly shopping hour.
“I think people are going to like the quiet. Everywhere you go you are bombarded by the music, lights, so it gives people another option to shop during this time,” she said.
Gary Robins, president of Autism BC, is applauding the initiative.
“I find it reassuring that businesses are recognizing that some people have these sensory issues. Just the simple daily activity like shopping can be a challenge for families when you have children that are sensitive to light and sound,” said Robins. “I really am pleased that Thrifty’s and others see this as something that is needed.”