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Woolworths is introducing low-sensory shopping across its stores in Australia, catering to customers with sensory processing challenges. We explore the insights behind this initiative and reveal how there is a wider demand for businesses to implement accessible options for less-abled shoppers.

Working with Life Without Barriers, Woolworths’ ‘Quiet Hour’ initiative will be rolled out across 260 supermarkets nationwide. Every Tuesday, from 10:30 - 11:30, the low-sensory shopping experience will involve dimming the store lights and turning down the volume of phones, registers, and radios. The PA system will also not be used, to make customers who have autism or other sensory sensitivity challenges more comfortable. “Quiet Hour is a fantastic accessibility initiative by Woolworths that recognises that people have different accessibility needs,” says Claire Robbs, chief executive at Life Without Barriers. “It gives people a way to do their shopping and increase their independence in an environment that is not stressful and overwhelming to them.” 

Raquel Martínez (2016) ©

With 2018 autism rates in Australia indicating that over 350,000 people are on the autism spectrum, communities are welcoming business decisions that cater to individuals who find everyday tasks – like shopping for groceries – challenging. And considering that grocery-shopping in Australia largely has yet to move online, comfortable shopping experiences are key – especially for individuals who need additional assistance. Amid calls for greater inclusivity and accessibility, retailers around the world are stepping up to cater to the less-abled. In the UK, Sainsbury’s has encouraged its staff to learn British Sign Language in a bid to help customers with hearing impairments, while Landsec shopping centres also implement quiet hours to create more manageable shopping experiences.

Hannah Septoff is a member of Canvas8’s editorial team and has a degree in social anthropology and politics from The University of Edinburgh. She’s passionate about the intricacies of human gender, sexuality and love and when not at work can be found on the rugby pitch or eating hummus.


03 Sep 19
2 min read

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