To mark International Autism Awareness Day on Friday 2 April, the Carrefour group has announced that a “quiet hour” will take place every Monday in more than 1,240 of its supermarkets and hypermarkets.
Starting on 5 April, every Monday between 2 and 3pm the stores’ lighting will be less bright, music and tannoy announcements will stop and cleaning equipment will be turned off, so that people with autism, as well as other customers, can shop in a calm environment and more suitable conditions. “The quiet hour is the first step in the retailer’s action plan, which has been devised jointly with Autisme France, and will include but is not limited to priority access to tills, new in-store visual images that are more inclusive to various forms of disability,” announced Carrefour. “At the same time, the brand will raise its employees’ awareness of autism by introducing various communication initiatives on the subject.”
The initiative comes after the proposal for a new law, which was adopted by the French Parliament (National Assembly) on 28 January, to create a quiet hour to improve accessibility in supermarkets and shopping centres for people with disabilities. The text includes an 18-month negotiation period to be set up between economic players in the retail sector, shopping centres, disability charities and members of Parliament.
Society is now becoming more and more inclusive. Willing to integrate diversities, particularities and disabilities to a greater extent…And this change has most likely been reinforced by the pandemic the world is currently going through, leading everyone to pay particular attention to carers, the elderly and vulnerable people.
Although the Carrefour group’s initiative is a welcome change, communication on its introduction has been discreet. The approach taken by American retailer Trader Joe’s, for example, seems to be much more forthcoming. A partnership with Magnusmode, the Canadian business behind the MagnusCards app, which helps people who have cognitive learning needs, has been set up. The concept is to offer five “cards” aimed at people with cognitive and/or intellectual disabilities – autism being just one of them – giving users a guide to help them do their shopping in peace. Available on the mobile app, which can be seen both inside and outside the shop, these “cards” provide information on pragmatic information and practical services, such as the nature of the noise in the shop and what assistance is available for carrying shopping.
It’s important to note that in the USA, issues around minorities, or at least diversity, is a common subject and talking about mental illness is by no means taboo. A cultural difference that no doubt explains why the initiative has been more discreetly publicised by Carrefour.
Whatever the method, one thing seems certain: these initiatives underline the social role of retail, especially during this pandemic. Shops, as providers of food for everyone, are truly places that bring people together.