ACS autism shopping guide 180The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has launched new best practice guidance for retailers on how to meet the needs of customers with physical and learning disabilities in store.

The guide has been developed in partnership with the Business Disability Forum, and covers a range of issues including how to assist those with autism and other learning disabilities.

James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said: “Convenience stores serve a wide range of customers from all age groups, social demographics and backgrounds, and can play a particularly important role for disabled and elderly customers who value the personalised service and convenient location of a local shop. This guide helps retailers and staff to make their stores as accessible as possible, and to meet the needs of disabled customers.”

Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious about Autism, explained why increased awareness for smaller shop owners is so important for those with autism.

"One in 100 people in the UK have autism, so it is crucial that institutions such as local shops have understanding and awareness. The noise, crowds and bright lights found in large supermarkets and shopping centres can be an intimidating and imposing experience for those with autism, meaning local shops are often the preferred place to go for regular shopping," she said.

"As mentioned in the guide, being attentive, encouraging and patient will go a long way to accommodating those with autism. However, it is important to remember not to be patronising - many people with autism lead independent lives and will only sometimes need a little extra guidance.

"We are delighted to see learning disabilities being addressed in this guide and hope it goes a long way to encourage independence for those with autism and other less visible disabilities."

Figures from the Business Disability Forum show that at least one in three customers in the UK is either disabled or close to someone who has a disability. It is estimated that disabled customers have a spending power of around £212 billion a year.

Read the new ACS guide in full at www.acs.org.uk/advice/welcoming-disabled-customers/