Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

‘Make shopping autism friendly’

The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour campaign, supported by toy retailer The Entertainer, is creating a week of autism friendly shopping experiences across the UK. Shops, businesses and shopping centres will be holding Autism Hours throughout the second week of October (6-13).

Major high street names have backed the move including The Entertainer, Sainsbury’s, Argos, Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Co-op and Schuh. Anyone interested in attending an Autism Hour can visit a map to find out when and where there are Autism Hours in their area.

Autism Hour was launched last year as the first mass-participation event to encourage shops to be more autism friendly and more than 5,000 shops and businesses took part.

This year the NAS wants the event to be even bigger and is encouraging more shops and businesses to get involved. Many celebrities are backing the campaign including Chris Packham, Anne Hegerty and Christine McGuinness.

Proof of concept

Autism Hours are designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve the shopping experience for autistic customers and families. The NAS hope that, after participating, many more of them will follow The Entertainer’s example and introduce permanent changes, like their weekly Quiet Hour, to make their business more autism friendly, as well as working towards our Autism Friendly Award.

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers. Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming.


Christine McGuinness, mother to 5-year-old autistic twins, Penelope and Leo, and star of ITVBe’s Real Housewives of Cheshire, said; “The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour is a brilliant way of showing shops how easy it can be to make little changes that have a huge impact for families like mine.

“As a mum to autistic children, it is my job to protect them and help make a world which works for them. Like any other family, we want to have the option of going to shops, to go clothes shopping with them and let them pick out clothes and experience a fun family day out. Something that people may take for granted.

“I really hope that so many shops get involved, and that everyone makes an effort to learn something about autism during the week.”

Chris Packham, TV presenter, naturalist and National Autistic Society Ambassador, said; “I rarely go into supermarkets. I find that environment really challenging, all of the bright lights, the confusion of the enormous complexity of goods in there, plus all the smells and the sounds. It’s a difficult environment. And that’s why I’m very keen to support Autism Hour, those shops which offer an hour where they make the whole atmosphere a lot more relaxing for autistic people.”

Autistic people represent ‘a huge part of our society’


Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the NAS, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many well-known high street retailers have already signed up – and ready to make the world a more autism friendly place.

“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society and it is a disgrace that 64 percent of autistic people avoid the shops. And, shockingly, 28 percent of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated for their autism. They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.

“The National Autistic Society want a world which works for autistic people. With Autism Hour, we want to show retailers the small things they can do to help open up the high street for autistic people. Things like staff finding out a bit more about autism and making simple adjustments like turning down music or dimming the lights. It’s often the smallest change that makes the biggest difference.

“Over 5,000 stores have already signed up, and you can find out more or where your nearest participating store is at autism.org.uk/autismhour”

Find out more about the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour and how to get involved by visiting: autism.org.uk/AutismHour

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