Autism Hour – a whole new shopping experience for 60 minutes

Oh yay, an hour to go shopping just for people who are Autistic!

Fancy that. One whole hour, how lucky! Can get so much done, do some shopping, have a look around get some food do some more shopping….

Hold on. Did you say an hour? As in, like, 60 minutes? You did? Oh. I don’t think I’ll bother then.

Let’s change the conversation and see if it’s still ok. Let’s change it Wheelchair Hour. So for one hour all the shops and restaurants and venues are accessible. And then once the time ends they will take away the ramps, narrow the aisles again and once more they become inaccessible to anyone relying on a wheelchair to get around.

If you can’t change the subject matter in the headline and it still reads ok, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

That’s ok, isn’t it? I mean, they’ve had their fun, an hour is ok, right?

See, this is where it goes so wrong. If you can’t change the subject matter in the headline and it still reads ok, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

I almost can’t blame the National Autistic Society for trying, and it’s fantastic publicity for them – the advertising is most important, as much as anyone may try to state otherwise. The event could have been so much more if they had done an evening, a morning, a day.

Several years ago I started this stuff with Asda, only one store to start with, but head office knew about it and was looking at rolling it out wider. We did every Wednesday from 5 pm until closing time. Music off, tannoy off, lights off in some areas, doors opened. It didn’t always work; some staff would just use the tannoy because they felt it was an emergency to ask someone to come to the front of the store rather than having to go and find them. Though it was well received by most and well attended.

I’m not bitter or jealous that NAS has made it bigger, I couldn’t care less, I just wish they had actually made it bigger rather than done what they have – rolled it out to thousands of places and thoroughly diluted it until it’s not worth bothering with.

You can’t get much done in an hour; you certainly can’t around a shopping centre or town. Even less so if you have a disabled child or two in tow. To dim the lights and turn down the music is really just to patronise. What about all the other needs? Where are the Changing Places toilets in every town and shopping centre? What about turning the music off, not down, and the tannoy too? Making sure aisles are clear, any flickering light tubes replaced, and of course, that hour – why not make it an evening, a morning, an actual event? How about a day and time when the kids won’t all be at school? I believe that Tuesday mornings are one of the quietest times in retail, so I don’t think too many stores will be putting themselves out by doing this stuff will they. 10 am on a Tuesday…

It’s given me an idea though; I might try one-hour birthday parties for the kids. I reckon I could cope for that long!

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