Leading Australian retail chain Coles Supermarkets has recently expanded its ‘Quiet Hour’ initiative, now offering a low-sensory shopping experience five days a week.
This change, aimed at better accommodating the needs of customers with disabilities and working parents, will see Coles stores nationwide quieten their environments from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Customers will notice a significant reduction in sensory stimuli during’ Quiet Hour’, which will include the volume of Coles Radio being turned down to its lowest setting, quieter register and scanner sounds, and limited use of the public address system, reserved only for emergencies.
This initiative, first launched by Coles in 2017, initially operated between 10:30 am and 11:30 am on Tuesdays in select stores. The expansion to weekday evenings reflects Coles’ ongoing commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.
Katie Wyatt, Coles Head of Diversity and Inclusion, emphasised the importance of this program.
‘At Coles, we are always looking for new ways to serve our customers with disabilities and their carers, and we are privileged to have many active voices of people with disability in our feedback channels’, says Wyatt.
‘Up to 70% of autistic people experience sensitivity to sounds, with autistic adults reporting that these symptoms worsen with stress and anxiety; therefore, “Quiet Hour” promotes increased opportunity and enhances the shopping experience for thousands of customers.’
The move aligns with Coles’ broader efforts to cater to people with disabilities. This includes a range of Own Brand products with improved accessibility, digital enhancements to the Coles app, and a workforce where 7.6% of team members identify as having a disability.
Coles has also collaborated with Amaze, a non-profit autism organisation, since 2021—a partnership that has been instrumental in shaping store environments and employee training to better meet the needs of autistic customers and employees.
Amaze CEO Jim Mullan praised Coles for its commitment to creating an autism-inclusive environment. ‘The expansion of their low-sensory shopping experience is just another example of the many steps that they have taken over the years to understand and purposefully meet the needs of not only their Autistic customers but also their autistic employees’, Mullan remarked.
‘We have been delighted to see our partnership with Coles grow in strength and success since 2021, and much of that is a testament to their commitment to building an environment and a workforce that is representative of the community they serve, including autistic people. Amaze’s vision is an autism-inclusive Australia, and we’re proud to have partners like Coles who share that same aspiration’, says Mullan.
In recognition of its commitment to accessibility, the Coles mobile app, featuring best-in-class accessibility features, has been nominated for Corporate App of the Year at the Centre for Accessibility Awards 2023. The app includes features like tailored text sizes and custom actions for easier navigation, particularly benefiting customers using assistive technologies.
‘Our award-winning app keeps getting better for customers and, particularly those using accessibility software and aids to use it. The team consider accessibility in every step of our design process, which is why it has been so well received’, says Wyatt.
Moreover, Coles has worked with Get Skilled Access to enhance the accessibility of its Own Brand products. This collaboration involved focus groups with people with disabilities, leading to the improved accessibility of 45 Coles Own Brand products in 2023.
Coles’ extension of ‘Quiet Hour’ to weekdays during the evening is a significant step in its journey to create an inclusive and accessible shopping experience for all Australians, reflecting its deep-rooted commitment to diversity and inclusion.
For more info, click here.