#1 Shopping At Walmart For People On The Spectrum
Walmart has recently announced that they will have a time period where stores will be set up to be more accommodating to those with sensory disabilities.
Many members of the community are praising this move. In fact, Walmart did a pilot program with this idea in a few stores and got such a positive response they decided to roll the program out to all of the stores including Utah.
I will be honest my younger self, before having two children who have been diagnosed on the spectrum, would have rolled his eyes and wondered how kids could grow a skillset to cope with life if we cater to their every sensitivity. Yeah, I know I was pretty judgy.
But after spending some time with my kids I have to admit that this seems pretty cool. But enough of my feelings, how do my kids feel about it?
The one child is pretty easy to satisfy even though I overheard him answering the question, "What makes a good day at school?" with the answer, "Less noise." He said if the changes make a calmer place then it would be easier to navigate the store. That's all he had to say.
Could be Seen as Pandering:
The other child is more verbal and actually more demanding. His first response was that it was cool that a company would try to help even though it could seem a little pandery especially if it's a big company like Walmart.
Be Careful not to Enforce the Program on Shoppers:
He noted that often fellow sensitivity sufferers become the problem. A lot of times in group therapy other members will self-stimulate to cope with whatever is bugging them (things like humming, shaking hands or rocking back and forth) which in turn often is the disruption for another member of the group. His concern was that if you bring a lot of sensory disability sufferers together it could increase disruptions like when you see a room of special needs people.
He mentioned that often the sensitivity overload is carried by human beings. Having staff that is trained to interact with sensitive disabled customers could go further than designing the store to be less bright and noisy.
Sensory Overload Safe Spaces
More important than having specific hours that cater to sensitivity disabilities, he suggested that the store develop decompressing areas where you can go when you do reach the end of your coping. More than removing stimulants he felt that it is equally effective to have a place to escape when you have had enough.
He repeated these points a few times as I started to write. As I said he is more verbal and tends to loop mentally when he gets interested in a topic. So maybe the store could have space where shoppers could pace and work out the purchase they want to make.
Limit the Number of Shoppers
One thought that came to me as a parent was the amount of shoppers in the store. Neither of my kids agreed with this concern, but I know if a room fills with more people than they are comfortable with it's a soup of stress for them.
So those are the ideas that came from my resident "experts". Here are the measures that Walmart will be taking.
Dimming of Lights
During the special hours, lights will be dimmed where possible. Obviously not beyond the point of safety, but it should be more comfortable to the eyes.
Overhead Speaker and Radio will be Turned Down
Audio stimulus over the store speaker system will be turned down and used minimally where possible.
Muting and/or Turning Display Televisions Off
Television screens are often displaying bright images to highlight the performance of the unit. This will be minimized for the time period so flashing and bright colors are removed from the electronics department.
What do you think? Is this a sensitive way to help everyone enjoy shopping? Is it pandery? Could they do more? Or should they do like my young self thought and just do business as usual and let the sufferers of sensitive disabilities learn to cope?
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Gallery Credit: Mike Brant