shopping mall

Instead Of Autism Hour Why Not Every Hour?

Autism hours are a godsend. You won’t hear me say a word against them.

The benefits are obvious, making everything from basic resources through to fun experiences accessible to all.

Without occasional autism hours it would be impossible for us to visit the cinema, or the aquarium or even the supermarket as a family. We would have far fewer shared family experiences and be the poorer for it – I know, you don’t get great family experiences at the supermarket, but maybe you go to a face or for a walk together afterwards. You bond.

Autism hours are a wonderful recent development but, I reckon I’m preaching to the converted here. I suspect anyone reading this post is also a fan of autism sessions and quiet hours.

Let’s jump ahead to my complaint.

Autism Every Hour

I want to know why autism hour can’t be every hour. Being able to visit places for one hour a week is better than zero hours, but what if it was all hours?

[bctt tweet=”I want to know why autism hour can’t be every hour” username=”jonbarbuti”]

At this stage, I need to sprinkle in a dose of reality. Being all militant might make for strong headlines and get retweets but it’s not really my style. I know that it is not practical for every business to make every hour of the day autism friendly.

At the aquarium, they turn off the interactive displays, at the soft play they turn off all music and halve capacity, at the cinema they cut the film’s volume considerably.

All these steps lessen the experience for others, most youngsters love the accompanying pop music as they dive into ball pools, the flashing displays at Sealife are fun and informative and the huge dynamic sound range of a cinema is part of the whole experience.

If these businesses were to roll their autism hour approach out 24/7 they’d lose business and potentially go bust, cutting capacity by half doesn’t make great business sense.

At a lot of these sessions, one slot per week might be about right anyway. As a parent, how many times do you want to traipse round the same aquarium, how many soft play sessions can any adult stand?

It’s Not Too Much To Ask

What I want to know is why a supermarket or even a mall can’t always take a more inclusive approach?

What does autism hour at a supermarket actually entail? They don’t limit numbers, they don’t take noisy toys off the shelves, they simply dim the lights, turn off any music, turn the beeps off tills where possible and reduce tannoy announcements. They also get a nice bit of free press out of it (sorry, that was the cynic in me).

If after this quieter hour the manager forgot to turn all the noises back on, forgot to turn the lights back up to 11, would the business suffer?

[bctt tweet=”If supermarkets were autism friendly all the time would anyone miss the music or intense strip lighting?” username=”jonbarbuti”]

Does anyone choose their supermarket based on whatever awful playlist they have? Has anyone ever gone to an autism friendly supermarket hour and injured themselves because it was so dark they walked head first into the spirits aisle? Does the tannoy announcement that you can get two pizzas today for £4.99 lead to any increase in sales?

If the autism hour settings were the norm, would neurotypical types start petitions asking for the strip lighting to be turned up? Would their Christmas be spoilt because they didn’t hear Jona Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry every time they nipped in to stock up on bread and milk?

What about at the mall, yes the sheer volume of people might make the setting overwhelming at times, but wouldn’t it be great if a person with sensory issues knew that whatever time they went things like music or needless announcements wouldn’t be an issue.

None of this is to be critical of anyone offering quieter, autism-friendly sessions or hours. I say a sincere thank you to those who have taken the step.

In many cases that one step is enough, the occasional autism hour is a fair compromise, it makes the setting accessible but also does not damage the owner’s bottom line.

However, other settings with no entertainment value could use autism hour as the inspiration to become autism always.

It will happen one day anyway, one day people will look back and wonder why such settings were inaccessible for no good reason. Why not make today the day for change?

  • Could autism hour become every hour in some settings? Have your say in the comments.
  • For more like this (and random tweets on whatever I happen to be watching) follow me @jonbarbuti 

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