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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 66
Gender: Male
Posts: 34,388
Location: Long Island, New York

21 Jul 2023, 8:05 am


Walmart has joined the growing list of stores, theaters and attractions that offer "sensory-friendly" hours for people with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodivergent conditions.

Why it matters: Disabilities are often invisible, and by setting aside time during the business day when the lights are lower, sounds are softer and the pace is more relaxed, companies allow patrons with sensory issues to participate more fully in normal life routines.

Driving the news:In a blog post about back-to-school shopping season, Walmart said that it will create "a more inclusive shopping experience" by holding sensory-friendly hours on Saturdays in July and August from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in most stores, starting July 22.

The big picture: Sensory-friendly hours were spearheaded more than a decade ago by museums and other cultural institutions that cater to children, and have been moving into the mainstream ever since.

Of note: This year, the White House held its first-ever sensory-friendly Easter Egg Roll.

"Families enjoyed the shorter lines and reduced noise while they hunted for Easter eggs, and rolled eggs down the South Lawn," the Autism Society noted.

Where it stands: A growing number of websites offer directories of stores and attractions catering to people with disabilities in this way.

One of the more comprehensive directories is maintained by a nonprofit called Twenty-One Senses, which notes that children with developmental disabilities are too often excluded from mainstream activities.

Its searchable database of nearly 500 locations nationwide includes places with sensory accommodations like fidget toys, calm spaces and quiet rooms.
A partnership between the University of New Hampshire and Twenty-One Senses called "Sensory Scouting" is researching the best ways to support children with neurodivergent conditions.

By the numbers: 1 in 6 children in the United States have sensory processing difficulties, per a 2018 article in JAMA Pediatrics.

Case study: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport lets passengers with non-visible disabilities order a sunflower lanyard to wear around their neck while at the airport, reports Asher Price of Axios Austin.

The lanyard works as a discreet visual cue to indicate to airport staff and other passengers that the wearer (or someone with them) has a non-visible disability and may need a little more time, support or assistance.

What's next: Expect "sensory-friendly" hours to proliferate as stores like Walmart recognize that they're good for business and make a major difference to the people who need them.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

It is Autism Acceptance Month

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman

Last edited by ASPartOfMe on 21 Jul 2023, 8:15 am, edited 2 times in total.


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Joined: 27 Jan 2021
Age: 44
Gender: Male
Posts: 3,136
Location: Dorset

21 Jul 2023, 8:07 am

Not where I am. My local supermarket has dropped them which is sad because it was blissful - well as blissful as grocery shopping can be.

"No way, you forgot what a bird sounds like? No wonder you're depressed." - Jake the Dog


Joined: 26 Mar 2023
Age: 43
Gender: Male
Posts: 1,200

21 Jul 2023, 9:00 am

DuckHairback wrote:
Not where I am. My local supermarket has dropped them which is sad because it was blissful - well as blissful as grocery shopping can be.

The grocery store I work at doesn't have the hours per se, but the music is usually not that loud and there's usually not that many people shopping for the size of the store.

I see a bunch of ND folks circulating through the store at various points in the day. And, I've never seen anybody getting dirty looks for wearing those bulky sound canceling headphones. I personally like to throw on sunglasses and earplugs pretty much as soon as I clock out if I need to do some shopping and I haven't gotten the kind of weird looks that I was expecting.


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Joined: 16 Dec 2022
Age: 34
Gender: Female
Posts: 411

24 Jul 2023, 4:06 pm

This is good.

I quit going to Walmart because last time it was some kind of overpopulated hellscape with people on average spanning a 10 foot radius away from each other. Maybe now the store will be shoppable again.


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Joined: 17 Jan 2019
Age: 35
Gender: Male
Posts: 1,873
Location: PNW USA

24 Jul 2023, 4:32 pm

My local store started doing this, but since the hours are limited, it actually makes crowding and checkout lines WORSE not better. Its still better to shop early or late.