The move is aimed at making the shopping experience more comfortable for individuals with sensory disabilities.
Inclusivity and consideration are becoming a huge part of the world that’s moving towards progression. With diversity becoming recognized and appreciated, there are efforts underway across the globe to make different people feel comfortable in the outside world. Along similar lines, multinational retailer Walmart has taken an inspiring step towards making the shopping experience for those with sensory disabilities more accessible.
According to a press release by Walmart, early this year, they experimented with some in-store measures to make shopping more comfortable for those with sensory disabilities and “create a less stimulating environment for a couple of hours each Saturday." It was during the “back-to-school season” that they replaced the TV walls with “static image," turned off the radio and dimmed the lights wherever they could. The statement further said, “The feedback of the pilot program was overwhelmingly positive. These changes may have seemed small to some, but for others, they transformed the shopping experience. Our biggest piece of feedback? Keep it going!”
Walmart has announced that they are “bringing back sensory-friendly hours from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time” and the best part is that it’s every day at all Walmart stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, starting from November 10 onwards. The statement shared its expectations from the program: “During these hours, we hope our customers and associates will find the stores to be a little easier on the eyes and ears. These changes are thanks to those who shared their feedback on how their stores could help them feel like they belong." The retail giant also said that they “love being part of a team that can help create a culture where everyone feels they belong.” They also highlighted that “belonging” can have different meanings for different people. By listening and valuing “everyone’s perspectives,” a great and thoughtful change can take place.
The press release also shared a customer’s experience with the initiative: “As a mother of a child with autism, thank you very much for recognizing needs and being sensitive to them. Little things such as lighting, noise, etc. do make a difference,” said Andrea D. Walmart store manager Tyler Morgan shared, “Several associates expressed the desire to continue this program all year. We have associates with autism, ADHD, etc. in the store and one associate made the comment that this is the first time the company did something just for him. I know we could all use some calm during the stressful holiday season, so I hope this program can continue.”
Nuala O'Connor, SVP and chief counsel, Digital Citizenship, Walmart said, “I have a child on the autism spectrum, so sensory overload is a lived experience in our house. ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and other forms of neurodiversity are often an invisible disability. It is meaningful to so many families that Walmart is implementing sensory-friendly hours.” The sensory-friendly hours initiative is definitely a game changer for inclusivity and sensitivity towards people’s needs and requirements. Walmart is spearheading this program and the hope is that many others will soon follow.