Intu asks shops to reduce lights and music to help autistic shoppers

A ‘quiet hour’ will be staged at the Merry Hill shopping centre tomorrow as part of the country’s first nationwide ‘Autism Hour’.

The week-long event is being run in partnership with The National Autistic Society, with every retailer, restaurant and leisure operator being asked to reduce their lights, music and other background noise for an hour at 10am tomorrow morning.

It’s hoped the move will encourage stores to take a regular 60 minutes during the week to provide autistic people with a break from the usual overload of ‘too much information’ and create better environments for autistic customers. Clarks, Toys ‘R’ Us and Lloyds Banking Group are among retailers who already have signed up to the campaign after previously hosting quiet hours in individual stores.

A survey by The National Autistic Society suggests that 64% of autistic people avoid going to the shops, and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. The charity is asking shops and services to take simple steps for one hour to help create a more autism friendly world - from dimming the lights and turning down music to sharing information about autism with employees.

Staff at intu centres already receive training to provide autism-aware customer service and autistic people also benefit from guides that allow them to plan and prepare a visit to each intu centre. Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, said: 

“We're delighted by the response to the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour so far, and that intu are involved already. We're encouraging other shops and services to follow their lead and take simple steps that will lead to a more autism friendly world. 

“Like anyone, autistic people and their families want the opportunity to go to the shops and services on the high street. But our research suggests that many find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of public places overwhelming and avoid them altogether."

Alexander Nicoll, corporate responsibility director at intu, added: “We are asking every shop, restaurant and leisure brand in our centres to dim their lights and reduce their music for an hour and to raise awareness of autism among their staff and customers.

We hope that launching the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in our centres will encourage many more organisations across the country to take these simple steps that will make life easier for the millions of people impacted by autism. 

“We want to put a smile on the face of everyone who visits an intu centre and this means training our staff, supporting our customers and working with brands in our centres as well as organisations like the National Autistic Society to provide a welcoming and accessible experience for all.” 

To find our more information about the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour, please visit:


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