“Quiet hours” for autis­tic cus­tomers

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Gene Marks

What does autism feel like?

“It feels aw­ful,” says Lori Sealy, who suf­fers from the dis­ease and writes about it. “Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch (the five senses that all of the ex­pe­ri­ences of life must pass through) can be ab­so­lutely har­row­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing to a per­son with autism. Ev­ery­thing that en­ters the body is of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by some sem­blance of pain or at least by some ex­tremely un­com­fort­able sen­sa­tion.”

But here’s the thing: Even those with autism need clothes and shoes and gro­ceries. Smart busi­ness peo­ple know this. Like the man­agers at a Tar­get store in Lan­caster, Pa., fea­tured in this Amer­i­can Ge­nius story.

To ac­com­mo­date its cus­tomers who suf­fer from autism (or are on the spec­trum), the re­tailer opens its doors from 6 to 8 a.m. ev­ery Satur­day and pro­vides a peace­ful place to shop dur­ing the hol­i­days.

Store ac­tiv­i­ties are kept to a min­i­mum. Lights are less bright. There is no mu­sic. It’s a safe, quiet en­vi­ron­ment so that cus­tomers with autism can re­lax. And buy.

The com­pany isn’t do­ing this ev­ery­where and leav­ing the de­ci­sion up to its lo­cal store man­agers.

It’s not an orig­i­nal thought. Toys-R-Us stores in the U.K. have of­fered a sim­i­lar ser­vice to their cus­tomers for the last few years and the chain plans to do the same in cer­tain U.S. stores too.

AMC the­aters are pro­vid­ing sen­sory-friendly screen­ings.

Some 3.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are af­fected by the dis­abil­ity and the rate of di­ag­no­sis con­tin­ues to in­crease.

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