Nova Scotia

Sobeys turns down lights, noise for sensory-friendly shopping hours

The biweekly event at Sobeys stores throughout Nova Scotia aims to make shopping easier for people with autism spectrum disorder.

Event aims to ease shopping for people with autism spectrum disorder

Some grocery stores in Nova Scotia will reduce light and noise every two weeks for sensory-friendly shopping hours. (CBC)

The lights will be dimmed and the noise reduced for sensory-friendly shopping hours at some grocery stores in Nova Scotia.

The biweekly event at Sobeys stores throughout the province aims to make shopping easier for people with autism spectrum disorder.

Many people on the autism spectrum are hypersensitive to lights and sounds.

Lighting is reduced by 50 per cent and the music is turned off during the events. Sounds from grocery scanners are also turned off and the public address system is not used. Staff are encouraged to speak softly and do not gather grocery carts.

"It's very very noticeable when you walk into the stores when the events are going on, because it's a very relaxing atmosphere," Jenna Kenny, the executive assistant with the Autism Society of P.E.I. told the CBC's Maritime Noon.

'Really helpful'

"It's really helpful for a lot of people and the staff really find it quite relaxing as well," said Kenny.

"Not only individuals that are on the autism spectrum but other individuals that have sensory sensitivities — things like anxiety or may have had a stroke in the past — find the bright lights and the loud noises disruptive or hard to be in."

Prince Edward Island Sobeys locations began the project last fall and it has since been adopted in Nova Scotia, with a partnership with Autism Nova Scotia.

The sensory-friendly shopping takes place every other Sunday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The next event will be on Mar. 10.

Kenny said the inclusive event allows their members to experience shopping and get used to everyday life skills.

With files from Maritime Noon and Laura Chapin