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Eastgate Shopping Centre to introduce 'quiet hour' after National Autistic Society Scotland reports 64 per cent of people with autism avoid shopping


By Val Sweeney

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Eastgate Shopping Centre is to introduce a quiet shopping hour.
Eastgate Shopping Centre is to introduce a quiet shopping hour.

A quiet shopping hour is to be introduced at the Eastgate Shopping Centre to help people with autism and those with sensory impairments.

The scheme is in support of the National Autistic Society (NAS) Scotland which found that 64 per cent of autistic people avoid shopping leaving them and their families feeling socially isolated.

Starting on October 6, the centre’s sensory-friendly shopping experience will take place on the first Wednesday of every month from 3pm to 4pm.

To create a more relaxing and enjoyable shopping experience, the music and chimes will be turned off on the Noah’s Ark clock, children’s rides will not operate, and unless an emergency arises, a request will be made for security to not make tannoy announcements.

Extra noise-making activities such as maintenance work will be reduced, and where possible and while still maintaining a safe environment, mall lights will be reduced.

Members of Eastgate’s facilities team have also received autism awareness training to help people feel safe and able to shop in a more accessible environment.

Alongside their identifiable uniforms, staff now also wear an Autism Aware & Here to Help badge.

Customers will also be able to take advantage of various in-store temporary changes such as no music, tannoy announcements, or till beeps.

Over 40 participating retailers such as HMV, Lakeland, The Entertainer, Joules, and Superdry have committed to making simple adjustments to their stores which will create new opportunities for those who find being out in public spaces difficult.

Alison Footitt, NAS information officer for the Highlands, said the society was delighted to be supporting the quiet hour venture.

"We know shopping can be very stressful for many autistic people and their families so the proposed sensory changes will make a big difference," she said.

"In addition to the quiet hour, Eastgate staff are now more autism aware which will help shoppers too throughout the week."

Kirstin Gault, the centre's digital and marketing executive, said they were pleased to announce the long-term commitment of a quiet hour.

"We strive to make Eastgate a happy place for all customers to visit, and with over 56,000 autistic people in Scotland, we felt it was crucial to create a more comfortable shopping experience for those who see, hear, or feel the world in a different way, or for those who simply prefer a more tranquil shopping environment." she said.

"We would like to say a big thanks to NAS Scotland for highlighting the small changes that create a more inclusive environment for those who face sensory challenges.

"Eastgate is at the heart of the community, and we are fully committed to making sure that our retail environment provides a positive experience for all who visit."

The quiet hours, which may also be suitable for customers who may be nervous venturing out post Covid-19 pandemic, will take place on Wednesday October 6, Wednesday November 3 and Wednesday December 1.


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