A friend of mine Sandy walked into the Safeway at 4th and Vine in Vancouver and was immediately taken with the low lighting and a gentle hush in the air. Sandy had landed at the Safeway in the midst of their sensory relief shopping experience, an hour of lights low and sound turned down on Thursday afternoon. The overhead harsh lights had been dimmed, there were no overhead announcements, and the music was turned down a notch or too. It had the feel of a library, as if there was respect for those reading and concentrating on the labels. Shopping was peaceful.
Picture yourself in need of a few important items, heading into an everyday kinda Safeway :
with your fatigued child who has sensory processing challenges, see yourself walking into those bright lights with them after they have spent a day immersed in intense and overwhelming study at school.
with your aging parent, who is using a hearing aid (which picks up all the sounds of the surrounding area) and who is experiencing signs of mild cognitive impairment especially when feeling overwhelmed, and you are trying to share a conversation about the ingredients they need for a week of nutritious meals,
with your own splitting tension headache that has been with your every step over the past week, i.e. pain hugging your skull, eyes lowered under the strain, walking into Safeway to get ginger ale to ward off the rising nausea.
If you knew you could immerse yourself in a quiet more comfortable shopping environment, that recognized the challenges due to sensory overstimulation and recognized the benefits of low lights and low sounds, wouldn't you want to try and target that time to shop under these circumstances?
I spoke with the Manager of that Safeway complimenting them on their sensitivity and leadership. She informed me that their sensory relief hour benefits her staff as well. The hour gives them a sensory break from the regular bright lights and buzzing loud activity filled room, that is filled with music and announcements.
Our nervous systems have been overloaded for years and we keep requiring it to be more tolerant and flexible. For some there is less room for flexibility. We all have a breaking point but some of us are canaries in the coal mine (Canaries were used as they were super sensitive and could detect life threatening carbon monoxide in mines; reportedly British Legislation in 1986 ordered miners to switch to electronic detection and ~ 200 canaries were freed from duty over the following year). We can all be sensitive or overwhelmed at times, but for some sensory processing, i.e. taking in information through the senses, can be very challenging, and they are the first to alert others that too much is too much.
Children, teens, and adults who suffer from sensory processing challenges have a need for calmer quieters spaces and this sensory sensitive hour has proven its weight in yellow gold according to the 4th and Vine Manager. This sensory hour has also proven beneficial for employees which means we could all benefit.
I hope that more stores who are leaders start to embrace this exciting change, this golden opportunity to create a more enjoyable shopping experience. If you want to learn about stores that support sensory relief hours see -
If you want to introduce sensory relief hour in your local store, let them know. Stores are here to serve you and meet your needs; when they know what you need they are often more than happy to make positive changes. Yes this photo is fuzzy - it indicates that something is wrong and your senses have picked up on it!
Happy National AccessAbility Week - where we celebrate the accomplishments of persons with disabilities.