Launching in 2017 with over 5,000 participating businesses and stores, The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour has seen over 11,000 stores pledge to host an autistic-friendly hour this week

This year’s Autism Hour campaign kicked off on 6 October and is set to run until Saturday Oct 13. In 2017, over 5,000 retailers across the UK took part in the world’s first mass participation Autism Hour. According to this year’s Autism Hour Near You map, almost 11,500 businesses and local stores are expected to take part this week.

64% of autistic people avoid going to the shops as things can seem ‘too much’

Designed to make shopping easier (and in some cases, possible) for autistic individuals and their families, participating businesses will turn down their music, dim the lights, and start sharing information about autism with employees and customers. Through these small adjustments, individuals and their families will have an easier time accessing stores.

For many autistic people, the world can seem too full of information. The National Autistic Society’s campaign, Too Much Information aims to raise awareness of some of the everyday sensory and information overload autistic individuals can experience.

The campaign, which hopes to challenge myths, misconceptions and stereotypes that contribute to 79% of autistic people feeling socially isolated, and 64% avoiding going to the shops, is asking businesses to take part in this year’s Autism Hour by organising an hour-long autistic-friendly environment.

More than one in 100 people are diagnosed as autistic in the UK. Despite 99% of the general public having heard of autism, only 16% of autistic people feel that the public understands them.

Thousands of stores across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to turn down the music and other noises such as tannoy announcements this week, as the overwhelming background noise can be a common barrier that autistic people encounter when accessing shops. Lights (particularly fluorescent strip lighting) will also be dimmed or switched off where safe and possible.

Businesses are also asked to share information with their employees about autism, in the hopes that having an increased, basic understanding can help staff to make autistic customers’ experiences in-store a more positive one. Many businesses will also be sharing information about autism with customers this week.

To find out how you can get involved and support your local Autism Hour, visit The National Autistic Society.