Sutton’s Idlewells Shopping Centre has launched a weekly session aimed at controlling noise levels and providing a more peaceful environment for visitors to shop.
It is hoped that the session will make visits easier for people affected by sensory-overload; a common symptom of autism, Dementia and MS.
The condition, which can affect anyone, occurs when one or more of the body’s senses become over-stimulated resulting in discomfort, stress, fear and anxiety.
Chloe O’Donnell, Idlewells manager, said: "We have been looking at ways to make Idlewells more accessible to the whole community – and we have been told that the levels of noise and distractions, typical to all shopping centres, can be off-putting to some.
“There are many ways in which our staff can ensure all shoppers have a comfortable experience with us, which we try to do, but we wanted to go one step further and set aside a particular time of the week where we quieten the centre down in any way we can.”
Miss O'Donnell has been working with a number of local groups and organisations as well as working with families affected by autism in the production of an ‘accessibility guide’.
She has also put her staff team through autism and dementia awareness training to ensure they are equipped to assist as effectively as possible when needed.
She has asked all retailers within the centre to join in during this time, and take the same actions, where possible, inside their shops.
Those shops participating will display a Simple Shopping logo in their window. The centre will display notices at the entrances during the sessions, and hope that shoppers will respect the request for consideration of others.
Miss O'Donnell added: "This is a pilot session, which we hope will be well received and supported.
"If so, we will look at extending the scheme and seek even more ways to improve accessibility to our centre to the whole community."
The sessions, called ‘Simple Shopping’ will be held every Tuesday from 3pm until 6pm, with the pledge from the centre that there will be no music, no events taking place, no planned alarms or announcements and that hand dryers turned off in the toilets - however paper towels will be provided.