Over 1000 Asda colleagues have taken part in autism and dementia awareness sessions

Asda today has announced that it’s trialling a new “inclusive hour” in Kent and Manchester as part of its support for Purple Tuesday (13th November), the UK’s first accessible shopping day, established to recognise the importance and needs of customers with disabilities and promote inclusive shopping.

Back in 2016, Asda was the first retailer to introduce the Quiet Hour and has since been working with a number of charities and local authorities to further understand what simple changes can be made to the store environment. This is to help aid customers shopping experience and make it more inclusive for people with hidden conditions.

On a Tuesday morning, selected stores across Kent and Manchester are trialling an hour for local people with autism and dementia who may feel intimidated or stressed by noise and disturbance. Over a thousand Asda colleagues in the Kent and Manchester regions have gained a better understanding about dementia and autism by undertaking awareness sessions.

Asda launched the “Inclusive Hour” trial to work closely with community groups to understand their shopping needs which includes cutting out many electronic distractions, such as music and display TVs, whilst not using the tannoy for any announcements. All of these small steps will ensure there are fewer disruptions around the store for people who are sometimes troubled by loud noises or become easily distracted and confused, which include:

• Turning off the Asda FM radio channel and in store Tannoy system.
• Turning down the volume of the ‘beeps’ on all checkouts.
• Prevention of any unnecessary alarm barriers going off.
• Turning off any door heaters/blowers.
• Ensure all specialist equipment e.g. wheelchairs, electric scooters are available and accessible.
• Lighting levels dropped.
• Turning off display TV’s and Health & Beauty fixtures that contain lighting.
• Colleagues working during the Inclusive Hour will keep noise to a minimum, especially when replenishing shelves.

Kent Trial

Asda has worked with Kent County Council to begin the ‘Inclusive Hour’ trial in eight stores across Kent Every Tuesday morning from 9am to 10am.

The first stage of the trial was launched in October to support customers with Dementia and customers with Autism, building on the Dementia Friendly Communities work and work on inclusivity already managed in relation to Autism. Asda has worked with Kent County Council to develop and deliver some specific Dementia and Autism awareness training to Store Managers which has now been rolled out to 800 employees across the chain’s stores in Kent.

Several other organisations have also assisted with the training and the trial, including KCC’s Dementia Friendly Communities Team, Carers Organisations and Advocacy for All that Kent County Council commission.

Asda has already received positive feedback from the trial especially from people living with dementia, who explained they find it a more of a comfortable shopping experience knowing that there are colleagues nearby who are available to help should they need support. Last Month, Asda Sittingbourne was recognised at the Kent Dementia Friendly Awards for the work they’ve already done in a bid to towards becoming a more dementia friendly store.

Manchester Trial

The trial of the ‘inclusive hour’ in eight stores in Manchester is every Tuesday morning from 10am to 11am and began last week. They have worked with Alzheimer’s Society to create and deliver bespoke Dementia Friends Awareness Sessions to colleagues. Dementia Friends, is the biggest ever initiative to raise awareness of dementia and inspires people to take action such as being more patient or offering to help someone who may be struggling. This enables those affected to have confidence and to continue doing the things they’ve always done, such as shopping.

Upon completion of the Dementia Friends Awareness Sessions each Asda colleague is then presented with a special Dementia Friends badge featuring a blue forget me not flower. Over 200 colleagues will be taken through the Dementia Friends Awareness Sessions becoming Dementia Friends by the end of 2018.

Simon Lea, Asda store manager in Marple was the inspiration behind the original launch of Asda’s ‘Quiet Hour’ in the Manchester Living store back in 2016. Following an incident in store with a parent shopping with a child who has autism, Simon took it upon himself to speak to colleagues and customers about how Asda can help shoppers with autism, hidden conditions or disabilities.

Simon has lived with anxiety for many years and used to absolutely hate going into busy stores. Simon said “If we can make a few small changes to give these customers a better shopping experience and make them comfortable then I know the store will be a better place to shop for everyone.”

Jodie Tate, Asda Vice President Central Retail Operations & Chair of Asda’s Inclusion Board said: “Purple Tuesday, the UK's first accessible shopping day is here to recognise the needs of our customers with disabilities and/or hidden conditions and to promote inclusive shopping. I'm really proud of the efforts and progress we've made to support inclusive shopping, not just on Purple Tuesday, but every day.

“I’m really pleased we’re trialling a new “Inclusive Hour” across two regions. We already provide equipment and services to make working and shopping with us as easy and accessible as possible - whether that's our adapted wheelchair trollies, hearing loops or our accessible toilets. It’s great that we are extending our support further by trialling an “Inclusive Hour” to make the shopping experience better for customers with hidden conditions such as autism and dementia.”

Graham Gibbens, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health at Kent County Council, said: “As a council we continue to work closely with our partners, local charities and private businesses to make Kent more inclusive and as welcoming as possible to residents with more complex needs.

“This has included the establishment of Dementia Friendly Communities, staff training and the rollout of changing places in public buildings.

“We cannot succeed without the support of local businesses and so were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Asda on this project. We look forward to seeing more businesses following their example in the future.”

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said “We hear too often from people with dementia that once-simple things like popping to the shops can become almost impossible as their symptoms worsen and certain environments can be increasingly difficult to deal with.

“As 850,000 people have dementia across the UK, it’s vital businesses ensure they are taking steps to become dementia friendly and these customers are supported to feel included in their local community. To achieve this, we work closely with businesses across the country to implement the principles of Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Business Guide. It is great to have Asda on board with this and we hope this paves the way for us to work together more closely in the future.”

-ENDS-

Here’s a number of services Asda offers to its disabled customers:
· Happy Little Helpers, making shopping easier for autistic children – find more detail here
· Changing Places facilities in a selection of stores – find out more detail here
· Hearing loops. We have the best provision on our checkouts than any other retailer
· Let’s Loop website has all Asda stores listed
· Braille Guns, enabling colleagues to make signs in Braille to help partially sighted customers
· Adapted knife, fork, spoon and mug for those that have trouble with ordinary cutlery in our cafes
· Assisted shops where required
· Mobility Scooters
· Adapted trolleys
· Wheelchairs
· Accessible Checkouts, service desks and fitting rooms
· Call Points for unmanned desks
· Firefly website
· MyHalio – enables disabled drives to request help at the pumps from colleagues

The full list of the trial stores hosting “Inclusive Hours” are:

Kent stores
· Gravesend
· Sittingbourne
· Folkestone
· Maidstone Living
· Kingshill
· Broadstairs
· Tunbridge Wells
· Ashford

Manchester stores
· Pendlebury
· Atherton
· Stockport Belmont
· Hazel Grove
· Ashton Queens Road
· Cheadle Hulme
· Rochdale Kingsway
· Marple