On the eve of World Autism Awareness Day, a retail chain outlet observed "Autism Quiet Hour" in 16 cities across India on Monday. During this specific time, the sensory overload reduced, lights were dimmed, announcements stopped and trolley movements reduced as children with autism shopped at the Big Bazaar hypermarkets.
From 11 am to 1 pm, around 2,000 children not just enjoyed shopping, but also experienced a special play zone and "cooling room" to relax and unwind.
Sixteen non-profit organisations worked with the sales teams and other employees to sensitise them about autism.
For parents of children with autism, it was a dream come true. Some even shed tears of joy.
Beena Prithiveeraj, a parent and a member from "We Can" community in Chennai, told NDTV, "There were no judging eyes whether they were spinning, rocking or hand-flapping while they shopped. Families went back happy that their children had a comfortable experience".
Another parent from Mumbai said that her child shopped with his friends. "There was green shopping zone and everything was for him. It was the first shopping time for all the children."
Another mother said, "It was a very friendly atmosphere. We would come back".
"It's a very good step embracing autistic children as equal citizens of the country and this arrangement continue perhaps on a weekly basis," a parent said.
Vineet Saraiwala, Inclusion Lead at Big Bazaar said, "The vision comes right from our CEO Kishore Biyani. 140 of our trial rooms are wheelchair friendly. We even had programmes like Cooking without Looking and Make up for the visually challenged. "Sab Ke liye" [For All] is our theme."
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