by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
The Swiss Coop grocery chain is testing quiet hours in several stores in Switzerland, where the Spar chain already has quiet hours. Lights will be dimmed from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there will be no announcements. This is being done to make shopping easier for those with autism. About 1% of the Swiss population is thought to be affected by autism spectrum disorders.
We think quiet hours are a good idea for lots of people, not just those with autism. These include people with hyperacusis, veterans and others with PTSD, parents with babies and toddlers, and really just anyone who is bothered by noise.
There is no reason for background music in grocery stores (or any retail stores) to be turned up to rock concert volumes. Announcments don’t need to be made at deafening volumes, either.
As many have observed, environmental modifications meant to help the disabled actually make life better and easier for us all.
The example I often cite is the ADA door handle, a lever style handle mandated by regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act. These handles are easier for everyone to use than the old round door handles–not just people with arthritis or a weak grip from a stroke or neuromuscular disease, but children, older people, and those with both hands full who can use a wrist or elbow to turn the handle.
Similarly, ramps or curb cuts meant to help those with mobility disorders help parents pushing a stroller, delivery workers with carts full of packages, or repair technicians with tools and equipment on carts, as well as people like me with creaky knees.
And like ADA door handles and curb cuts, quieter retail stores will benefit everyone.
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.