Walmart goes easy on the senses

Walmart has made itself more attractive to shoppers who hate bright fluorescents and buzzing PA systems.

Driving the news: Walmart has introduced sensory-friendly hours at all of its Canadian locations. From opening until 10 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, stores offer a more calming experience for shoppers with sensory processing disorders (SPDs) and other disabilities.

  • People with SPDs can be hyper-sensitive to certain senses, like sound and vision, and easily overwhelmed by them. Supermarkets are one of the most stressful locations.

  • Walmarts will pause announcements, put static images on TVs in the entertainment section, and turn off music (which we wish they’d do all the time). 

Why it matters: More-inclusive experiences could boost economic and social participation for sizable swaths of the population. SPDs are usually seen in people with autism spectrum disorders — which includes up to 2% of Canadians — and conditions like ADHD and PTSD. 

  • Empire, the parent of Sobeys, also has sensory-friendly hours at select stores, while Cineplex theatres run sensory-friendly screenings every four to six weeks. 

Zoom out: More initiatives like this could arise as Canada works towards becoming a society free of barriers for everyone by 2040. Achieving this goal could help add an extra $337 billion annually to the economy and simply make lots of folks happier.—QH