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Walmart introduces sensory-friendly shopping hours

'Minimal sounds' will be heard in stores during early-morning hours three days a week.

THUNDER BAY — Walmart Canada has introduced sensory-friendly shopping hours at all three Thunder Bay store locations.

After soft-launching the program last month, the company made the official announcement Monday that sensory-friendly shopping will be available at all 403 Canadian stores from store opening until 10 a.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The program, similar to what companies such as Safeway already provide, is aimed at providing a less stimulating environment for people who may be prone to experiencing sensory overload.

This is done by eliminating or reducing various sources of stimuli such as sounds and bright lights.

In the case of Walmart, the company said its plan includes "minimal sounds, with no music or radio ads, and announcements/paging paused except for emergencies. In addition, only static, low-sensory images will be used on TV walls."

A spokesperson said Walmart is currently unable to dim its lights, but hopes to explore other options in the future.

Approximately one-third of the population is said to experience some degree of sensory sensitivity or overload, with more than two dozen different diagnoses contributing to it.

Christel Seeberger, founder and CEO of Sensory Friendly Solutions, said people might be surprised to know a family member, friend or co-worker suffers from the condition.

"As a person with lived experience, I know it can stop people from living everyday life," she stated. "Sensory-friendly environments make life more accessible, inclusive, and invite more people to participate and belong."

Walmart consulted with Seeberger's company about the project prior to implementing it.  

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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