Grocery shopping is not much fun. For some, it’s pure stress – for autistic people, for example. Yet stores could do a lot about it.
For autistic people, supermarkets mean sensory overload; shopping usually ends with screaming, hitting, running away and knocking things over Photo: dpa
Katja Cragle’s four-year-old son Emil likes to go shopping. He often asks her about it. But shopping with him is not so easy. She always has to put him off or come up with excuses. Emil was diagnosed with autism last fall. "Taking him shopping basically ends in disaster," Cragle says over the phone. "It only takes about a minute, and he’s yelling, crying, hitting, knocking things over." The problem is supermarket sensory overload, which overwhelms people with autism: bright lights, too loud, too many people, too much clutter.
The discounter Lidl in Ireland is well aware of this problem. Since the beginning of April, after a one-year test run, autism-sensitive shopping evenings have been gradually introduced in all stores. These always take place on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 pm. Then the lights will be turned down, there will be no more loudspeaker announcements or music, the scanner tones will be quieter, there will be a front place in the checkout line for those affected and additional help on request. All of this is designed to make shopping easier.
Cragle learned about this concept in Ireland through a Facebook group where people with autism share information. "Oh man, this would be a lifesaver," she thought, "If it’s possible in Ireland, we need to try it here." On a Monday morning in mid-April, that was. She sat down at her kitchen table and wrote her petition to Lidl Germany on change.org. It demands: "Weekly autism-sensitive shopping evenings at Lidl Germany (as at Lidl Ireland)". 832 signatures have already been collected.
Cause of the Petition Lidl stores in Ireland show consideration for people with autism.
This is what the initiator wants Autism-sensitive shopping evenings also in Germany.
What she really wants To be able to go shopping together with her son.
Cragle and her son live in Hamm, a city of 200,000 in North Rhine-Westphalia. There are two Lidl stores there, "and both are a disaster because they are completely overcrowded." That’s why she either goes shopping before 4 p.m., when Emil is still at kindergarten, or when his grandma can watch him. When she does have to take him, she is often met with a lack of understanding and even nasty comments.
Two hours in which the stores take into account the needs of people with autism "would already help us so much," says the single parent. For everyone else, too: about one percent of people in Germany have some form of autism, says Friedrich Nolte of Autismus Deutschland e. V.
This text comes from the taz am wochenende. Always from Saturday on the kiosk, in the eKiosk or immediately in the practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.
"Currently, Lidl Germany does not plan to introduce shopping hours in which the store design is specially adapted to the requirements of autistic people," Lidl Germany informs on request. "However, we will discuss the Lidl Ireland test with our colleagues and include the response to it in future considerations."
The petition could provide an impetus; after all, Lidl, they write, "wants to offer every customer a pleasant shopping experience." That’s not the case for customers with autism. "But we have just as much right to go shopping," Cragle says. For her, the petition is just the first step: other supermarkets could follow. "Lidl is where I hope to have the best chance of success to start with," says Cragle. Why should what works in Ireland not work here?