Humboldt Sobeys providing sensory-friendly shopping nights

HUMBOLDT — Shopping can be a stressful time for a variety of reasons.

Thanks to a national initiative, the Humboldt Sobeys is trying to make it less so with their sensory-friendly shopping nights.

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By reducing lighting in the store, turning off overhead music and suspending announcements, and limiting cart collection during these times, Sobeys stores are reducing ways that people with disabilities can be overstimulated while they shop.

Sobeys started the initiative with a few eastern Canada stores before implementing it nationwide. David Doepker, the manager of the Humboldt Sobeys, said he is receiving a lot of positive feedback from a variety of shoppers.

“Some of the people really appreciate it; some because of necessity, some who just like shopping like that.”

Processing our environment is a common challenge across a wide spectrum of disabilities, said Mara Doepker, support services co-ordinator with Humboldt and District Community Services. From people with autism to anxiety to learning disabilities, sensory sensitivity can cause problems in processing the environment.

People living with sensory challenges are limited in when or how they shop but making the environment more sensory welcoming for people with disabilities makes Sobeys more accessible for everyone, from adults to children with sensory challenges who shop with their parents, Mara said.

Mara, as well as Niamh Menz, the supported employment co-ordinator with Humboldt and District Community Services, were available to answer any questions during the first night of sensory-friendly shopping. After staying to do her own shopping, even as a person without sensory challenges, her shopping experience  was made better by the peaceful and relaxing the environment was after a busy work day, she said.

Sensory-friendly shopping started at the beginning of November and will be on Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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