Designing Inclusive Retail Environments for the Neurodiverse
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Revere the Residence in Hackney, London, is part social enterprise, part homewares and lifestyle shop and the brainchild of Kate Revere. Inspired by her daughter Piper, who is deaf and autistic with the founding principle that everyone employed or gaining work experience through Revere the Residence would be a young adult with a disability or a parent of a disabled child.
We spoke to two staff members, Moxie and Titus, both autistic, to find out about their experience of retail environments and to hear their thoughts on what retail brands should consider to cater to the needs of the neurodiverse.
Spacious Aisles Aid Navigation
Challenges in spatial organization and processing can make certain retail settings, filled with numerous conflicting visual elements, challenging to navigate. Establishing well-defined zones within a store can significantly enhance the shopping experience for neurodiverse customers. Making aisles larger and more spacious facilitates more effortless movement and reduces sensory overload from crowded spaces.
Staff Training Raises Neurodivergence Awareness
Providing basic training for retail staff enhances understanding and awareness of neurodivergent experiences, promoting a more accommodating and empathetic shopping environment. This training ensures that employees are well-equipped to deliver a service that is both empathetic and beneficial to the neurodiverse.
Establishing dedicated breakout spaces within retail environments where individuals with neurodivergent needs can retreat offers overstimulated individuals a moment of respite from often overwhelming retail environments.
“When I'm overstimulated, especially in a shopping centre, it feels like there is nowhere to go”
Autistic individual, aged 15
Warm-Toned Lighting Enhances Comfort
Shifting store lighting to warmer tones creates a more soothing and comfortable shopping experience.
Autistic people can experience both hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) and hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli. Many autistic people have a combination of both. Many autistic people experience hypersensitivity to bright lights or certain light wavelengths (e.g., LED or fluorescent lights).
Neurodivergence Shopping Hours
Introducing dedicated hours for neurodivergent individuals creates a quieter and more comfortable shopping environment, reducing the stress and sensory overload associated with shopping.
Individuals on the autism spectrum may encounter sensory overload, a situation in which the stimuli from their surrounding environment become excessively intense or discomforting. To alleviate sensory overload, brands can mitigate it by decreasing the volume of background music and dimming the lighting in excessively bright stores.
Neurodivergence Aware Staff Should Be Visible to Shoppers
Staff ready to assist neurodivergent shoppers should be easily recognisable and available for assistance in-store.