CALGARY — Dimmed lights and reduced scanner noises are some of the measures a chain of grocery stores is taking to provide a sensory-friendly shopping experience.

Once a week, staff at 130 Safeway and Sobeys stores across Alberta, and others across the country, are adjusting elements like sound, lighting and smell, which can contribute to a sensory overload for some, including migraine sufferers and those with autism spectrum disorder.

“We’re heavily involved in our communities and this is just another way we can help our customers” said Brian Powrie, manager of the Marda Loop Safeway.

That store runs its sensory-friendly shopping on Monday evenings between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Cart collection doesn’t happen during those hours, bread slicers are turned off and staff use walkie-talkies instead of the loud speakers to communicate.

“A lot of people with sensory processing disorder or autism or nervous system damage can’t actually filter all of that sound out,” said Tracy Tomiak, family counsellor with New Heights School, which supports children with autism or related diagnoses. 

“What you’re offering is actually people’s independence.”

Dan and Sandra McKay went shopping specifically to check out the sensory-friendly experience.

“We have family members who have sensory issues,” said Dan.

“It makes you not want to come shopping,” added Sandra.  “It can be very overwhelming.”

She adds initiatives like this may make shopping more accessible for their family. 

“I would like to see more of this because it was palpable when we came in,” she said.