I read on social media that yesterday was ‘Purple Tuesday’, when shops on the high street would be ‘autism and dementia friendly’ – there would be an hour during the day when these types of customers would be made particularly welcome, like the autism friendly cinema screenings that I have seen advertised too, but we have never participated in. But I have a few issues about Purple Tuesday :
- It was not well advertised or promoted, so how many shops participated and how many families were aware of this ‘golden hour’ for their Christmas shopping, presumably? I certainly fell over it in the evening, when it was too late, so hard did retailers try to promote this service that they were offering. I still do not know when the magical hour was, but presumably it was when Joshua’s peers who might have benefitted, were at school.
- How much shopping can realistically be achieved in an hour, when you have dementia or autism? I have seen both conditions at close quarters and both can become preoccupied with a very small detail and get stuck in a loop, so much so that it can take an hour just to get over a threshold. Does this really exist as an hour a year for shopping in a quiet, helpful environment? Surely if they are serious about helping,and it is more than just a retail gimmick, it needs to be offered as a weekly or monthly hour, to gather some momentum.
- I understand that for some on the autistic spectrum and for certain dementia suffereres, the busy-ness and noise of shops is simply too overwhelming and that they cannot cope with more than five minutes in that environment. For them,and their carers, this would be an appealing concept perhaps. But this idea also makes me uncomfortable if I am honest : here is your hour for shopping, now stay away from the shops the rest of the time, as we gave you an hour. It could also be interpreted as a patronising attempt at segregation and you know that I feel stronly about inclusion.I want Joshua to be part of the real world, it is good for him to mix with ‘normal’ people and it is good for them to encounter him too, so I do not like the principle of offering a Disability Retail Hour for our situation. Joshua hates shopping, not due to the crowds and noise I don’t think – he loves people – but he just finds it boring and if I am honest, I dislike shopping too, so thank goodness for online shopping!
- If I assume that the founders of Purple Tuesday’s motives were purely to support the needs of sufferers of dementia and autism, then I applaude their initiative and perhaps it will grow in popularity as more people become aware of it. But I hope that the staff in participating stores were given training in how to support customers with dementia or autism , as to be done properly, it would need to offer more than just a less busy retail environment.
I will watch out for more such initiatives, but for us, this did not represent a solution to encourage Joshua to spend more time shopping. He has his own funds and if there is something that he wants or needs, then he will get it. But I will usually make an online purchase for him. A special disability hour is not magically going to make Joshua into an independent shopper.