Walmart offers “sensory friendly” hours

Photo credit: Walmart Corporate, licensed under CC BY 2.0

by John Drinkwater, JD, MBA, Co-Founder, The Quiet Coalition

Walmart now offers “sensory friendly” hours from 8-10 a.m., Saturdays all through August. During this time, lights are dimmed and music is turned down. “We are striving every day to create a culture where everyone feels they belong. Walmart is taking steps toward creating a quieter shopping environment that’s more enjoyable for customers who live with sensory disabilities,” the website states.

Kudos to Walmart. It’s not just people with sensory disabilities. The recent article, “Hearing Health on Hold: Why We Need Silent Options,” from The Hearing Journal notes that “studies consistently show the public is divided over background music: some like it, some don’t, and some don’t notice it at all. A very high percentage of the hearing impaired have significantly greater difficulty. Even when played at safe levels, studies show significant members of the population consider it unwanted stressful noise.”

A study from the Royal Institute for Deaf People found that a stunning 86% of hearing-impaired people found background music debilitating. “For deaf and hard of hearing people, background music often causes pain, discomfort and unnecessary distress.”

For over a decade, my Turn Up the Quiet campaign has advocated for balanced solutions and has suggested regular “no music” hours at places open to the public, in order to achieve society’s inclusive goals. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) reached out to Walmart to encourage executives to continue the program. I hope Walmart’s strategy is a big success, and other stores will start offering “sensory friendly” hours year-round. 

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