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Big Bazaar to launch booklets to ease shopping for people with intellectual disabilities

Starting next week, Big Bazaar shoppers can look forward to shopping booklets that will be given to them during Quiet Hour every Tuesday. The booklets have been specially created for people with intellectual disabilities to ease the experience of shopping through visual representation.

Shopping can be stressful for people with intellectual disabilities like autism. Not knowing what they need to buy, what to expect, and the various steps to follow can be overwhelming, leading to anxiety and frustration. What helps is a guide that tells them exactly what to do from the moment they enter the shop to the point of departure.

Big Bazaar's Shopping Hour Booklets do just that. The booklet will be launched in select outlets across India during the Quiet Hour on Tuesday, when a time period is set aside for shoppers with intellectual disabilities.

The shopping hour booklet has a visual representation for every stage, starting with the figure of a smiling mother and child on the cover. Images and words are woven together for each step, from getting a trolley, choosing items off the shelves and placing them in the trolley, to paying at the billing counter, and lastly, collecting the shopping bags. All os this brings a reassuring touch to what can be a chaotic experience.

"The booklet is a compilation of all the steps a person goes through while shopping", says Merry Barua, Founder-Director, Action for Autism, an advocacy organisation. A guide with visuals, says Barua, "standardises the steps to be followed".

A pictorial guide is especially helpful for people with autism as they are visual learners, adds Sharada Rajaram, Project Coordinator, We CAN, a Chennai-based NGO "Many of them have difficulty in communicating and understanding so a visual guide will help. For children with challenges, this is an important tool".

Enabling & Empowering

It also helps create a sense of order, which is important. "With invisible disabilities, sensory issues can be so overwhelming, it keeps them and families away from public places", says Sarbani Mallick, Founder-Director, Bubbles Centre for Autism in Bengaluru. "The booklet prepares the child. Since they are anxiety-prone, it makes it easier to go through the steps when they know there's an end coming at some point as opposed to their parents telling them to wait. It gives a sense of predictability".

This in turn creates an environment that puts the person in control and feel independent, something all parents want for their kids. In the case of children with intellectual disabilities, this is hampered by the stares and comments at public settings. Pooja Patel, Vice-President, Prayas Parents Association, a Rajkot-based association, says the guide will help further foster the sense of independence that Quiet Hour brings.

"We are looking forward to the launch of the shopping hour booklet in Rajkot. The Quiet Hour has brought great happiness to parents in our group as they can enjoy shopping with their kids", says Patel. "Our goal is to teach our kids independence, to shop on their own, handle money and do this in the midst of people. What the Quiet Hour has done is sensitise the Big Bazaar staff across India and this is bringing about a countrywide change in a sensitised manner".

Big Bazaar Launching Tuesday Shopping Hour booklet for Autism Quiet Hour. Your guide to shopping at Quiet Hour. Step 1: Get a trolley and check your shopping list. Step 2: Select the items you need from the shelves and add them to the trolley. Step 3: Pay for your items at a billing counter. Step 4: Collect your bags and enjoy. Learn shopping in simple steps on 17th September.

Ketaki Bardalai of Guwahati-based NGO Shishu Sarothi agrees. "It is important that children with intellectual disabilities go out and be visible and the Quiet Hour initiative has helped shore up the confidence. The initiative has caught up in a big way in our city". She is also happy at the many doors it is opening in the form of internship and employment opportunities for persons with development disabilities. "We are commencing a training for young adults with disabilities on the retail management side at Shishu Sarothi, with support from Future Group".

The guide will be launched at 25 stores across India starting next week. To find out which store and book your shopping experience, click here.

The booklets will be launched across more stores in a phased manner. The trial launch in Pune met with a great response and Big Bazaar plans to launch it in Bengaluru, Nagpur and Siliguri as well eventually.

The company is looking for feedback to improve upon the experience. One view holds it may be better for people to come with a prepared list. "There are three steps in the shopping booklet that Big Bazaar has devised but it may not be as simple as that", points out Rajaram. "In our experience it is better if they have a list from before. This can be small to begin with and have things the person wants. This way the motivation to learn will be high and it will also help familiarise them with the aisles".

Reactions like these says Big Bazaar will help fine tune the accessible shopping experience that has become the cornerstone of this group, which is a pioneer in this regard.

"Whether it's learning to identify products, handling money, navigating your trolley or enjoying in public spaces, Quiet Hour is about a calming experience for our new shoppers and this booklet is just an extension to supplement their holistic learning", says Vineet Saraiwala, Inclusion Lead, Big Bazaar.

Big Bazaar staff presenting a book to a visually impaired woman.
A staff member guiding a visually impaired man.
Big Bazaar women staff helping a woman with a disability to exit the premises.

The booklet will be launched soon in stores in Bengaluru, Nagpur, and Siliguri.

Also Read: Big Bazaar's Quiet Hours are enabling people with autism gain independence

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