Autism Acceptance Week: How schuh Supports Shoppers

Customer in store being handed a shoe

According to the National Autistic Society: “The aim of Autism Acceptance Week is to help more people understand what autism is, as well as the ways it can affect life for Autistic people.”

At schuh, our purpose mission is to foster self-expression and style in an inclusive community that inspires progress through purpose.

All of equal importance, our Purpose Pillars are: Sustainability; Mental Wellness; and Fostering Diverse Talent. The latter is made up of: Racial Equality; LGBT+ Equality; and Disability Equality.

In regard to Disability Equality, this Autism Acceptance Week, we want to take the opportunity to discuss the ongoing commitments that schuh is making to improve the shopping experience for the autistic and neurodiverse community.

About Us

Our Mission is to provide disability equality within schuh, our customer community, and encourage this on a wider scale. Our ultimate goal is accessibility to retail and culture.

We want every customer who visits schuh, whether that be online or in person, to feel confident, valued, and welcomed.

But, when it comes to supporting the shopping experience for the autistic and neurodiverse community, what are we doing at the moment and what are we doing to improve things further?

Shopper exchanging schuh bag in store with colleague

Social Stories

We know that shopping can be a particularly stressful experience for so many people. That’s why, in line with our Mission Statement, with the support of our partner at Hidden Disabilities, we’ve developed Social Stories.

Social stories have been created with the autistic community in mind and aim to showcase what to expect from an in-store shopping experience at schuh, in an easily digestible way. If you’re interested in finding out more about our social stories for adults and kids, you can check them out on the Help section of our website.

Autism Awareness and Disability Confidence Training

If we are to successfully provide the shopping experience that we’ve highlighted as part of Social Stories, our store-staff require training and support. We want to ensure our teams have the knowledge and understanding required to help give a better everyday experience for disabled people, as customers and employees.

Alongside working with our partner Hidden Disabilities, we’ve also worked with an equality, diversity, and inclusion consultancy partner Goss Consultancy Ltd who are in the process of updating our existing Autism Awareness training. Ultimately, we want to ensure our teams are equipped with the latest information and support practices.

So far 79% of our store teams have completed Autism Awareness training and 81% have completed Disability Confidence training.

In stores, our staff are welcomed to wear the ‘I Support the Sunflower’ hidden disabilities badge to show their support for non-visible disabilities and display their availability to help and support shoppers.

Quiet Hours

If you are visiting one of our stores, our retail staff have been trained in accessible customer service so we can confidently adapt our in-store experience by meeting customers requirements in other ways.

A selection of our stores currently offer specific quiet hours and we have listed those on the store finder pages of our website. We also list all store numbers here so you can call ahead and plan your visit. Our customer service team is also on hand to help with any additional requests.

Currently, 25.9% of our stores in the UK and Ireland operate quiet hours – and we are working closely with our store network to keep increasing this.

Disability Confidence Employee Programme

Through our Disability Confident pilot programme, we are creating work experience opportunities for disabled or neurodiverse individuals and groups.

We currently have four individuals completing supported internships. This follows on from a previous Work Experience programme which also supported four internships, together leading to the permanent employment of 3 new team members. Throughout 2024, we will be working towards rolling out this programme to more of our stores in order to give as many opportunities as possible to this community.