Step by step centre for special needs launches Qatar’s first ever “Sensory-friendly hour” in collaboration with renowned hypermarket Monoprix at their iCONIC 2022 store as part of their in-house initiative Building Bridges: a Step-by-Step Centre Campaign for Inclusion.
Monoprix iCONIC 2022 now provides a sensory-friendly shopping experience between 8 am to 10 am every day! This is one of Qatar’s first initiatives as such, and the centre is now striving hard to make all of Qatar sensory-friendly! They believe everybody should be able to have access to these places and be able to enjoy them with their families, irrespective of diverse abilities/ disabilities. And this is very much possible! All it takes is educating people, spreading awareness, fostering acceptance, training, making reasonable adjustments, empathy and lots of love.
The driving force was the fact that people with special needs and the parents of special needs children find it challenging to engage in daily activities in social settings. Things that others take for granted are rather difficult for this population. Simple day-to-day activities like grocery shopping, visiting malls, resorts, play areas, airports, going to saloons, etc., are probably so frustrating that many parents avoid them completely.
Team Step by Step started working on this initiative a few months ago and started getting in touch with various organizations to collaborate. The centre was delighted to receive a very positive and enthusiastic response from Monoprix Iconic 2022 Qatar.
The vision turned to action as Step-by-Step Centre trained the enthusiastic staff of Monoprix on how to be sensitive in their approach towards customers with sensory difficulties and how to assist them appropriately when required. Reasonable adjustments were suggested and are now put in place at the hypermarket during the sensory-friendly hours in order to reduce the sensory overload along with the provision of a quiet corner.
The official launch event was held on 21 May 2023 and was deemed a success, with Sébastien Farhat, Regional General Manager of Monoprix, presenting the opening remarks. He highlighted the importance of their involvement in the sensory-friendly initiative to contribute towards creating an inclusive community in Qatar. Up next was a keynote address by Nasreen Sharif, Director of Step-by-Step Centre for Special Needs. She provided an overview of the Sensory friendly hour program & gave her personal testimonial. She further went on to explain the purpose, goals, and scope of the program's sensory-friendly hour initiative. Among the panel was Dr Waqar Muhammad Waqar Azeem, Chair of Psychiatry for Sidra Medicine, Chair of Qatar’s National Autism Plan Working Group. He provided the audience with an overview of sensory processing challenges and their impact and highlighted the importance of sensory-friendly initiatives. This was followed by an open forum for the audience to ask questions to Dr Waqar and to the other keynote speakers. Khalid El Khatouri, Monoprix Iconic 2022 Store Manager, concluded the launch event as he went over the key points discussed during the event.
Together they look forward to seeing the positive change that will motivate others to join the campaign.
Source & cover image credit: Press Release
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