DALLAS—Back-to-school shopping for new glasses can be challenging for children, particularly for those with sensory needs in the autism community. Eyemart Express is taking steps this year to make it easier to prepare for the new school year by offering inclusive shopping experiences for autistic children and their families, according to an announcement on Monday. The Texas-based optical retailer is launching the nationwide initiative in partnership with Autism Society of Texas (AST), an arm of the national nonprofit that empowers people in the autism community by providing the resources they need to live fully.

The retailer noted that it has worked closely with the organization, and is now collaborating on the new program in “a joint effort [designed] to remove barriers and help children see clearly.”

Eyemart Express store associates across the country received training that was uniquely designed by AST to best support individual customers with varying needs, the announcement noted. Associates also were provided with an opportunity to participate in the optical retailer’s more intensive AST training program. Graduates of that program will sport an “Autism-friendly Associate” pin for easy customer recognition and assistance.

 An Eyemart Express associate provides an inclusive shopping experience to a young shopper in preparation for the new school year.
As part of this initiative, customers can find a new inclusive shopping page on the Eyemart Express website that features tips and other helpful information for parents. There is also a guided social narrative of a shopping experience—complete with pictures—to best prepare kids for what to expect when visiting an Eyemart Express store to get new glasses.

Shoppers can also call Eyemart Express stores, prior to visiting, to request accommodations, such as adjusting music and scheduling quieter times to shop for a less stimulating environment.

The optical retailer can have new, high-quality glasses that are customized to fit the needs of each child ready in as little as 30 minutes thanks to on-site labs and skilled technicians, the company said.

“Eyemart Express’ inclusivity initiative is a game changer for so many families,” Jacquie Benestante, executive director of Autism Society of Texas, said. “We are excited to have a partner like Eyemart Express take the steps to understand and provide support for individuals with autism on a national level.”

“We are proud to make it easier for children with autism to see better and pave the way for inclusive shopping in our industry thanks to our chain-wide partnership with Autism Society of Texas,” added Katy Hanson, Eyemart Express’ chief marketing officer. “We hope our push for inclusivity has a positive impact on the lives of our customers in the communities that we serve.”

The optical retailer is also helping families stretch budgets with additional savings on glasses for the new school year: From now until Oct. 2, two pairs with durable, polycarbonate lenses that hold up on the playground and activities are available for $79 (regularly $200). This offer includes a one-year frame warranty, providing parents with an additional value.

Eyemart Express, which operates stores under the Vision 4 Less, Visionmart Express and Eyewear Express banners, has 236 stores in 42 states, and is one of the nation’s largest optical retailers.