Supermarkets accused of causing pain and distress through disability discrimination

Please note: The current Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is fast moving, and reactions to it seem to update not just day-by-day but minute-by-minute. Obviously, this site was not designed to bring you the very latest developments in a ‘breaking news’ story such as this. Instead, this site will continue to include news and opinions relating to major events, policy changes, and so on.

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Sick and disabled people, including some with MS, have described the pain and distress they have endured in attempting to buy food during the COVID-19 crisis. Many say they have been forced to put up with discrimination from their local supermarket – with Sainsbury’s being named as the worst offender.

Accounts collected by Disability News Service (DNS) build a picture of disabled people struggling to feed themselves, and having to put the health of themselves and their families at risk, while supermarkets fail to adjust their policies and procedures to take account of the barriers their disabled customers are facing.

DNS says that, in just one week, from eight disabled people who allege they have faced discrimination from supermarkets as they have attempted to buy food during the COVID-19 crisis.

Living these days in southern Spain, more than 1300 miles south of London by road, I have no first-hand knowledge of events during the current COVID-19 crisis. I do know, however, how much I relied on Tesco’s home delivery service when I lived in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. Being able to shop online, choose a delivery slot, and have shopping delivered into my kitchen was amazing.

To hear allegations that UK supermarkets are letting down disabled and vulnerable people is distressing, and I hope is something that will be resolved quickly.

Of course, the problem is matching what supermarkets can achieve in these unprecedented times with what people with disabilities need or expect.

Class action

Here, Lisa and I live just outside the 10km (6¼ miles) delivery area, to everyone – even in normal times, of our nearest supermarket, Mercadona. So, we are extremely grateful that Joe, one of our neighbours, has been a real hero by being able and willing to shop for us.

Back in the UK, solicitors (attorneys) are saying that more than 200 disabled people are set to take a legal class action for disability discrimination against supermarkets because of the discrimination they say they have faced while trying to buy groceries during the coronavirus crisis.

At the same time, the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to raise its own concerns about the failure of supermarkets to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers.

EHRC’s concerns include the availability of online deliveries, the impact of long queues in stores, changes to policies on accompanied shopping, and inaccessible websites and telephone helplines.

Among those particularly hard-hit are people with autistic people and those with long-term health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, who say they have not been able to secure home deliveries by booking online and claim they have faced discrimination when they have had to visit stores instead.

With legal action pending, if no accommodation is reached, it would be unfair to ask either side for comments. But I will say that I hope that common sense prevails, that agreement can be reached, and services to the disabled resolved, without the need for litigation.

This pandemic affects us all, people with disabilities and supermarkets alike. We all need to do what we can, be reasonable, take care, stay healthy, and be kind to one another.

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Spelling

Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.

For example:

Centre                              not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control)                  Colour                              not color                                                                                                                      Diarrhoea                       not diarrhea                                                                                                  Haematology                not hematology                                                                                Haematopoietic          not hematopoietic

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.

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