Asda to display invisible disabilities sign nationwide

Two days ago, I highlighted the appearance of a new sign for an accessible restroom in an Asda store in Bristol.

Although staying quiet at the time, Asda has now announced that the ‘not every disability is visible’ sign is being introduced throughout its UK chain of more than 400 mega, super and large retail stores. I wonder whether the idea might be taken up in the US by its parent company Walmart.

On its company website this week, Asda said:

We understand that not all disabilities are visible which is why we’re rolling out new signs for our disabled toilets in more than 400 of our stores.

We want to make sure all our customers feel comfortable using our facilities – including those with disabilities that aren’t always obvious such as Crohn’s disease, autism and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

The new signs were inspired by a conversation between our Newark store manager Abby Robinson, mum Tonya Glennester and her five-year-old daughter Evalynn after a recent visit to the store.

asda toilet signEvalynn, who has ADHD and autism, used the disabled toilet but she and her mum became upset when they were questioned by another customer who told them “You don’t look disabled.”

“Evalynn can be affected by the noise of the hand dryer as well as queues and crowds of people,” said Tonya, who is a member of a local autism support group. “It can cause a sensory reaction causing her to become upset or have aggressive outbursts, so the accessible toilet gives us a little more space and privacy.

“When we walked out there were two customers waiting, one in a wheelchair, and they disagreed that I should be using the toilet. I also suffer from health issues that can cause pain, chronic fatigue, bowel pain and balance problems meaning I often have to use the hand rails. We were both really upset and left the store but I decided to speak to the manager because I know there are so many stories like ours.”

Abby, who has just taken over as manager at the store, spoke to colleagues at Asda’s Head Office and it was agreed that new signs will go up in 421 stores over the next few weeks to make them more accessible.

Abby said: “I feel very proud that a simple conversation with a customer and her daughter has resulted in this initiative to raise awareness of invisible illnesses.”

One of the new signs was spotted by a customer at our York Monks Cross store who tweeted a photo. Her tweet prompted praise from charities including Crohn’s and Colitis UK who support people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Their spokesperson said: “For many people with IBD the sudden and uncontrollable need to use a toilet is a genuine and recognised symptom of their condition. Whilst they may not look ill on the outside they are affected from debilitating symptoms that affect all aspects of their lives.

“Many members of the charity feel that they are judged for using accessible toilets because others perceive them to be well. We are thrilled that Asda will be adopting these signs throughout their stores across the UK and we hope that more businesses will follow suit.”

Tonya added: “I am overwhelmed to see that Asda took my concerns so seriously and have made these changes nationwide. So many people will benefit from this – it will raise awareness and help people understand that you can’t always see someone’s disability.”

 

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Not every disability is visible

Now, here’s a great idea being pioneered by one supermarket in the Asda chain in the UK which is, in turn, a company owned by the giant Walmart group in the US. And, like all the best ideas, it is simplicity itself.

All the supermarket has done is to place a second sign on the door of its accessible restroom for people with disabilities. The sign points out that not all disabilities are visible.

asda toilet signIt is certainly a timely reminder to all those tempted to berate someone leaving that room who shows no outward sign of a disability. There are plenty of people with disabilities who are not only able to walk but also show no obvious sign of the disability.

Of course, accessible rooms for people with disabilities should not cause friction between people but just like accessible parking spaces, regrettably, they do. There always seems to be somebody ready to question and criticize – without thinking about invisible or hidden disabilities.

There are many conditions that class as ‘invisible’, including MS in its earlier stages, meaning that a person who may seem able, is fighting his or her disability on the inside. And, because of that situation, such a person has a genuine need to use a n accessible restroom.

In an attempt to put an end to the disapproving stares, the muttering that is designed to be heard by the supposed ‘offender’ and, ultimately, the embarrassing confrontation that can occur, the Asda Monks Cross store in the city of York has accepted the challenge by changing adding the extra sign. Let’s hope that this is the start of something big that is grasped by Asda as a whole and even beyond that one retail company.

Apparently, it was a young girl who has inflammatory bowel disease, an invisible disability, who took a picture of the sign, which reads: ‘Not every disability is visible’, and posted it to Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s Facebook page. It has so far received more than 10,000 likes.

Where you get Facebook ‘Likes’, you also get comments and many have expressed their happiness after seeing the post about the sign.

One person wrote: ‘Finally some recognition for those hidden disabilities, Crohn’s has been my nemesis for years yet I always feel judged for using disabled facilities. Well done Asda.’

And another post read: ‘That’s a great sign. I’ve heard the grumbling public whispering loudly how I shouldn’t be using a disabled toilet.’

 

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