In the UK there are over 13.9m people living with a disability, which means it is essential to provide the required assistance to those individuals. In the professional environment, several adjustments such as flexible working hours, voice command software, and adjustable equipment have all been put in place by employers across the country to support individuals living with a disability.
Nowadays, companies are implementing changes through gesture or by-law to facilitate the access to the workplace.
For instance, Northern Irish barber Lenny White delivers a dementia barbering service. The barber helps by cutting the hair of those who suffer from the debilitating mental illness. Wanting to create an empowering experience for sufferers, he plays Elvis music to create a relaxing experience.
Additionally, UK airports have introduced quite rooms and routes to make the experience of airports more accessible and less stressful for someone with autism. This creates a better overall journey and make it as stress-free as possible.
Manchester Airport has introduced a system that fast-tracks families travelling with autistic children. But, what about regular routines? Of course, virtually every supermarket in the UK now offers a home delivery service. Going to the shops is something all of us love to do — it’s somewhat of a social gathering, and how else would we be able to take advantage of the ‘big rollbacks’?
Together with Lookers, who sell the all-new Audi Q3, we look at the UK’s most accessible supermarkets for those with disabilities.
As revealed by a Statista study, the UK had a significant number of supermarkets spread across the country:
- 2,652 Tesco stores
- 1,412 Sainsbury’s stores
- 750 Aldi stores
- 700 Lidl stores
- 646 Asda stores
- 491 Morrisons stores
- 353 Waitrose stores
That is clearly a significant number of stores, but was anything put in place to facilitate disabled customers?
Toilet Signs ASDA
Back in 2016, ASDA’s introduction of new signage to its toilets came as an unconventional move.
Usually, the toilet signs would portray a boy, a girl, and a person in a wheelchair, signifying the disabled toilet. However, on ASDA’s signs, they included all three on the toilet door, accompanied by the phrase: “Not every disability is visible.”
Regrettably, we commonly assume that all disabilities can be seen from the outward appearance, such as a person on a wheelchair. However, this is not always the case.
On this occasion, ASDA clarified: “Knowing that disability or illness can be incredibly wide-ranging and often manifests in lots of different ways for different people, we’ve updated our signs in the hope of making our facilities far more inclusive.”
Dementia-Friendly Checkouts at Tesco
Back in 2015, Tesco became the first supermarket to establish dementia-friendly tills in the stores. During Dementia Awareness week in May 2015, the new system was introduced in a shop in Chester working in collaboration with Andy Tysoe, a memory nurse at a local hospital.
Placed in the centre aisle of the store, the special till has dementia-friendly logos that can guide sufferers throughout the checkout process. Meanwhile, coin identifiers were pictured around the checkouts, helping customers to distinguish what each coin was and how much it valued. This was something a number of the staff at the supermarket had recognised was a problem.
Colleagues were trained to assisting and support customers with dementia.
Sunflower Lanyard at M&S
In September 2019, Marks & Spencer, one of the most trusted brands in the UK, created the sunflower lanyard scheme. The company’s retail director, Sacha Berndji, noted: “As we work hard to transform M&S, we remain committed to being the UK’s most accessible retailer for customers — however, wherever, and whenever they want to shop — it all matters.”
The scheme, which involved the training of 80,000 staff across the UK, has been rolled out to help the variety of individuals living with a non-visible disability such as autism or hearing or visual impairments.
One store manager observed that it would be especially helpful towards the Christmas period, which tends to be the busiest time of the year.
Autism Hour at Morrisons
The National Autistic Society believes that the introduction of an autism hour, once a week, in Morrisons stores across the country “is a step in the right direction”. The 491 supermarket chain stores across the country turn the music off, refrain from using the tannoy, dim the lights, and reduce the volume of the checkouts to create the most calming shopping experience for their customers.
Since over one in 100 people suffer from autism in the UK, the introduction of this measure is highly beneficial.
As revealed by DMUK (Disability Motoring UK) there are an average of 15 disabled parking spaces outside grocery stores. However, one in five of these is often being taken up by someone without a blue badge. Morrisons performed the most favourably in this department, with 10 per cent of their spaces being taken up by those who were not displaying a badge. Tesco, alternatively, performed the worst, with 24 per cent of their spaces being used.
Every business should prioritise the implementation of measures and facilities that can help those suffering with disabilities across the UK. However, Business Disability Forum also noted that 75 per cent of disabled customers or their families, would not return to a brand due to their failure to understand their situation.
Therefore, whether it be introducing lanyard style systems that the likes of M&S has, or using more stringent parking measures to prevent people from parking in disabled spaces, it is in the best interest of the supermarket to support all of their customers.