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.
Evalynn, 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.”