Wales online news report, by Victoria Jones, 10 August 2016: Asda introduces accessible toilets in Welsh stores to help people with invisible illnesses
The change was prompted after a woman who took her autistic daughter into a disabled loo was told ‘you don’t look disabled’
Supermarket giant Asda announced they will introduce accessible toilets in more than 400 stores as they recognise that not all disabilities are visible.
They say it’s to help ensure customers feel comfortable when using the facilities in-store and it will be introduced at 17 Welsh stores including Swansea, Cardiff, Llanelli and Blackwood.
The idea was prompted by a conversation between Asda Newark manager, Abby Robinson, and customer, Tonya Glennester, who was visiting the store with her daughter, Evalynn, five and was questioned by another customer about why they used the disabled toilet.
Tonya said: “Evalynn has ADHD and autism and can be affected by the noise of the hand dryer as well as queues and crowds of people.
‘You don’t look disabled’
“It can often cause a sensory reaction causing Evalynn to become upset or have aggressive outbursts, so the accessible toilet gives us a little bit more space and privacy.
“When we walked out on this occasion there were two customers waiting, one of whom was in a wheelchair, and they disagreed that I should be using the toilet.
“I also suffer from health issues that that can cause pain, chronic fatigue, bowel pain, and balance problems meaning I often have to use hand rails.
“I tried to explain that not all disabilities are visible but we were told ‘you don’t look disabled’. We were both really upset and left the store but I decided to go back in and speak to the manager because I know there are so many stories like ours.”
Tonya, who is a digital design and mixed media artist, asked if there was anything that could be done to help the situation and the decision was made roll out initiative to support customers with invisible illnesses in over 400 stores with separate disabled toilets.
Tonya said she was overwhelmed that Asda took her concerns so seriously and has made these changes nationwide.
You can’t always see someone’s disability
She said: “So many people will benefit from this – it will raise awareness and help people understand that you can’t always see someone’s disability.
“The standard disabled sign is no-longer a true representation of the disabled community so it isn’t really viable anymore and it’s great that Asda appreciates that and has taken action.”
Abby, who has just taken over as store manager at Grantham, 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.”
These women all suffer from an extremely painful disease but have had to fight to be properly treated
She said they will implement the change “quite quickly” so over the next few weeks this will be rolled out to all 421 Asda stores, which have a separate disabled toilet.
The move has received recognition from Crohn’s and Colitis UK, which provides support and information for people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, (IBD), including Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, after one of its supporters noticed the sign in the York store.
These are the Welsh Asda stores that will implement the change:
Llanelli Gorseinon Swansea Ystalyfera Brynmawr
Blackwood Merthr Tydfil Aberdare Tonypandy Caerphilly
Cardiff Pentwyn Leckwith Road Cardiff Bay Barry