The toilet sign that is raising awareness of 'hidden disabilities'

Mental illnesses, developmental disorders, and conditions such as Crohn's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and IBS can all be 'hidden disabilities'

Charlotte England
Sunday 28 August 2016 16:48
The NHS trust staff claimed they saved £40,000
The NHS trust staff claimed they saved £40,000

Asda is to put up signs in 421 UK stores raising awareness of 'hidden disabilites'.

The signs, placed on accessible toilet doors, will urge customers to remember not all disabilities are visible. They are intended to make people with conditions like Crohn's disease, autism, anxiety, and inflammatory bowel disease feel they can use disabled facilities without facing criticism from other shoppers.

"We want to make sure all our customers feel comfortable using our facilities – including those with disabilities that aren’t always obvious," a spokesperson for the supermarket said.

The supermarket, which is a subsidiary of American retail giant Walmart, announced signs will be placed in the majority of its 525 stores after charities praised a single sign placed in a store in Newark, East Midlands.

A photograph of the original sign was shared on Facebook by Crohn’s and Colitis UK in early August and has been liked over 10,000 times.

The reminder to the public was inspired by the experience of artist Tonya Glennester and her five-year-old daughter Evalynn, an Asda spokesperson said.

Ms Glennester assisted Evalynn, who has ADHD and autism, in using the disabled toilet in store, but was questioned on leaving the cubicle by another customer who said they 'didn't look disabled'.

“Evalynn can be affected by the noise of the hand dryer as well as queues and crowds of people,” said Ms Glennester, 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.”

The original sign in a Newark store (Facebook)

After the sign was shared online, other people with disabilities that aren't always visible said they had had similar experiences.

A spokesperson for Crohn's and Colitis UK said, "For many people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (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 and not entitled to use the facilities. The experience or fear of faecal incontinence is, as you can imagine, very undermining to a person’s confidence and self-esteem."

They added the charity hopes more businesses will follow suit and help the public to be aware of ‘invisible’ diseases.

The group is running a campaign to have other supermarkets put up the same signs on their accessible toilet doors. Supporters have so far sent over 11,000 emails urging bosses at Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, and Waitrose to follow Asda's example.

Sue Bott, the deputy CEO of Disability Rights UK, also praised the move.

“We support Asda putting signs on the doors of accessible toilets stating that not all disabilities are visible,” she said.

“It will help to take the stigma away from those who may need to use such toilets for reasons other than having a mobility impairment and which are not obvious for example people who have bowel and bladder problems.”



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