Fish Insurance
Speak to one of our experts 0333 331 3770

Hidden Disabilities in Supermarkets

For people with hidden disabilities, a simple shopping trip could be a difficult challenge. There are so many different hidden disabilities, and each comes with its own difficulties. But shopping can be made easier if supermarket staff have an awareness of hidden disabilities.

How can hidden disabilities affect the supermarket experience?

The bright lights, loud sounds and various smells of a supermarket can be a challenge for shoppers with Autism. Someone with dementia may struggle to remember their shopping list or find the products that they need. Someone with epilepsy may be put at risk by flickering lights, and someone with a visual impairment might find it hard to navigate the store, especially if the layout changes regularly. These are just a few of the hidden disabilities that can affect the shopping experience.

People with hidden disabilities may struggle to do things that other people take for granted. The ability to shop is essential but is something that many people find difficult or almost impossible to do.

With additional support, the hope is that people with hidden disabilities have the confidence to access the same facilities as everybody else.

What help is available for shoppers with hidden disabilities?

Sainsbury’s and M&S are amongst the UK retailers supporting the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. People with hidden disabilities can request a lanyard in store, which can be worn around their neck to bring attention to the need for support. Supermarket staff should be trained to recognise the lanyard and to ask wearers how they can help.

Even without a lanyard, you should be able to approach a member of staff and ask them to make accommodations. Reasonable adjustments should be made for shoppers with additional needs.

Help for hidden disabilities in supermarkets was extended in 2019
Help for hidden disabilities in supermarkets was extended in 2019

What facilities are on offer at supermarkets in the UK?

• Morrisons
Morrisons offers a ‘Quieter Hour’ for shoppers with Autism and other customers that might need a calmer environment. This takes place in all stores, on a Saturday morning from 9-10am.

During this time, staff will dim the lights and avoid making tannoy announcements. Music will be turned off, and checkout sounds will be muted wherever possible. Staff will also try to reduce the amount of stock movement, keeping trolleys and cages still.

Morrisons also offers specialist cutlery and crockery at its in-store restaurants, for those with difficulty gripping.

In Asda, you’ll see signs on toilet doors to highlight hidden disabilities.

• Tesco
In Tesco, there are signs to raise awareness of hidden disabilities on all accessible toilet doors. There are Changing Places toilets in 40 UK Tesco stores, and that number is growing.

Customers with hidden disabilities can also download a visual guide to shopping at Tesco.

A small number of Tesco stores have also trialled the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme.

• Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s promotes the use of the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard can be picked up in store, where staff have been trained to recognise the lanyard and offer additional assistance.

• M&S
M&S stores are part of the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. Lanyards are available in store, typically within the Food Hall area or at the Customer Service desk, and staff have been trained to recognise them.

• All supermarkets
UK supermarkets have trolleys with seats suitable for disabled children, and trolleys that can be used with wheelchairs. They must also welcome assistance dogs.
Many supermarkets have wider aisle checkouts, and all have induction loops.

How can shoppers with hidden disabilities request assistance?

In stores that support the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, this is the quickest way to get on-the-spot assistance. The lanyard only tells staff that you have a hidden disability and may need extra support. It doesn’t tell staff what type of support you might need.

If supermarket staff see your Sunflower Lanyard, they may approach to ask how they can help. Alternatively, they might wait for you to approach them. You can choose to describe any extra support you require verbally, or might prefer to wear a small card that you can attach to your lanyard. This card can provide at-a-glance information about your hidden disability, as well as details about how supermarket staff might be able to help you.

You can also contact any supermarket to ask for assistance in advance. These stores should make efforts to meet your needs, providing reasonable adjustments and accommodations to make your shopping trip run smoothly.

Shopping online and arranging grocery delivery is the preferred option for many customers with hidden disabilities, but it is still of vital importance to improve accessibility in store. Customers with hidden disabilities should not be excluded from the experiences other people have, including the ability to visit the supermarket and do their own grocery shopping.

For help, speak
to one of our team
call 0333 331 3770

A photo of a customer service employee.