PEOPLE suffering 'hidden' disabilities, ranging from autism to Crohn's disease will welcome the introduction of accessible toilets in supermarkets across Northern Ireland over the next month.
Asda have taken the lead in helping to break the stigma around invisible illnesses and disabilities by changing signage in their toilets form disabled to accessible and clearly indicating that not all disabilities are visible.
The move was inspired by five-year-old customer Evalynn Glennester and her mum, Tonya who were visiting their local Asda in Nottingham when they were questioned about why they were using the disabled toilet.
"Evalynn has ADHD and autism and can be affected by the noise of the hand dryer as well as queues and crowds of people," explains Tonya.
"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/grab 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 was delighted the supermarket took her concerns seriously and has made these changes nationwide.
"The standard disabled sign is no-longer a true representation of the disabled community so it isn't really viable any more and it's great that Asda appreciates that and has taken action.”
George Rankin is Senior Director for Asda Northern Ireland, where new signage will completed by the end of September.
“It's great to see this important new initiative being rolled out across our stores in Northern Ireland.
"Asda has always been proud of its ability to listen and respond to the needs of our customers and this demonstrates how identifying and solving a problem which impacts on one person at a local level, can bring benefits to all who shop in our stores.”