Back in November, my family visited a Sainsbury’s store in Penzance, Cornwall.
Only our experience fell well short of what a family would usually expect.
To keep it dignified, and to keep it light, I shared our experience online using our Christmas Elf, Alfie, and explaining the feelings, the harm and the difficulties from Alfie’s perspective instead of my son’s. We shared it in a post titled ‘It Shouldn’t Happen To An Elf’ and we hoped that they would read it and understand.
My family visited your store a few days ago and my son had an unpleasant experience, which I am sure does not fit within the values of Sainsbury’s.
You have some amazing toilet facilities for men, women, babies and those who need a bit more room. Sainsbury’s obviously thinks that toilet facilities are really important as you have them upstairs as well as downstairs. Yet there are no facilities for people who require a hoist to lift them from their wheelchair to an adult sized changing table to sort clothes and switch to a toileting sling before being hoisted to the toilet.
Disabled people are are people too, but my son felt less than human in your store.
The facilities I am describing are not new, nor is the need for disabled people to use the toilet. Yet people with needs similar to my son have been ignored for too long. Your baby changing facility is huge and could easily be transformed into a toilet with a hoist and adult changing table. That would tell my son that Sainsbury’s cares and values him. Sainsbury’s in Redhill have recently opened such a facility and I am asking you to give my son the best Christmas gift possible – the ability to visit your store with his grandparents, with dignity.
The Penzance store is a brilliant store. The aisles are wide and the staff are really lovely. But, without access to a toilet, my son is devastated.
I shared a blog post online about our experience. Only I wrote it about an Elf. The Elf represents my son, Adam, who is 11 years old, but enables me to share his story whilst sparing his dignity. I have enclosed a paper copy of the blog post, but you can also read it online on my blog if you are interested.
Can you imagine being 11 years old and sitting in your own waste because a major supermarket values able-bodied people but not you? Can you imagine how hurt this child is? Or how my heart aches?
Please don’t tell me that you will log this. Please don’t tell my son that you understand.
Please tell him that you are horrified that this happened in your store. Please tell him that you will make an immediate commitment to getting the necessary facilities installed in your store. Please tell him that he will be able to visit and keep his dignity within three months.
After all, if your tills were broken you would fix them immediately. Without a Changing Places style toilet facility, your toilets are broken. Surely that also deserves immediate fixing?
I look forward to your response.
Mrs Rachel George
Four months have now gone by. The store manager had initially responded positively and we had felt listened to. The store manager telephoned me and he is clearly a compassionate and decent man. We felt positive. We felt that Sainsbury’s cared.
We know that they looked into it, giving consideration to the design options and the costs. We also know that they have managed to build an Argos concession inside the store in this time frame.
But not a toilet that my son and other disabled people who also need a hoist or changing table can use.
Four months on, I asked them again.
Take a moment. Imagine receiving a letter like this telling you that a child has had a hideous experience in your store…
What would the correct response be?
Feel free to give suggestions for Sainsbury’s.
I will share their response shortly, when I have calmed down!