Testing Sainsbury’s “reasonable adjustment”.

Almost a year ago my son had a horrible experience at Sainsbury’s in Penzance.

We hoped they would care and want to ensure that it never happens to any other disabled person ever again. Because that is how a good business responds, isn’t it?

Either nobody told Sainsbury’s about compassion and high standards, or they just aren’t a good business. Because they have done NOTHING to stop it from happening to others. All they have done is make excuses.

My son was 11 and merely needed to use the toilet. But they had none that he could use and he ended up soiling himself. Can you imagine that? How would you feel if it happened to you? Or to your child, brother or mother?

Is there any circumstance where it would be okay for Sainsbury’s to have no toilet facilities at all?


What if your loved one was disabled? Would it be okay then?


Of course it wouldn’t. My son, like hundreds of thousands of other disabled people in the UK need a toilet with a ceiling hoist to lift him from his wheelchair and an adult sized changing table to lay down on to sort clothes and switch to his toilet sling before hoisting to the toilet. But Sainsbury’s prefers to pretend these people don’t exist than to change their facilities.

We spent many months pleading. My son had wanted to go to Sainsbury’s in Penzance with his grandad, just like they used to when he was little and liftable. He wasn’t wanting anything grand, just an ordinary experience with his Grandad who was terminally ill. Sadly, his Grandad died a few months ago. My father died knowing that Sainsbury’s didn’t care about disabled people. He died knowing that his beloved grandson had another battle to fight, just to use the toilet. 😢

They must have spent hours working on the extensive excuse list.

After the excuses, we asked them what Adam should do if he needed the toilet when in their store. They replied that their staff would help in any way that they could. They suggested that this was a “Reasonable Adjustment”.

We disagreed on this. Quite simply, it obviously wasn’t workable. Adam is over 8stone in weight. Other people, especially adults, are going to be heavier. Staff are not going to be able to lift a person to the toilet.

Halloween seemed an appropriate time to check out the potential horrors of a trip to Sainsbury’s in Penzance and Adam bravely agreed to visit so that we could speak with the manager and show him that staff “assisting” was really not possible, let alone reasonable.

We visited.

The store has toilets upstairs and downstairs with ladies, gents, baby changing, and a standard disabled toilet on both floors. There is also a café and a Doctor’s surgery. Disabled people need to shop, eat, drink and see the doctor, so it would seem odd that they would continue to refuse to provide toilets for all whilst having a medical centre onsite.

A collection of photos of some of the many toilets at Sainsbury's in Penzance.
Some of the many toilets at Sainsbury’s in Penzance. One of the baby changing rooms is just short of 3m x 4m, perfectly adequate for a toilet with a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table.

The manager appears to be a nice man. Both of the managers we met with were polite and kind. But they were entirely unable to provide any method for getting Adam onto the toilet. Despite what the Executive Office suggest, there was no “reasonable adjustment”.

I had promised Adam a treat at Sainsbury’s, but spending time in the toilet area had possibly suggested to us all that we needed to “go”. We didn’t want to risk another distressing experience so decided to dash home quickly. We took Adam elsewhere in the afternoon to get a treat. He had been very brave in being willing to go to Penzance Sainsbury’s again and he certainly deserved a treat!

Adam is a wonderful boy. He wants to make sure that other children can go anywhere they want without having any fear of soiling themselves. We both want future generations to be fully included in everyday life.

Where do we go from here? I don’t really want to take this to the courts. Legal action is exhausting. And it really shouldn’t be necessary when you are merely asking a multi-million pound business to provide a usable toilet.

But it seems that they are going to do nothing unless the law makes them.

They are happy to hurt my son and it is my job to help him to defend his future. One day he might want to work at Sainsbury’s. Would they give a Changing Places user a job?

Based on their current actions, I think not.

Sainsbury’s have made one change to their toilets this year. But it is one which only led to further hurt for Adam. How much more can they compound the cruelty than by reminding Adam that not all disabilities are visible whilst he is pleading with them to actually see him?

A 12 year old boy using a blue powered wheelchair is sitting outside of a supermarket's disabled toilet.The orange signage identifies it as Sainsbury's. There is a sign on the door saying
“Please remember that not all disabilities are visible.” BUT SOME ARE!!!

Changing Places toilets do not have to be 3m x 4m.
They do not have to be fitted by a specific installer.
They are not harmful to anyone.
They do not have huge maintenance costs.
They do not pose a health and safety risk.
They can be fitted pretty much anywhere.
They do not impact on able-bodied people.
The equipment is robust.
There are no hazards to users or staff.
Ceiling hoists can use the strength of the floor if the ceiling is not strong enough.

Changing Places users are EVERYWHERE!

This is really all that needs to be added to a large toilet.

A boy of about 10 years old, wearing a red shirt and using a manual wheelchair, is sat in front of a white changing table and is operarting the ceiling hoist.
Using a ceiling hoist is so easy a child can do it!

Why on earth is a huge wealthy company like Sainsbury’s so against it?


10 thoughts on “Testing Sainsbury’s “reasonable adjustment”.

  1. Morning Rachel and Adam, if you do go to Court add me and John to the list of supporters, We had an horrendous MDT yesterday and I have been left feeling very low and scared for his future. This no toilet policy needs not only to be focused on children as it should encompass the fact that I can’t take my 34 son out anymore. Or the elderly can go out losing their independence. You lose something in a mother or fathers soul it hurts not to be able to just go out without having to pad up, hope they don’t leak carry spare clothes and wheelchair covers if it does. He is anxious we are anxious so you eventually don’t go. Leading to isolation and exclusion of not only our son but use we do not mix in social events anymore as its too difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. We all need to support each other.

      Adam is now 12 and already almost as big as me and only 2 stones lighter than me. The thought of how we will manage when he is bigger and heavier than me is very concerning. He is growing bigger and I am getting older and weaker!

      My great grandad lost his leg and had to be hoisted. He barely left his nursing home in his last years, because the carers at the home couldn’t manage his toilet needs out and about.

      We should all be able to go out with ease, certainly without toilet worries.

      Much love to you and John.x


    2. I’ve never seen a facilities in any store with a hoist no even in Doctors surgeries or hospitals for the public I myself am in a wheelchair. I at the moment can get my self
      Sorted! I used to lift my little sister on and off the ordinary facilities and it takes it’s
      toll on your body I thought every place was to have Wheelchair access by 2018 yeah but if you’re bariatric no one has any idea of what’s needed because not many people have people like us in their lives . Wake up world let’s have training days where we get to understand that we are all different and learn how to help each other!


    3. Keep making the point. It won’t be long before people will look back and be amazed that this response was thought to be reasonable!


      1. One day we will all look back and be astounded that disabled people in the 21st century had to fight and plead for toilet equality.


  2. Rachel, this leaves me (almost) speechless. Like you said they’ve spent a LOT of time drafting the list of excuses. My guess is that they had a lot of meetings with flip charts and everything so they covered all bases. The individual excuses are insulting in most cases tbh. It’s clear to me (and, I’m certain to you too) that they didn’t approach this with the attitude of how CAN we help, but how can we AVOID helping. Totally arse-about-face. (Sorry, I’m from the North) I’d love to know who the ‘Disability Consultant’ was, and what their recommendations were. Have you been able to get hold of their report through your lawyers by any chance?
    They really should hang their heads in shame. That a multi-billion pound company, the second biggest in the sector, should respond like this is a disgrace. They should be showing the way, not coming up with mealy-mouthed excuses to dodge doing the right thing.
    Shame on them.


    1. You said it so well!

      Thank you for summing it up so well. I have not started legal action yet, I was hoping that they would reconsider their attitude and ask themselves what could be done.

      I will be speaking with Adam’s legal team on Monday.


  3. I am so very sorry that your son and family are experiencing such blatant discrimination.

    There is so much planning involved when you go out anywhere as a wheelchair user. That is without all the looks that you get from other people. It is something that I have had to come to terms with.

    Have you bypassed the store and spoken with their Head Office? Your local MP may wish to get involved as well.

    Sometimes more direct action is called for to embarrass them into taking action. Get a local newspaper or TV channel involved. Hold a local protest outside the store, even if you get moved on it would be worth taking some photos or video footage to send to the media.

    Wishing you all the best.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dave,

      The local manager seems to be a good guy. I think that if it was his decision he would get it sorted.

      He forwarded everything to the Executive Office and that is where the enormous excuse list of reasons why they are not bothering to change anything came from.

      They could have put their energy into doing something. But instead they have let families down, including my son.

      My local MP isn’t someone who I feel will be helpful.

      But I am entirely up for direct action and am open to ideas!

      When I originally shared our story I did it using our Christmas Elf and the local media were interested.


      My son deserves access to toilets.

      We all do. Thank you for your support.


  4. I mentioned how badly we need a proper Changing Places Toilet in Sainsbury’s in Newry, or in one of the adjacent shopping centres – I did bring my daughter to Newry last year because I’d been told there was a changing place in the shopping centre. Which there was, but it didn’t have a hoist. My back was giving me trouble at the time, so I couldn’t lift my daughter onto the toilet. You can guess what happened 😔 And I haven’t brought her back since, which is a shame, because she loves a road trip and Newry is a great place to visit.


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