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