A shoe in

A shoe in

Last weekend, my family and I took a trip into town.  Not because we were intrigued about how the high street was organised in a lockdown easing world.  Nor because we had cabin fever and needed to simply get out of the house.

My one-year old twins are starting to walk – not far off running – and we needed to get their feet measured as shoes were urgently required.  I had rung the well-known shoe store that morning to understand the protocols.  We didn’t need an appointment but only 14 people were allowed in the store at any one time, including staff.  Being a family of six we were not far off having the store to ourselves when we entered!

I was hugely impressed. There were hand sanitiser stations at different locations in the store which you would expect.  The staff were all wearing those face shields you will have seen from watching the news.  The floor and walls were covered in markers and posters reminding people of their social distancing responsibilities.  And then there was this portable Perspex screen which separated the customer and the staff member with a gap at the bottom where they could reach feet to measure and try on shoes.  Not sophisticated at all but highly effective and made us all feel very safe.

I was very pleased we went as our home measuring apparently was two sizes out and if we had simply bought online it might have been another six months before they could have been worn.

As we walked back to the car, I kept thinking about how I would cope with a mask or a shield.  With my family I would be fine.  But on my own, impossible.  My mouth is my hands.  I know disabled people are exempt from wearing masks on public transport, but the overall guidance is for good reason.  If I were to catch Covid-19 it would be difficult to say it was ok because I was exempt.  The virus has shown nothing and no-one is exempt.  And without a mask I would stand out like a sore thumb.

I have been really impressed with the work of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, a partner of Purple and the creators of the Sunflower Lanyard scheme.  The Lanyard provides a discreet but visible way to indicate the wearer has a hidden disability and may require additional support, help or a little more time.  It is a cue for staff members to approach and proactively offer support without the individual having to initiate the potentially awkward conversation.  The scheme has been adopted by an increasing array of organisations as part of their customer service.  For many disabled people it provides a level of customer confidence.

In this current world of easing lockdown, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower have introduced the Sunflower shield and nanoweave snood.  In addition, they have created a card which attaches to the Lanyard which explains the level of support needed in terms of social distancing.  For example, a person with a visual impairment might find it difficult to estimate distance and the card would explain this if that is what the individual wanted.

As society re-engages and adapts to the new world, it is important that an inclusive approach is taken and those with hidden disabilities get the support they want and need – and most importantly, don’t feel further isolated.

As a footnote, my twins are also having to re-engage with society and people.  For four months they have only known the immediate family at a time where development and social skills normally abound.  They are having to be introduced to these things called ‘people’ and are being made to wear shoes!

For more information about the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme and the wider work of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower go to https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/

Mike Adams
CEO, Purple
30 June 2020

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