Supermarkets Slow To Answer Disability Questions

Disability Rights UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick wrote to the CEOs of the eight largest supermarket chains to find out what they are doing to support disabled people access food and other household items. He asked them to answer the following questions:

  • How can customers let you know they are disabled or have a health condition which means they need to shop in a particular way?
  • How can disabled customers get priority for online shopping slots?
  • For disabled customers who can’t use new technology, can they put in their order by telephone?
  • What special arrangements do you make for people with mobility impairments, who want to shop in-store, but who find the length of the shop and standing in long queues difficult?
  • What new measures are you bringing in that might help disabled people, to shop more easily and safely?

Not every supermarket responded as of the afternoon of April 16th, and not every response answered every question. We have reproduced the answers received below.

Aldi
1.   How can customers let you know they are disabled or have a health condition which means they need to shop in a particular way?
From Monday 6th April, exclusive access will be given to stores for elderly and vulnerable customers 30 minutes before normal opening times, Monday to Saturday. In addition, as of the 14th of April, all carers who hold a Blue Light card will be able to get priority access to stores round the clock

2.   How can disabled customers get priority for online shopping slots?
“Aldi does not provide a grocery delivery service, therefore we would be unable to prioritise delivery slots.”

3.   For disabled customers who can’t use new technology, can they put in their order by telephone?
“Aldi does not provide a grocery delivery service, therefore we would be unable to prioritise delivery slots.”

5.   What new measures are you bringing in that might help disabled people, to shop more easily and safely?
“The safety of its customers and staff is paramount. Aldi has introduced social distancing measures in store to encourage effective social distancing, and to protect staff and customers. “Perspex screens have been installed on their tills in order to maintain social distancing. “In addition to this, gloves will be sent out for use by staff in all Regional Distribution Centres.”

Co-op
1.   How can customers let you know they are disabled or have a health condition which means they need to shop in a particular way?
“As a convenience retailer based in communities around the UK, we only have a small-scale delivery operation. This does not currently cover the whole country and only operates out of a few cities. That puts us in a different starting point to other retailers who have an existing home delivery or click and collect offer which they are now looking to prioritise to meet the challenges that you describe. We are, however, exploring what more we can do in the communities we serve and how we can link most effectively with the Local Resilience Fora around the UK, local community groups many of who we fund through our Local Community Fund and through the relationships we have with customers through our local stores. I’ll be happy to write to you again once we’re able to share a further update.”

4.   What special arrangements do you make for people with mobility impairments, who want to shop in-store, but who find the length of the shop and standing in long queues difficult?
“We’ve also now introduced a time in our stores when vulnerable customers will be able to receive extra support, from 8am to 9am Monday – Saturday and 10am to 11am on Sundays.”

5.   What new measures are you bringing in that might help disabled people, to shop more easily and safely?
“As we embed the social distancing guidelines, we’ve introduced floor markers, closed some till points to help encourage safe distances and we’re limiting the number of customers in stores at busy times. We’re also investing over £3m on new protective equipment, from clear safety screens which will be installed from this week, to gloves and hand sanitiser to support frontline colleagues.”

Marks & Spencer
1.   How can customers let you know they are disabled or have a health condition which means they need to shop in a particular way?
“In September 2019, M&S became the first UK retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards, a scheme which helps people with hidden disabilities, across all of our stores. When a customer optionally wears a lanyard it’s a discreet signal to store colleagues that they may need a little extra support when shopping.  All 80,000 colleagues have been given clear information on what the lanyards mean and how to serve customers who wear them. Customers can request a lanyard in any of our stores (excluding hospitals, airports, train stations , BP and MOTO stores.”

2.   How can disabled customers get priority for online shopping slots?
“Ahead of our launch with Ocado planned for later this year, we don’t currently have a service for purchasing groceries online. We are trying to do our bit, for example we launched two Food Boxes available to order online for contact-free delivery to help our customers get the products they need and support those who currently aren’t able to easily visit stores. For those who aren’t able to shop in our stores we have launched a new e-gift card, to make the payment process simpler for volunteers shopping for those who are self-isolating. We continue to consider what else we can do.”

3.   For disabled customers who can’t use new technology, can they put in their order by telephone?
“As per my response to your second question, we don’t currently have a service for purchasing groceries for delivery, either online or by telephone.”

4.   What special arrangements do you make for people with mobility impairments, who want to shop in-store, but who find the length of the shop and standing in long queues difficult?
“We have reserved the first hour of trading on Monday and Thursday mornings for older customers (70+) and customers in the most vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities and anyone else who would identify themself as within one of those groups. We hope this will prevent those who find queuing difficult from having to do so, as well as making their shopping experience otherwise as simple, safe and worry free as possible. All of our wholly owned stores have an AccessAble Access Guide with give customers the accessibility information you needed to work out if a place is going to be accessible for them. These can support customers with mobility impairments in getting a better understanding of the store prior to visiting.”

5.   What new measures are you bringing in that might help disabled people, to shop more easily and safely?
“To help keep all our customers and colleagues well, our stores have additional social distancing measures in place. Colleagues across our stores and supply chain have been provided with additional hygiene products to use and extra cleaning is taking place to keep up our excellent standards. Other new measures we have brought in, in response to the outbreak of Covid 19 include, the reserved shopping hours and the launch of two food boxes available to order online for contact-free delivery, as well as our new e-gift cards that allow volunteers to purchase on behalf of others as mentioned in my previous responses.”