Welwyn Garden City mum calls on businesses to take on hidden disability scheme

PUBLISHED: 13:47 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:55 05 February 2019

Sainsbury's customer service assistant and local charity coordinator Lauren O'Connell with the sunflower lanyards which signal you have invisible disabilities and Kelsey Timms with Aston-Kai, seven, and Kaila-Rae, five. Picture: DANNY LOO

Sainsbury's customer service assistant and local charity coordinator Lauren O'Connell with the sunflower lanyards which signal you have invisible disabilities and Kelsey Timms with Aston-Kai, seven, and Kaila-Rae, five. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

A mum-of-two is so inspired by a supermarket scheme to help people with invisible disabilities in Potters Bar and Welwyn Garden City, that she wants to take it much further.

Sainsbury's customer service assistant and local charity coordinator Lauren O'Connell with the sunflower lanyards which signal you have invisible disabilities. Picture: DANNY LOOSainsbury's customer service assistant and local charity coordinator Lauren O'Connell with the sunflower lanyards which signal you have invisible disabilities. Picture: DANNY LOO

Kelsey Timms was shopping with her two children in Welwyn Garden City’s Sainsbury’s recently when she spotted a sign saying “help for hidden disabilities”.

The new scheme, being trialled in 40 branches nationwide, offers shoppers the chance to wear a lanyard decorated with sunflowers which signals that they or people they are with have an invisible disability.

The lanyard tells staff that the wearer might want to be approached with offers of help, and helps other shoppers understand any issues they might be having.

Kelsey, 25, is a full-time mum to two children, including seven-year-old Aston-Kai who has ADHD, high-functioning autism, and has difficulty regulating his emotions.

This has its own stresses, but it’s made worse when Kelsey notices people tutting or giving her funny looks at his behaviour sometimes when they’re in public.

“I just wish that they could be in my shoes and live my life for a day, and realise that there’s nothing more than I can do,” she said.

“It’s not because I’m a bad parent.

“Sometimes they just look at me as if I’m a young parent who can’t cope and it’s not that at all. I feel like I have to explain myself constantly.

“I do understand, you wouldn’t necessarily know unless someone explained it to you.”

The lanyard, she says, will be a first step in helping people and staff understand that there’s more than meets the eye.

“You don’t have to wear it, but you’ve got it there in case you do need that support,” she said.

Richard Hulbert, store manager at Sainsbury’s Welwyn Garden City, said: “It’s great to see that a simple initiative such as this can make a real difference to the experience of our customers who might find the supermarket environment challenging at times.”

But Kelsey doesn’t just want Sainsbury’s to take it up - she wants all businesses to recognise the sunflower lanyard, and she’s started a petition.

“That way you can just wear the same one and people can recognise what it means.

“I just want to get the word out there and take it further.

“When awareness gets round, that’s when more people come forward and say they want the same thing.”

• You can see Kelsey’s petition at: www.change.org/p/shops-to-get-all-stores-to-recognise-the-use-of-sunflower-lanyards-for-hidden-disabilities

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Welwyn Hatfield Times

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists