Give Me Space: social distancing wearables launched

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme launches new wearables in response to feedback that a range of disability groups are finding social distancing difficult

The reported spending power of people with disabilities, otherwise known as the Purple Pound, is well above £200bn, and yet many retail businesses are missing out on this demographic by not adequately catering to its potential disabled customer base. Disabled people make up one in five of the British population, and the vast majority (10 million) of these people have a non-visible disability. And so, in 2016, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme was launched.

“The idea came from Gatwick Airport who wanted to identify passengers who had a non-obvious disability to allow them to offer extra help to make their journeys more accessible,” tells Paul White, CEO of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme.

“We designed a discreet sign which was still clearly visible from a distance as well as being distinctive, joyful, and dynamic. We chose a sunflower as it suggests happiness, positivity, strength as well as growth and confidence. It is a universally known flower as well as being gender-neutral.”

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower recently conducted a survey with the hidden disability community to measure opinions and confidence relating to retail. Survey results showed that: up to 70% of people check whether a shop recognises the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower before they visit it, and that over 90% are more likely to visit a shop that recognises the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

It also found that over 80% agree that a shop that recognises the Sunflower is helping to make shops more accessible for people with hidden disabilities, and 95% would recommend a shop that recognises the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to others.

White says that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of the disabled community, as many people with hidden disabilities require more understanding and kindness because everyday life has been made even harder due to the restrictions, such as knowing that you can gain access to a toilet at short notice if you have Crohn’s or Colitis.

“Wearing the Sunflower is a discreet symbol to alert people that you may need more time, support and understanding. Knowing that people won’t judge or query you is big part of wearing the Sunflower,” he explains.

The organisation also recently launched social distance wearable products in response to feedback that a range of disability groups  are finding social distancing hard and have been subjected to verbal abuse for seemingly not adhering to the guidance.

The sign is a yellow circle with a person in between two arrows, it means ‘Please give me space’.  The initiative is not prescriptive about who wears it, but the message is simple – when you see this sign please give the wearer space.

White says that retailers and shopping centres can help raise awareness by joining the scheme, training their staff, and promoting their support of people with hidden disabilities wearing the Sunflower in their stores as well as online. They can also provide Sunflower items for free to colleagues and customers that have a hidden disability.

“We have recently launched a white ‘Proud to Support’ lanyard and badge range so that staff can clearly identify that they have been trained to recognise and understand the meaning of the Sunflower to support Sunflower wearers with an offer of help as well as kindness and understanding.,” he added.

This article was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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