Sainsbury’s announced today (1st February) that they will be extending a new trial to help enhance the shopping experience for customers with hidden disabilities.

Launched initially in Sainsbury’s Barnstaple, the scheme which aims to help those with a number of disabilities, such as autism, dementia, visual or hearing impairment – is being rolling out to more stores, including Selly Oak store, this month. (Full list below)

The initiative offers shoppers the option to pick up a lanyard, which has been purposely designed to act as a discreet sign for store colleagues to recognise if they may need to provide a customer with additional support when in store.

Colleagues will be happy to provide extra support such as opening a new checkout lane, assisting with finding shopping items or simply giving them more time at the checkout.

Lanyards will be available to collect for free and are for each customer to keep so they can wear it every time they come into store.

Sainsbury’s is the first supermarket to test the initiative, following Gatwick Airport’s successful launch, in which over 10,000 lanyards have been collected to date. By using the same sunflower lanyards as Gatwick Airport, Sainsbury’s hopes to encourage other retailers to follow suit, meaning customers have the option to wear their lanyard in shops across the UK, in the knowledge that store colleagues will recognise what it stands for.

Tim Fallowfield, Company Secretary & Corporate Services Director for Sainsbury’s, said: “We want to be the most inclusive retailer and we understand that a busy supermarket environment can present challenges for some of our customers. As the first retailer to offer this service, this initiative is just one example of the steps we are taking to give our customers the best possible experience when shopping. We are working with our colleagues to ensure that they are fully equipped to provide assistance to those who need it and we encourage feedback from local communities where we are trialling the initiative.”

Nikki Barton, Head of Stable Operations from Gatwick Airport adds: “We’re delighted Sainsbury’s is trialling this lanyard scheme. We have found that being in an airport terminal can often be a daunting experience for those with hidden disabilities. The lanyards are a discreet way of bringing hidden disabilities to the attention of staff, which ultimately gives our passengers and their families reassurance and confidence that they will quickly receive the support they need. By working with Sainsbury’s and using the same lanyard design, we hope to set the precedent for other retailers to follow suit.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s great to see a supermarket like Sainsbury’s lead the way in trialling initiatives like this. Busy shopping environments can sometimes overwhelm autistic customers and others with hidden disabilities. By introducing schemes like this, Sainsbury’s is continuing to take important steps towards our shared vision of making shops and businesses across the UK autism friendly.”

A customer also told Sainsbury’s: “I must say, it’s a great idea. This morning I did feel a bit stupid having to put on the lanyard and I told my husband I didn’t want to wear it, but he encouraged me to. I went to the petrol station first before going to the supermarket  which I would never normally do on my own, but I found the lanyard gave me confidence as I knew people would help me. I’m partially sighted and have early onset dementia, so for me the lanyard is brilliant.”

Along with the Barnstaple store, the additional stores confirmed to participate in the rollout of the trial, will be:

  • Ware Star Street Local
  • Broxbourne High Road Local
  • Chingford
  • Enfield Bush Hill Park Local
  • Enfield London Road Local
  • Enfield Lancaster Road Local
  • Enfield
  • Buntingford High Street Local
  • Debden
  • Palmers Green Lanes Local
  • Waltham Cross
  • Harlow
  • Bishops Stortford
  • Hertford
  • Low Hall
  • Borehamwood Shenley Road Local
  • Hoddesdon
  • Welwyn Garden City
  • Thorley
  • London Colney
  • Chipping Ongar
  • Highlands Village
  • Stevenage
  • Coreys Mill
  • Woodford Green The Broadway Local
  • Loughton Church Hill Local
  • Winchmore Hill
  • Loughton
  • Potters Bar
  • Gorseinon
  • Selly Oak
  • Newport
  • Mere Green
  • Alphington Road
  • Truro
  • Monks Cross
  • York Foss Bank
  • Cheltenham Bath Road


  1. Great idea if you buy into it and not just use it as a PC media tool, I’ve been on crutches now for in excess of two years, and primarily use the Selly Oak store, old and new, so im pretty familiar with many of the faces of the staff. I can honestly say there have been 3, possibly 4 staff members that have become aware of my struggles and actively helped me in many of the ways mentioned, thank you to them. If other staff fail to acknowledge a 6’4″, 20st lumbering giant in very obvious pain and distress, I sincerely hope the lanyards have a very noticeable aspect to them?

  2. Excellent idea Sainsburys. Looking forward to seeing this scheme in the Brentwood store. There are a few local people who will benefit from this service. Thank you.

  3. Have Sainsbury’s not considered the effect on these people waiting at ever longer queues at the checkouts.
    If you have any disability, waiting at a checkout can be very be very distressing.

  4. I completely agree with Marianne’s coment regarding waiting in long queues, I am disabled with ME and fibromyalgia and use a walking stick, standing in queues can become extremely painful but once your food is on the conveyor you are committed to wait.
    Perhaps express checkouts for people with mobility problems would work.
    Also parking bays for disabled could be monitored better as on more than one occasion i have been forced to abandon trying to park due to selfish drivers without a blue badge taking up spaces, I mostly use the Longbridge store and this has been the case since they first opened regardless of signs claiming a fine will given to offenders, I have yet to see this happen.


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