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Dianna Slade, 37, has Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) which affects the nervous system by sending unnecessary pain signals, triggering chronic fatigue, seizures and hindering the ability to perform everyday tasks.
During a trip to Home Bargains in August, her symptoms flared up and her body started to shake uncontrollably.
Ms Slade claims she was ridiculed by employees after struggling to maintain her balance while picking up car mats she had dropped.
She said: “I had picked up these car mats, but with my wobbliness they fell onto the floor in the aisle and flopped onto the back of one of the staff.
“I was so apologetic, but it clammed me up a bit. I panicked and I struggled to pick the mats up. I was using my crutches as a tripod between my legs, and I was holding my basket as well.”
She says staff members looked at her as if she was “insignificant” and left her to struggle on her own, despite wearing a sunflower lanyard which signals the wearer has a hidden disability and may need additional support.
Embarrassed, she headed to the checkout and claims she heard a male staff member say: “It’s a bit early to be drinking, isn’t it?” This was followed by “heartless giggles”, she says.
She says the incident left her feeling “worthless”.
She said: “I am disabled not drunk. It broke my heart. I was sobbing and I just felt ashamed. What had happened so far was bad enough but that just humiliated me. Saying that to someone who’s visibly disabled or as visibly struggling as I was, it was heartless and really uncalled for.”
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On Tuesday, Ms Slade declared a victory for disability rights after hearing Home Bargains would be joining the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme.
The company also intends to implement new disability awareness training across all its UK stores.
A Home Bargains spokesperson said: “We are pleased to confirm we have registered with the hidden disabilities scheme with the aim of raising better awareness of the hidden disability sunflower across all of our stores.
“We appreciate the patience of our customers at this time as we begin to take the necessary steps to implement internal training for colleagues across all of our stores nationwide.”
Ms Slade said the decision is “wonderful” and hopes the retailer’s next steps will prevent anyone else having an experience like she did.
She said: “I hope this goes a little way towards helping people with disabilities feel dignified when shopping. If this stops events like this happening to anybody else I’ll be reassured I did the right thing pursuing my complaint.”
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