We know that many people across the country suffer from a sense of social 'isolation' - caused by a lack of social or family contact, a disability, or limited access to community involvement or to services. Social isolation impacts on health and wellbeing at different stages of life and brings with it significant costs to health and social care services. We aim to create an inclusive and accessible shopping experience and run and support a number of programmes that enhance social connections.

Group of Partners who have attended a Dementia Awareness session and are holding up certificates
We have been trialling Dementia training for Partners across our shops.

Creating an accessible shopping environment

We run a number of programmes to help make our shops inclusive and accessible to all. Alzheimer's Society's Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people's perceptions of dementia. We have been trialling training for Partners across our shops to help them understand more about the signs of the disease and how to support people with it. So far over 30 Partners have been trained as Dementia Friends Champions. 

To become a Dementia Friends Champion, Partners need to attend a full day's induction run by the Alzheimer's Society, during which they learn about dementia and how to deliver an information session to others. To date, over 1000 people have registered as Dementia Friends from the sessions our Partners run for colleagues and the local community, some of which have been hosted at our Community Hubs in stores. Find out more about our Community Hubs

Dawn Stokoe, PR & Marketing and Community Liaison Co-ordinator, John Lewis High Wycombe said of the training:

'What I love about running Dementia information sessions is the fact that the material is easy to deliver and engages and enlightens people.'
Dawn Stokoe, John Lewis High Wycombe

'What I love about running Dementia information sessions is the fact that the material is easy to deliver and engages and enlightens people. One Partner attended a session on a Wednesday and the next day came to find me because she had just served [a customer] who was very rude and abrupt with her. She would have taken it badly if she hadn't [been made aware] that this woman was living with dementia. Because of the training the Partner was able to handle the situation in a positive way.'

Group of Partners from John Lewis branch in York with certificates of sign language qualification

John Lewis York has worked with the organisation Signature to provide 15 Partners with British Sign Language (BSL) training. Now, they aim to ensure that there is always a trained deaf-aware Partner qualified in BSL available to assist deaf and hearing impaired customers. Lindsay Foster, Chief Operating Officer at Signature UK said the branch is a 'shining example for all retailers, proving how investing in your employees can help make store environments more inclusive'.

Learning from experts

Waitrose runs an Inclusive Shopping Action Group to help us gain a broader understanding of what being an inclusive supermarket means for us and for our customers. We are currently refreshing our e-learning module for our Partners, including our Disability Awareness Champions. We're also working with 'Crohn's and Colitis UK' to better understand the challenge many of our customers face where they have a disability that is not visible. We continue working with the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB) to make our customer communications accessible for the visually impaired. For example, each month our visually impaired customers receive extracts on CDs from the Waitrose Food magazine and Recipe Cards. In addition, during the month of November 2016 our ecommerce team began work with RNIB to investigate how we can make our website accessible for all.