Johannah Sangster Talks About Hidden Disability

Johanna Sangster at CareCo Norwich

Last month one customer’s initial in-store experience left a lot to be desired, but after our social media team and general manager contacted her she agreed to come back to discuss what happened and how we can help. 

One Saturday in October, I found myself somewhere I didn’t think I’d be age 24, at a CareCo mobility warehouse. I was looking for a mobility aid which would improve my quality of life, and restore some independence which had been lost due to a degenerative joint condition, hypermobility syndrome, which causes me chronic fatigue and pain. Although the condition affects me everyday, to another person, I could look perfectly healthy. This is because hypermobility, such as many other disabilities, is an ‘invisible illness’.

This element of my condition brings with it its own challenges, which I experienced when I entered CareCo looking for a power chair. I was nervous about taking this big step, towards independence, but also past the point of any remaining deniability about how my condition does, and always will, affect my life.

The significance of this day was partly why it took me aback when the store assistant said to me ‘I assume it’s not for you’, although I was there with a walking stick. When I clarified it was, his response was ‘but you’re a young lady’. I wasn’t sure what else to say but ‘I know’. Because I do know, and being reminded of the stigma, and negative intrusive thoughts that ‘’this shouldn’t be happening to you’’ was the opposite of what I needed on such a landmark day. The salesman then tried to guess my disability, which was completely uncalled for. I understand that during the payment you must declare it for tax relief, but that should be asked respectfully, not used as a carnival game. I left feeling upset, undervalued and undeserving, and wrote about my experience on Instagram.

Johanna Sangster shoppingIt was then things started looking up, as I was overwhelmed by the rapid and personal response CareCo took to resolve my issues. The social media team responded apologetically and immediately passed the issue on. Incredibly, I was telephoned by the general manager of CareCo, who was also genuinely apologetic of my treatment. She invited me back to the store, where the national showroom manager could bring me a Foldalite to try the next day. Her personal response meant I accepted that invitation, and I’m so glad I did.

I was warmly welcomed by the store manager and another store assistant, who made me a coffee. The store manager firstly asked about what had happened, and listened while I explained the impact it had on me. The national showroom manager then introduced himself, and was completely respectful and welcoming. I was immediately made to feel comfortable and welcome, and had a successful test drive of the Foldalite!

I decided to purchase the power chair, and the company gifted me some accessories as an apology. I felt listened to at every point after the initial visit, and that the company want to improve education on invisible disabilities. This was further proven as CareCo offered to work together to write a blog post, a rare and progressive approach of dealing with what started as a customer complaint!

I am thrilled with my new Foldalite, and can’t wait to document my adventures with it on the CareCo blog, and my Instagram @chick_with_a_walking_stick.

 

Johannah Sangster

Johannah is a Masters student in Birmingham, focusing on the accessibility of events. Through this, she is working to create an industry standard for accessibility. Johannah is also an advocate for inclusion in the modelling industry, working with Zebedee Management, and enjoys sharing her research and experiences through her Instagram page, chick_with_a_walking_stick.
Johannah Sangster

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