I am Communication Coordinator at Warmley Park school in South Gloucestershire. Over the last two years I have helped over 40 secondary and post-16 students to develop their independent living skills and prepare for independent living by taking them in small groups of 2 or 3 to Sainsbury's to have lunch and shop, originally twice a week but, due to its success, now three days a week.
The students have a wide range of disabilities and communicate in different ways, including symbols, photos, signs, iPad, speech, and gesturing.
I have worked at Warmley Park for 20 years and have taken pupils and students to many different places in the community, but none have been as accepting and welcoming of our students as the café at Sainsbury's Emerson Green, in Warmley:
The staff team are all hugely supportive and friendly, they give each student as much time as they needed not showing any concern that the queue was getting longer.
They listen/look carefully at the students’ requests, and respond appropriately and with the greatest respect; using their initiative and intuition, limiting their language and giving visual options if a verbal option did not seem to be understood. They have also asked me to show them useful signs so they can understand the signed requests without needing me to interpret.
They even carry trays for students with limited mobility.
So, on Tuesday 21st May, with two of my Post 16 students, Sian and Laura, and the backup of a camera crew and the local press, I was very proud to able present the Makaton Friendly award to the café staff at Sainsbury's.
The staff were honoured to receive the award, with many of them brought to tears. They plan to mount the award with a photo and place it on the wall in the café. The relationship between the café and school is now even stronger, with the café staff wanting to learn more about the school and to be involved with fundraising.
Well done Sainsbury's café staff!
Be vigilant everyone! There must be other places that are just as Makaton Friendly and deserve the recognition.
Jackie Thomas is a Makaton Regional Tutor