Vets join sunflower revolution

Savannah Williams, Penny Graham, Penny Clarke and Ashleigh Erasmus launch their part in the Hidden Disabilities scheme. Photo submitted

A GO-AHEAD vets has signed up to a simple but highly effective scheme which encourages businesses to increase support for its customers with hidden disabilities.

Avonvale Veterinary Centres joins a number of supermarkets and other organisations in backing the Hidden Disabilities sunflower lanyard scheme.

People taking part in the scheme wear the sunflower lanyard, which shows they have a hidden disability and would like extra support.

The Avonvale initiative is being led by veterinary surgeon, Penny Clarke, who is running staff training sessions at its seven practices across in Warwickshire, including Stratford, Wellesbourne and Warwick.

She said: “According to the government, there are around 14 million people living with some form of disability in the UK and around 80 per cent of these are invisible.

“These include autism, chronic pain, heart disease, hearing loss and mental illness.

“We’re already used to making adjustments for our clients with physical disabilities and this is an opportunity to broaden that to anyone whose needs are less visible.”

She said the scheme is particularly relevant to veterinary practices, as many people can have difficulties around social interaction and a visit to the vets comes with an immediate expectation to participate in social interactions.

She added: “In the waiting room, receptionists ask questions and other clients might start conversations. For those with sensory sensitivities it can feel quite overwhelming with barking dogs, soiled cat carriers, bright lights and loud phones.

“The challenges continue in the consulting room as there’s a time pressure to answer questions and process all the information given. There might be strong odours to contend with and it can be confusing when complex conditions and medications are discussed in a very short amount of time.

“Changes can be very simple but can make a huge difference. For example, offering an alternative waiting area, drawing diagrams to explain planned treatment, or avoiding non-verbal communication and figurative speech.

“We hope these small changes will make a big difference to our clients and it would be great to see other practices following suit.”

Avonvale has bought boxes of sunflower lanyards and wristbands, which are available at all its receptions.