‘Just a Minute’ is all some customers might need
Jam Cards have been in operation on public transport and banks for some time now but now Lidl will recognise the cards from those with learning disabilities or autism
Left to right: Maeve Monaghan, chief executive, NOW Group; Minister of State for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte TD; Robert Ryan, chief operations officer, Lidl Ireland; and Ciarán Delaney, Now Group ambassador.
Reduced lighting, lower till scan sounds, no music or announcements and priority queuing are just some of the tweaks Lidl implemented as part of its Autism Aware Quiet Evenings.
For some time the retailer has been examining expanding on this offering across its 209 stores, and recently committed to becoming Jam (Just A Minute) Card friendly, ahead of World Autism Month this April.
Jam Cards are already in use across public transport, and in banks, and the concept is quite simple for those with autism or a learning disability. Anytime a person with a Jam Card needs that little bit of extra assistance or time, they can present the Jam Card to an employee and they will be met with trained staff who know to give that extra few minutes the shopper needs.
Now Group, which supports people with learning disabilities, developed the Jam Card with its service users and it was designed to allow them additional time and patience when in people-facing environments, such as a retail store. The card was originally developed for those with learning disabilities and difficulties, but it can be used by anyone with a communication barrier including people with autism. It can also be used by those who have a brain injury or anyone who feels self-conscious about their ability to effectively communicate when engaging with others.
The simplicity of the Jam Card concept was what attracted the retailer, Owen Keogh, head of CSR at Lidl Ireland says.
“That’s why we love it. We have been trying to find ways to build on our Autism Aware Quiet Evenings, which run every Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm. It’s about being able to provide a service that accommodates everyone. Earlier this year we completed a needs assessment, along with Business in the Community Ireland, where we reached out to charities and community organisations. 85 per cent of respondents of the questionnaire felt some form of voluntary identification would be beneficial to vulnerable customers. There are a number of different options available but we felt the voluntary piece was nice. So in a stressful situation, the customer can take out their Jam Card and present it to an employee,” Keogh says.
Jam Cards have been used by those that need it in banks or on buses and rail networks for a while now and employees there know that the person needs an extra few seconds getting on the bus, or getting identification out when they present the card.
The Jam Card supports and encourages independence for those with a range of disabilities
“We’re going to be the first retailer to have all our colleagues accepting Jam Cards, so if someone visits one of our stores and presents the card, our colleagues know they need assistance, maybe more time at the till, navigating the aisles or finding things,” Keogh says.
“Our Autism Aware Quiet Evenings offers a calmer shopping environment and this offers the security of knowing there is additional assistance available. It has been successful and it’s a very different experience in the winter, especially when it’s dark. We have gotten very positive feedback from Irish autism charities, about how it helps families,” he adds.
The retailer also offers a sensory map, downloadable on the A Better Tomorrow Lidl website, which helps customers navigate stores with a little more ease. It lets them know where there might be increased activity, noise or more customers. They have also sponsored two assistance dogs in Northern Ireland and the Republic, both given to families who needed them.
Training in how to help a person that presents a Jam Card is ongoing across all Lidl stores. “All employees will receive detailed training and tools in order to help our customers feel even more comfortable while shopping in stores. But it is quite simple and that’s why we like it. The person needs extra help and time,” Keogh says.
“We want to make sure we get the word out to people with autism or learning disabilities, this is a service available to you. We have approximately 6,000 employees learning about Jam Cards and the issues which affect their users, and have sponsored 6,000 Jam Cards boosting their availability. This contributes towards keeping the cards free and accessible to those who need them,” he says.
Maeve Monaghan, chief executive of Now Group says, “We are so pleased that Lidl has partnered with us to become Jam Card friendly and recognise the value of investing in training their staff to provide great customer service for people with both visible and hidden disabilities. It may be ‘Just A Minute’ but that extra time and understanding can really support and comfort those with communications barriers, helping to give them equal access to the services they need every day, like shopping. Our participants developed the Jam Card so to see the scale of staff training and promotion to Lidl shoppers across Ireland is a great boost to them. It is proof that they came up with a truly innovative idea and that Jam Card training is a great way to improve customer service for all businesses.”
Ciarán Delaney, a Now group ambassador is a leading advocate for the rights of disabled people and has championed the card from the start. “The Jam Card supports and encourages independence for those with a range of disabilities. I am thrilled that Lidl has become Jam Card friendly; it means their customers can shop with confidence knowing that staff will discreetly acknowledge that some shoppers might just need a bit more time.”
The Jam Card is available free of charge to anyone who needs it. For more information visit www.jamcard.org.