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July 8, 2019

Case Study – Allan, Security Guard, Wishaw

Allan lives in Wishaw with his wife Fiona, a care home worker, and last year was employed as a security guard for Motherwell Shopping Centre in Scotland.

During his time at Motherwell Shopping Centre, Allan was pleased to take part in Purple Tuesday – a day dedicated to changing the customer experience for disabled people. The shopping centre fully immersed itself in Purple Tuesday – staff wore purple t-shirts, the centre was filled with thousands of purple balloons and shop windows were decorated with purple stickers and banners. Most importantly, in addition to raising awareness on the day of Purple Tuesday, Motherwell Shopping Centre made a long-term commitment to their disabled customers and put their staff through a dementia awareness training course.

Shortly after Purple Tuesday, Allan was made aware that a regular shopper, known to staff as Jimmy, was visiting the centre. Jimmy was an older gentleman and well known to the centre’s security guards as he frequently became cross with shop staff and was often asked to leave as a result.

Inspired by what he had learnt through his dementia awareness training, Allan decided that perhaps there was a reason for the way Jimmy communicated with staff, so he spent a little time with Jimmy, to find out if he required any assistance. After speaking with him, Allan realised that Jimmy was living with dementia and was getting upset with shop staff when he couldn’t communicate his needs.

This simple offer of a conversation helped to solve Jimmy’s problem. Allan explains: “After I’d taken the time to speak to Jimmy, he explained he was looking for a part he needed to fix a clock but said shop staff couldn’t understand what he wanted. As frustrations rose, this usually resulted in Jimmy being asked to leave the shopping centre. I sympathised with him as I could see why this would be so upsetting.

“I accompanied Jimmy to a hardware store in the shopping centre that I thought might have the part. When he had what he needed, Jimmy became quite overwhelmed and started to cry a little. I think it was just out of sheer relief that someone had finally taken the time to listen to him and understand what he wanted.

“Due to what I have learnt through my wife’s work and my own dementia awareness training, I had a good understanding of some of the life challenges people with dementia face on a day-to-day basis. Purple Tuesday helps to remind us that not all disabilities are visible and some people require a little more assistance than others; I feel that I can somewhat relate to this, as I have a minor learning difficulty myself.

“I was able to help Jimmy that day and help him to overcome the frustrations he was facing as a customer.  Although I personally no longer work at the shopping centre, I am told he still visits often and his experience has become that little bit easier – the centre has become an important community space for him.

“It’s true that a simple conversation can completely change someone’s experience, and I’m pleased I was able to help Jimmy that day.”

Purple Tuesday is a milestone awareness moment for an issue that is relevant 365 days a year. With support from Purple, businesses can change the customer experience for disabled people for good.

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