2020 sure has been a challenging year. On top of the usual challenges people with a hidden disability face, there is not only the anxiety about Coronavirus that everyone is facing, but also a whole new raft of social faux pas. People can be a little – judgy? – about people who are not wearing face masks, for example, and jump to the conclusion that they are selfish or even conspiracy theorists. Dan, 29, tells us of his experiences:
“I am autistic and I struggle with sensory overload. I have to use the bus to get to my job, but it makes me panic to have anything covering my face. I have experienced a wide range of disapproval from complete strangers, from dirty looks and tutting, to people who will confront me outright. I hate it and it makes me really anxious about leaving the house.”
The same is true for people who suffer from breathing problems such as asthma, COPD, people who are deaf and rely on lip reading to communicate, children under the age of 11, and anyone who has a physical or mental disability that renders wearing a face mask intolerable.
Claire Boynton, Queen Bee at Mrs Bee’s Emporium, spotted an opportunity to extend their ‘Hidden Disabilities’ range to help people who were struggling with mask wearing.
“We have been selling products that help people manage other people’s expectations of their behaviour because of a hidden disability for a couple of years. We realised that most people are far more tolerant if they can understand the reason why someone may be acting a certain way and generally are happy to make reasonable adjustments. We have a range of badges and jewellery that politely inform strangers of a person’s potential difficulties and thank them for their consideration. The feedback we have had from people who use our products has been overwhelmingly positive.
We realised that people who are mask exempt would value a similar product, so we set about doing some research. Like many things in 2020, the expectation to wear masks seemed to change overnight. Clearly, everyone who can wear a mask should wear one. However, for those people who find them intolerable, it’s helpful to have a simple solution that makes it easier for them to move about in public without facing other people’s disapproval, and educate members of the public that some people face difficulties that can’t be easily seen.”
The best selling item in Mrs Bee’s Emporium’s Hidden Disabilities range is the Dementia necklace.
“This product fulfills a slightly different function”
“After my Dad was diagnosed with Dementia, I noticed that a lot of medical products are pretty ugly and Dad felt too embarrassed to wear them. We wanted to create a way that, if someone with Alzheimers was lost and wandering, they could be reunited with their loved ones quickly. We have a pin badge and a paracord bracelet for men and a pretty necklace for women. They are instantly recognisable as Dementia indicators, by their forget-me-not symbol, and contain useful information about next of kin etc. We work with individuals to create highly personalised items that help in each individual’s situation.”
Other products in the range include medical ID bracelets, drawstring ‘asthma’ bags to contain medical equipment and clear instructions about dosage on the front – helpful for children at school whose medication is controlled by other adults – and pin badges for people with such conditions as anxiety, asthma, autism, aspergers, dementia, dyslexia, ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia and other hidden conditions.
Mrs Bee’s Emporium will happily create customised items for people whose medical conditions are not covered by the existing range and do not charge extra.