The stress of inaccessible shopping
Hannah (28) has been disabled since an injury at the age of 14, which left her with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and a range of secondary illnesses and complications. She’s a disability and lifestyle blogger and started her blog Hannah’s Hope (hannahdeakin.blogspot.com) in 2018. She’s passionate about making a difference, changing perceptions and promoting equality.
Shopping can be a stressful event, especially with a disability. What more can be done to make it a more pleasurable experience?
In my experience shopping centres are the best, preferable to towns and villages. They are very accessible, on flat and smooth surfaces, with lifts to other floors, as well as having better facilities of disabled car parking spaces, accessible toilets and sometimes changing places and shop mobility centres. Towns and villages are not very accessible; there are so many shops that have steps. Some have portable ramps, but not many. I believe more needs to be done by the government to enforce the Equalities Act 2010, so that disabled people are given equal opportunities and access to able-bodied people. Currently, they still are at a huge disadvantage in shopping alone.
Last year, I attempted to go into a branch of a multi-million pound coffee shop chain with a friend, only there was a step. My friend went in to enquire whether they had a ramp. They said that they didn't have one but could help lift me in! Although, this was very kind of the staff to offer and not their fault they didn't have access, there is no way they could lift me and my extremely heavy powerchair. Which together weigh over 200kg! My friend said that she wanted to say 'yes' to watch them try!
Once you have got past the hurdle of getting into a shop, the next issue can be if you find something you like and actually want to try it on! Do they have an accessible changing room? Often the answer is no, or yes but it is used for storage! This has left me feeling exposed as I am having to try something on, in a public area, or not being able to and so having to leave it. Sometimes, I end up buying the item or items in several sizes, to then try them on at home and then returning the sizes that don't fit. However, this is not always possible.
With some places it is a lack of knowledge or training. I have had situations with shop assistants where I have paid, then they give my mum/ PA the receipt, or I type in my PIN and request cash back and then they give my mum/ PA the cash back! If I’m capable of getting my card out, putting it in the machine and typing my PIN in, then I think I am capable of taking the cash or receipt! Moreover, if people are not sure they just need to ask!
More needs to be done in staff training so that places are more accommodating. Purple Tuesday (12th November this year!) is a new campaign, calling for organisations to do more to make shopping more accessible and improving the customer experience for disabled people. Hopefully, as more shops come on board it will help educate more people, changing things for the better. Not just one day a year, but in general.
Things are progressing in the right direction, with the introduction of quiet hours in some supermarkets, for people with Autism and other disabilities.
For some, the Internet and developments in technology has been a lifeline. Internet shopping enables people to order groceries and have them delivered to their door. If people can't get out or can't carry heavy items, this can be paramount. Furthermore, on top of food it allows individuals to shop and choose their own clothes, as well as presents etc. When I was bed-bound it enabled me to choose my own clothes and items that I liked, allowing me to be an individual and develop my own personality, rather than having to have them chosen for me, by my mum. This was important to me.
Christmas is the worst time, and sales are not great — the crowds of people (who have even less time for others than usual) and aisles that are narrower than the rest of the year and are brimming with stock and bursting with people. I hate it. People knock into me, push and shove and I just can't move. I go down one aisle, then have to reverse up as I can't get out, I make a second attempt on another aisle and by the third time and driving four times the distance, I get out at the place I want to. People lean over me and on me, so focused on the rush and getting what they need for the festive season they forget the true meaning of Christmas and the values of Christianity.
What would improve your shopping experience? How do you do your shopping? Do you brave sales and what would make the experience more manageable if you don’t?