Accessibility is something that all people with disability aids or pushchair for that matter find navigating the world difficult. Stores and shops are some of the difficult places to go around and depending on the season it can be better or worse. I hate trying to squeeze around places and the width of the isles is the same size as my wheelchair. This results in me leaving even when I need to buy something I end up just ordering it online because it’s that difficult.
In the UK we have something called the Purple Pound it’s a measure of people with disabilities and their families collective spending power, the Purple Pound is worth £249 billion to the UK economy. That’s in my eyes is a lot of money. How I spend my money is directly affected by how easy it is for me to go around a store and how the staff treat me in that scenario.
I understand that without laws on how much space is in a shop to navigate, companies and brands are doing it on their own. In the UK, as far as I’m aware we have no laws about moveable display units and the width of aisles and corners within the shops. This is a problem because stores want to put as much stock out as possible understandably so. But I am so sick of trying to shop and not being able to move, making the shop assistants jumpy about stock or just giving up because once I’m through the door to the store immediately there is no path for a wheelchair. I have a relatively small wheelchair in width and it’s a struggle.
I have on occasion complained to the store about my experiences and have had a lukewarm response if they bother to answer emails. It isn’t something they see affecting them. But the Purple Pound shows that as a minority we have some power. I feel I have the right to be spoken to at the checkout rather than them looking over the top of my head to ask whoever is pushing me that day for the money. Even once I’ve paid I have had people steadfastly not make eye contact and told my ‘Pusher’ “Thank you, have a lovely day.”
I know that this can all seem minor and I want to also sing the praises of the places that do provide enough space to get around and their staff talk to me and move the card machine to make it easier on me. Because they do exist. We just don’t have enough of them. We don’t have enough simple adjustments like the designated wheelchair checkout area not having excess stock, piled on top of it. Or lifts not being used for storage. Or simply not being able to get through the front door. Being able to go around every side to a display unit which is a rarity.
I know that to some the world I live just isn’t thought of or considered. Sometimes it isn’t a lack of willingness, it is simply ignorance. They may have not had to think about boxes of wrapping paper next to the tills as an issue to navigate around. It doesn’t apply to them so they don’t think of it. They don’t see physical barriers to people being able to get around.
There are some shops that are brilliant and will happily move things or even get things out of reach for you to look at but they are the exceptions, not the standard. A lot of people just decide to stick to home and the internet for what they need. Can we blame them?
Doesn’t everyone deserve to shop? Leave me a comment down below and tell me your experiences of access to the outside world.