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The perils of shopping alone by wheelchair

Having recently posted about the wheelchair access difficulties experienced by Will Pike and the movie he has recently made we thought we would go a little further and publish an article along the same vein on the perils of shopping from a wheelchair when you are alone without an attendant.

When the shops are quiet it is fairly challenging to get the shopping done from the wheelchair, starting from gaining access in to one or two of the smaller stores which are less wheelchair friendly than the main super markets. Once inside, the aisles can be restrictively narrow particularly when there are more than a few folk and passing people with shopping trolleys is sometimes hazardous especially when you are pushing your self along with hands on the rims!

Products are rarely within reach of wheelchair users and sometimes so tightly packed in that pulling one item from the shelf without toppling the whole lot can be difficult. Not only are the items too high but also it is not always possible to get the wheelchair close enough to the shelves. I have on a few occasions seen one wheelchair user who has a powerchair that has a seat that rises and allows her to see most items at eye level which looks ideal. If this sounds good please see our offer on the Pride Jazzy Select 6 electric wheelchair here.

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business has studied consumers with disabilities since 1995 and has found that most consumer research failed to consider customers with mobility issues ­– such as those having to shop from a wheelchair – as well as people with hearing, vision and cognitive impairments. She states “There’s music and moving lights and large crowds and it’s just difficult to maneuver anywhere” referring to a recent trip by wheelchair to a local store. Many of the problems these shoppers face are unintended. Store design choices can seem like good practice, but in reality, there are problems with aisle width and display height. Overcrowding reduces access, comfort and mobility for wheelchair users.”

Kaufman-Scarborough gave three guidelines that retail stores can implement to provide quick accessibility to disabled shoppers:

• Post signs that offer assistance and ask for customers, who need help to explain what they need,

• Train their employees to assist shoppers with disabilities to help,

• Keep merchandise out of the aisles.

Lambert offered other suggestions:

• be courteous and assist other shoppers who might struggle in opening doors or having to stand in line,

• Take in consideration that people in wheelchairs might need more room to maneuver,

• Do not park in parking allocated for persons with disabilities unless you are a driver with disabilities or are in a vehicle that needs to deploy a ramp,

• leave handicapped bathroom stalls open for the disabled.

On the plus side, virtually all the supermarkets nearby do now offer trolleys that are designed for wheelchair users which does make the experience more bearable although they are considerably smaller than the normal trolleys making it difficult to carry many items meaning that another shopping trip by wheelchair is needed after a couple of days.