Mission Impossible: Go Shopping.

What might seem to be simple everyday tasks for the majority of the population can become Herculean feats with a malfunctioning body, and one of these things is to go shopping.

Most modern supermarkets have excellent accessibility around the store; if not you could hardly be expected to use a trolley. For one thing, they often provided lower tills so that a wheelchair user doesn’t need a periscope to arrange their shopping on the conveyor belt or successfully pay for their selected items. However, there still remain a few issues for wheelchair users in particular, mainly to do with height. The items on the highest shelves are usually completely unreachable, although I have learned that if I sit staring longingly at an item on the top shelf, someone will come and reach it down for me. The prices displayed below each product are not visible to me on the top shelf, so on the odd occasion I may get a nasty surprise when trying to predict how much something will cost me.

Unfortunately items on the lowest shelves are also difficult to reach as the sides of the wheelchair restrict how far I can bend over to retrieve and item, and if I try to face the shelf, my feet and legs get in the way. It’s usually a little more difficult to convey that I might need some help because no one can see my facial expression, although I don’t usually have to wait too long before someone comes to my rescue.

The freezers are perhaps the worst offenders in a supermarket; the glass makes it easy to see each tantalising product, but trying to reach over the lip of the freezer to grab hold of the desired product is almost impossible, and my hands grow cold after mere seconds in the sub-zero temperatures. The freezers higher than this present the same issues as the high shelves elsewhere in the supermarket. I could, of course, ask someone for help, but I’m English; making any face-to-face contact with total strangers is awkward and uncomfortable.

None of these things are the fault of the supermarket, and there would be little they could do to improve accessibility without massively reducing the availability of products due to the limited shelf space reachable from a wheelchair. However, I can only wish that other shops would follow suit. There are so many shops out there with even just a small step in the door that means I cannot enter, and pubs are often the worst offenders. Admittedly since many disabled people take some form of medication, all of which state not to drink alcohol whilst taking those tablets, you could say they were actually being responsible by being inaccessible. Unfortunately I’m not sure that they’ve ever given the issue so much thought. In many cases only a small and relatively cheap ramp would be needed to resolve the issue, and they would be able to make more money simply by allowing more people into the store.

Unfortunately even when shops do have accessible facilities, they may choose to misuse them. I have lost count of the shops I have entered that use the disabled changing room as a store cupboard, and have had to navigate the wheelchair around large boxes and racks of new clothing. I also know a shop in a mall, where accessibility is supposedly prioritised, which has a small platform lift next to the three steps up into the main body of the shop. The lift is entirely blocked off by clothing rails and mannequins, and I can therefore not purchase anything, despite having bought lovely clothes from other branches of the same brand in the past. When asked, staff tend to shrug their shoulders nonchalantly, stating that it “wasn’t their decision”, and that “I’d just have to go elsewhere”. This is naturally frustrating and also a bit demeaning, although it has probably saved me a lot of money.

The shop owners that do make their facilities accessible not just to wheelchair users, but to all those with any kind of disability or other issue that might hinder their ability to go shopping, will make more money than those without access. Effectually this is a classic case of “voting with your feet” (choosing to go elsewhere if the shop in question isn’t good enough), although this statement is perhaps not the best thing to declare in front of a group of disabled people…

Author: diaryofadisabledperson

When I was 14, I suffered viral meningitis, and as a result I contracted a disease called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is sometimes called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E). Over 7 years on I use a powered wheelchair to get around, and I'm hoping that this blog will give people an insight into life as a disabled person.

13 thoughts on “Mission Impossible: Go Shopping.”

  1. Hi, I discovered your blog through a Cracked article. I just wanted to say that your writing style is brilliant and I felt as if I were in London and experiencing everything with you! I’m going to work my way through the archives now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for reading my article and blog, and for getting in contact. I absolutely love getting feedback from readers.
      London was brilliant fun; hopefully I will be doing the same sort of trip once a year or so, so you’ll get to hear more about London. It made me feel lucky to only have a 2 and a half hour long trip on the train to get there.

      Like

  2. I can totally relate to all of this. What frustrates me most is when some shops fill the isles with extra boxes and baskets meaning that I cannot wheel through.
    Also, have you ever been hit in the face (or power wheelchair controls) by shoppers bags, handbags and rucksacks?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know; I end up doing a slalom down aisles in the supermarket when it gets near Christmas.
      I’ve had bags and baskets to the face and the back of the head, and on one particularly bad occasion someone knocked my control panel, turning me into someone elses’ trolley, for which I got a torrent of abuse off the trolley user. Very annoying!
      I get half-smoked cigarettes and discarded ash in my face/lap sometimes too. Not fun…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “could hardly be expected to use a trolley.” ==> Here in Civilization (*), where greedy capitalism reigns supreme, the More Civilized Emporiums provide “Zippy Carts” for your shopping convenience, complete with “front-end loader”

    https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=motorized%20shopping%20cart&tbs=imgo:1

    Alas, nobody’s combined a “Zippy Cart” concept with a “scissors lift”:

    https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=scissors%20lift&tbs=imgo:1

    Cheerio.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “In many cases, only a small and relatively cheap ramp would be needed to resolve the issue”

    Same, same as “Gravity. It’s Not Just a Good Idea. It’s the LAW!”

    Here in Civilization (*), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires “reasonable accommodations” to provide access for handicapped persons.

    It works thusly:

    1. You ask, “Could you see your way to putting in a ramp for wheelchair drivers?”

    2. You escalate to formal request to municipal management: “Dear Mayor Khan, the publicans getting pissy about putting in a wheelchair ramp. Would you mind insisting he comply with law? Thanks, love!”

    3. You sue: “Dear Judge .This prick refuses to put in a ramp so I can get a pint, as is the God-given right of every British Citizen, everywhere! Kindly throw him in irons until he builds a damn ramp! Thanks, love!”

    4. American’s always have the option of a civilized “Second Amendment Solution” to every problem. Hear about the guy who couldn’t get a ticket to the country music show in Las Vegas last month?

    (*) According to ‘Murkens, a full EIGHT PERCENT of whom posess a passport, “Civilization” exists EXCLUSIVELY East of the Pacific and West of the Atlantic oceans, and nowhere else.

    Like

  5. I used to do the family shopping but when I realised that lifting a 2-litre bottle of milk hurt every time, I switched to online shopping. Because the solution to being disabled is to stay at home with the door closed and never interact with humans again. Yay…

    It’s possible our society could be less ableist. But that would be, like, hard and stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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