What to expect when visiting the high street with a mobility impairment
19th May 2015
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
The high street can present disabled people and those with mobility restrictions with a number of obstacles, although there are many ways which these can be overcome. Even in today’s society, a large proportion of shops and establishments are yet to introduce accessible measures, with a recent study revealing that disabled shoppers are uncatered for by the high street. While this may be true, access to the high street is beginning to improve, and below are some ways in which it has been adapted to help those with mobility difficulties.
For some, just getting to the town centre can be tricky, but public transport can make life easier. Using the bus can be a great option, especially for those with disabled or pensioner passes, as the journey is free and there is no need to worry about parking. Certain councils and organisations are also able to offer services such as ring and ride, which provides a door-to-door minibus for people who are unable to get to town independently.
Car parks are required to have designated spaces for those with disabilities or walking impairments, and these are usually placed on the appropriate level of shopping centres, or near to the entrance of a supermarket. Also, those popping into town briefly will be able to park in certain locations with the use of a disabled badge displayed in the windscreen of the car.
Hiring mobility equipment
You will find that a large number of cities and larger towns will have a shop mobility scheme in place, meaning that those who do not own equipment such as mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs may be eligible to borrow them. Volunteer escorts can also be provided, in order to assist disabled and older people around the town centre, although these are usually required to be booked in advance.
Lifts and escalators
Shops with more than one floor often have the option of using an escalator, stairlift or elevator, with the latter being more useful for those in a wheelchair. It is wise to check with the shop assistants that there is also an escalator back to the bottom floor, as in some cases stores may only have these in one direction.
Specialised sound systems have been developed for those who are hard of hearing, using magnetic, wireless signals which can be picked up by hearing aids. Selected shops have these hearing loop systems, usually at till points, and this enables people with hearing aids to hear shop assistants more clearly. These will be visibly highlighted with the hearing loop sign, in order to indicate which have this feature.
Chip and pin machines
When paying for your purchases with a credit or debit card, it is most likely that you will be required to enter your pin on a machine. These are usually on cords or are completely wire free so that those in wheelchairs are able to reach without difficulty, and in most cases a customer assistant will be able to assist you with this.
Disabled changing rooms
Although not offered by all stores, disabled changing rooms can be found in certain retailers and these often provide more space, with a cord in case of an emergency. They are also usually equipped with handrails and seats, in order to make trying on garments as easy as possible. Although this may be considered an inconvenience, the majority of clothing shops will have a 28-day refund policy, allowing for you to take items away and try them on in the comfort of your own home.
While this isn’t strictly a tip for visiting the high street with a mobility impairment, more and more retailers are offering home delivery, including supermarkets. Options include next day delivery, and in some cases specific time slots can even be specified. Click and collect is also another popular option, which means that items can be browsed and ordered online, and then picked up from the store at your convenience.