With spring just around the corner many of us will be heading off to our nearest shopping centre or out of town mall. When you have a disability, any simple shopping trip can present a variety of access issues making it a potentially daunting prospect.
Although generally, most retailers are fairly good with their attention to accessibility provision these days, there are still many parts of shopping centres, and within individual shops themselves, that leave much to be desired. This may include cramped changing areas, steps leading to display areas or concessions, unclear signage, or poorly maintained disabled toilets.
So how can we make our own provision and preparation to make our trip to the local shopping centre, or out of town mall, more of a pleasure than a nightmare?
Preparation and forward planning are always a good idea to alleviate potential access issues, effectively anticipating potential problems that will affect your outing, before you encounter them.
Thinking ahead, as far as possible is always a good idea. Planning rather than just arriving, can ensure you are better prepared for what you’ll be up against. This could be everything from your inward and outward journey, to arriving, parking, changing floor levels, surfaces, where you’ll eat, toilets etc. It may seem like a bit of a pain to have to do this, but it can make your shopping trip easier and more enjoyable than simply getting there and winging it.
Another important aspect to making yourself access-prepared, is ensuring you have the right gear ahead of your shopping trip.
There is an ever growing range of mobility aids that can help overcome challenges created by typical retail environments. Even if you have your standard equipment that helps with your own disability, it can pay to take a review of this from time to time and see if there are any aids that can further improve your accessibility.
Folding mobility scooters can be a real bonus when shopping or just for general outings. These compact, lightweight models are great for shopping trips as they are both lightweight and portable and fit easily into cars, taxis or public transport.
Some retail centres will have models to hire upon arrival. It’s possible to check this and the prices ahead of your journey simply by searching the name of the centre and ‘mobility scooter hire’
The small footprint of a modern folding scooter can make access easier as they have a good speed, manage different surface textures and types and have a very small turning circle for easier manoeuvrability in small spaces.
If you normally walk ok, but you are more easily fatigued by the extra distances required in an out-of-town mall, then there are a number of very good walking aids to help you stay balanced and maintain your energy levels for longer.
An example of this is the Shop “N” Sit Trolley that allows you to take the occasional sit down break, using your own integrated seat.
The good thing about this particular model from Devilbiss is that it doesn’t look like something only your granny would use, it’s in modern sleek colours and ergonomic street-smart design so good for use anywhere, think of it like an airport trolley a stewardess or pilot would use.
The benefit of this in a shopping centre scenario, is that you have the space for a lot of goods in the bag and at any time you feel the need for a break and a rest for tired legs or a rehydration break, you can simply adjust to the seating position and relax and recharge the batteries.
Foldable Walking sticks are another option to help you navigate your way around shopping centres, reducing your energy output and helping you to maintain balance across variable flooring surface types and levels.
Even if you’re already a stick user, taking a review of your currrent stick and comparing it to current modern models may be a good idea and give you additional features and benefits.
The Glow-Go stick is an example of a modern lightweight folding walking stick to fit in any bag, pocket or pouch, so is handy for those longer shopping trips where your stamina and balance may be tested.
Of course, these aids can help make certain facets of your shopping trip easier and help with your own access, but it’s also very important that you, or your carer, ask staff in the shopping centre immediately for help and assistance when required and also make sure you tell them areas where they don’t have provision for your own disability, (later via social media if easier).