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I was able to go do some Christmas Shopping on Black Friday. It was wonderful to get out and to be around the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping. What made this excursion even better was that my sister and her family was down for a visit. What made this shopping trip difficult was that I decided to use my wheelchair so I would be able to have energy to enjoy it. I wrote before in Why I Hesitate to Use My Mobility Devices, about how I struggle with using my wheelchair. This outing was a reminder of why shopping is not easy with a wheelchair.
Why Shopping is not Easy with at Wheelchair
Merchandise in the Isles
The first problem about holiday shopping that is different than other times is the special displays used. The managers see and “empty” space to put something with no consideration of people that are using mobility devices. Actually, this doesn’t just hinder people with wheelchairs but also parents that are using strollers.
I actually pushed displays to the side a few times and the store staff glared at me like I had destroyed their world. Cramming isles full of displays is not an effective selling tool and it definitely limits some of your customers from having a pleasant shopping experience.
Everyone has to deal with rude customers when shopping during the holidays. Waiting in long lines and dealing with crowds can be downright irritating. Frankly, it brings out the worst in some people. I love Black Friday shopping and always have because the hustle of the stores is something I find fun. But some people just really ought to stay home and shop online.
I have found that the majority of people are at least civil to me when I am in my wheelchair. There are some people though that show that side glance of annoyance or are just rude. Believe me people, I am having to manuever around all these displays and the people. I was not put there to just slow you down.
Everything is too High
I do realize that stores can’t possibly be expected to put everything at wheelchair height. Clothing racks, shelves and other methods of displaying merchandise should be where the majority of the customers are…which is standing height. What gets me upset is that I am trying to find my size and I am struggling as an employee of the store watches and never offers assistance.
The other thing that I have noticed is the winding lines to the register are not wide enough for the wheelchair. It makes getting the the checkout counter difficult. The Checkout counters are usually too high and rarely do they have a handicap accessible area at the counter.
What My Friends Say
I posted in a couple of Facebook groups about their experiences with using a wheelchair while shopping and I got a few responses that I would like to share:
Jo wrote about her experience using a stroller:
“It’s strange but I did think about wheelchair users a week or so ago. I went to a large mall in Manchester. There are usually plenty of lifts, and I had my pram with me. But two of the lifts were out of order, and so there was a queue to use the nearest one! Then, I went into a bookstore, and the Christmas displays and other holiday items were so tightly packed together that I kept knocking things off. Again I just thought how inaccessible these things can be at what is already a busy time.”
Bethany wrote about a time dealing with a rude person:
“When people move you out of the way to get in. This happens too often. I’ll be looking at something and people think they can just wheel you out the way. I once had a guy push me out of the store because nobody could get past”
Maureen wrote about having to use a wheelchair due to injury:
“I had to use one the other day because I fell and damaged my knee and I couldn’t believe how rude people were to me. I did my best to stay to the side and let people pass but some people were just pushy and rude and huffed at me. Feel sorry for those that have to use them all the time and try to be courteous.”
Using a wheelchair is not something that I like to do but it is sometimes necessary because of my diminished energy levels. Using the chair allows me to make better use of the energy I do have and have a more fulfilling life. But shopping is not easy with a wheelchair and it does come with some struggles and adjustments.
If you work in retail, please consider people that are using mobility devices when putting things on display. We do not like ruining your hard work but we also want to see the items in your store. Also, please offer to help us if you see us struggling to get around displays or trying to find our size.
If you are a customer and you encounter someone in a wheelchair, just say excuse me if we are in your way. It is never ok to just push someone in a wheelchair out of the way. Think about it this way, if a store is crowded and you are having trouble getting around, we are having even more trouble!
Although holiday shopping is not easy with a wheelchair, it is important to get our there. Don’t let a few bad experiences destroy an otherwise good time!