On Saturday I braved the cold and crowds to go Christmas shopping with my husband Jim and our daughter Heather. I have to tell you that shopping with my husband is never a joyful time! His idea of shopping is get what’s on the list as fast as possible and get out of there. No browsing around or window shopping. Can anyone relate? So why did he come along with us? Two reasons – 1) He wanted to get some things as well; 2) We needed his “brawn” – not for all the gifts, but for lifting my large and sturdy wheelchair in and out of the trunk of the car!
This was not the first time I have gone shopping in a wheelchair or even a motorized scooter. But it is the first time in several years that I have gone shopping in a wheelchair where I had to depend upon others to get me around. It is not fun at all!
First of all, stores are not designed to accommodate the disabled. Here are some of the challenges I came across while shopping on Saturday:
We had difficulty finding a “ramp” area to get from the parking lot to the sidewalk to enter the stores.
Some stores do not have automatic door openers so my husband or daughter had to try to open the door and push me through at the same time.
Some store doors are not wide enough for a wheelchair which meant they had to try to open double doors at the same time as they wheeled me in the store.
Main isles of the stores are usually large enough for a wheelchair, but when it came to where the “racks” of clothing and other items are forget about it! They are barely large enough for a person to walk through let alone a wheel chair. Heather tried her best to get me through those areas in one store but we took down some clothes and even moved some displays.
Since there was not enough room for the wheelchair to get through I was left sitting in the isle while they shopped. How fun is that? NOT!
We didn’t even think about entering some of the smaller stores in the mall. We could see from the entryway that there was no room at all for a wheelchair.
Restrooms – While Heather was trying on clothes I had time to talk with some store managers. Not all restrooms are truly handicap accessible. Some stores were built before certain handicap laws were made so they do not have to abide by the current standards. I have been in some bathrooms where they had the larger handicap toilet area but the toilet itself was a regular toilet – not the usual higher handicap toilet. Some restroom doors are not wide enough for a wheelchair to enter. Some stores you have to go to a back room to use their restroom have racks and other items blocking the entry to the restroom.
Not all check-out/cashier areas are handicap accessible. At one clothing store the counter was well above my head.
When I was left alone while Jim and Heather looked through racks no one asked if I needed assistance. A couple of times I had tried to move my wheelchair to an area where I could peruse a nearby rack; I was unable to reach some things and though people looked at me, they did not offer to assist me.
These are just a few challenges I had in just a few hours of shopping. I would have to say that I felt more like an obstacle while my family shopped. Even though my husband and daughter tried to make me feel like I was part of the shopping experience by bringing items to me to choose what I wanted or approval of their choice; it is still not the same when one like me enjoys browsing around herself.
I shared my challenging shopping experience with all of you to try to bring attention to the challenges of the disabled. Later I will share some ways that stores, family and friends can do to help make our shopping experience more enjoyable. If you have some suggestions please feel free to leave a comment or email me with your suggestion.