Retailers urged to provide disabled access

December 10th, 2012 Category: Building Management

Retailers are being told they must provide disabled access to wheelchair users, after one customer outlined the problems she has when she goes shopping.

Bernadette Kelly, from Rustington in West Sussex, told the Littlehampton Gazette that many stores have narrow, cluttered aisles.

As a result, she finds it very difficult to navigate her way round shops and inadvertently ends up knocking items over.

Mrs Kelly stated that when this occurs, some people get angry and blame her, which she said is particularly distressing.

"People see me struggling and they won't help," she commented.

"I know plenty of people in wheelchairs who have had similar experiences to me."

Mrs Kelly said she is made to feel victimised as a result of her disability and insisted she cannot help knocking items over.

She has therefore called on shop owners to make sure their premises are more accessible to people with disabilities, particularly as many would like to go shopping ahead of Christmas.

So what can retailers do if they want to be just as welcoming to wheelchair users as they are to able-bodied customers?

Bringing in facilities management specialists might be a good place to start, as they will be ideally placed to point out where a particular store is falling short and where improvements can be made.

Simon Vickers, head of the Littlehampton Traders' Partnership, stated that retailers are in a "difficult situation" when it comes to providing good disabled access.

This, he said, is because they have to make the best use of the space they have available while remaining sensitive to the needs of customers. However, Mr Vickers insisted that many retailers do their best to support wheelchair users.

Arun Access Group chairman Mike Dunn added that failing to provide access to disabled people is a form of discrimination. He went on to state this would put them in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

And of course, addressing this issue could be a great way for retailers to improve their reputation and present a caring, considerate side to the general public.