The needs of disabled shoppers are being highlighted today. But retailers can do plenty all year round to make a difference to consumers – and their own bottom line. Even large shops often do not have wheelchair-accessible changing rooms.
Today is Purple Tuesday – the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day, where hundreds of retailers will focus on the needs of disabled customers. Nearly one in five people in the UK has a disability but evidence suggests shops are losing £11.4bn of sales by not addressing access. Here are five issues disabled shoppers face – and how retailers can help reduce them.
Consider all disabilities
A government audit carried out in 2014 by DisabledGo, a not-for-profit group now called AccessAble that promotes accessibility, found much of the UK high street has “shocking” disability access. Appallingly, only 15% of retailers have hearing loops for customers with hearing loss. Providing more loops and training staff to speak clearly will help. Visually impaired shoppers could also benefit from braille signs and clothing sizes and prices in large print.
Add more seats
Traipsing round shops is notoriously exhausting but if you have a chronic illness such as ME or are in pain with arthritis, this goes further than sore feet. Extra seating around shops and chairs in changing rooms can help.
Make everywhere wheelchair accessible
Even getting into a shop can be impossible for wheelchair users, with 20% of high street shops not providing a ramp. Once inside, it is also common for even large shops not to have accessible changing rooms. Lowered pay points and simply thinking about wheelchair users would go a long way (note to staff: lifts are not makeshift stock cupboards).
Going out can be a military operation for disabled people and shopping is no different, whether that is calling ahead to check store access or asking for help from untrained staff. Stores can easily remove some of the stress: for example, Sainsbury’s has trialled a scheme where customers pick up a sunflower lanyard at store entrances to discreetly help staff recognise who may want assistance, a move that can also tackle misconceptions about invisible disabilities.