7 Tips for Shopping in a Wheelchair

by - Monday, April 08, 2019

Who doesn’t love shopping? Retail therapy is a core part of many of our lives. There’s nothing quite like spoiling ourselves on a shopping trip now and then to boost our mood and give ourselves an excuse to get out of the house and experiencing the outdoors.

But for those of us who are partly or wholly dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility, there is a myriad of potential pitfalls to fall into when we are out shopping. Whether it’s finding stores that we can get in, to begin with - wheelchair ramps are still not nearly as common as many of us would like - or navigating the cramped interiors of the stores we can get into, shopping in a wheelchair is often a difficult experience.

The following tips are things that any wheelchair user can do to hopefully make their shopping experience that little bit more pleasant.

Make a Shopping List

Set aside a whiteboard or notepad in your home to use as a shopping list. You can make a note of anything that you need to buy and be sure that every time you set out you will be able to get everything you need. Unfortunately, even at the best of times, shopping in a wheelchair is less convenient and more difficult than shopping when able-bodied, so if you can avoid multiple trips you should aim to do so.

Keep your shopping list by your front door so that it is there for you to grab on the way out every time. Alternatively, you can use your smartphone to keep a record of items that you need to buy. If this is a more reliable method for you then do it this way instead.

Find Stores with Ramp Access

One of the most common sources of frustration for disabled shoppers is gaining access to buildings. Even the smallest step can make life extremely difficult for some wheelchair users. While some people might be able to stand and walk to some extent, many people don’t have this option. If you are able to establish whether stores you want to visit offer wheelchair access beforehand, this will make your entire trip that little bit less stressful.

If you can’t find any information about disabled access by looking online, have a look at online communities where other wheelchair users might post their own experiences of shopping in particular areas. Of course, you can always phone the store to ask them. While you’re asking them about ramp access, check that their store has enough room for a wheelchair to maneuver.

Give Feedback to Stores

Whether you have a good or a bad experience with a particular store, it is always worth giving them feedback. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t think about the potential difficulties that a wheelchair user would have when in their store. If the wheelchair access is lacking, contact the store and point them towards groups like National Ramp. Their website details the different types of ramp available to businesses in a range of aesthetic styles.

Decide on a Suitable Time to Go

Shopping while in a wheelchair can sometimes be incredibly stressful. For many shoppers, their focus is on reducing the amount of stress they experience, rather than trying to make the experience entirely stress-free. One of the easiest things that anyone can do to make shopping a bit easier is to go at a time of day when the shops will be quieter. Even without a wheelchair, battling through the crowds is never fun. While in a wheelchair it becomes even more difficult.

First thing in the morning is a good time to choose as the shops are usually relatively empty at the beginning of the day, gradually getting busier until they reach their peak just after midday. The fewer people there are around you, the easier it is to navigate in your wheelchair. When there are fewer people around, it is also easier for you to get the attention of shop assistants.

Invest in a Reacher

Being independent is important for any wheelchair user. When you’re out shopping, you don’t want to have to keep asking other people for help. Unfortunately, there are certain things that are always going to be difficult for a wheelchair user. Reaching for goods and products that are located out of easy reach is one of the most common examples.

A reacher is a simple device that consists of a grip on the end of a pole. In order to grab items, the user simply positions the grip appropriately and then squeezes a trigger on the handle. Reachers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, with some designed to be used to grab very specific objects, while others are designed for general use.

Look for Wheelchair Carts

This is something to look out for when shopping at supermarkets in particular. Some stores offer customers carts that attach easily to a wheelchair, while others have special wheelchairs with carts built-in for users to use in-store. You can always phone ahead before you go to a supermarket to see whether they have wheelchair carts available.

If the stores you normally shop at don’t offer this service, you might want to consider suggesting it to them. After all, you are almost certainly not the only disabled customer they have.

Consider Home Delivery

This is especially important to remember if you don’t drive. Many stores offer home delivery on larger and more expensive products, especially those that are difficult to transport. If home delivery is available, it could make your entire shopping experience that much easier. This is something else that you should try to check out ahead of time. That way, you know going in whether you can consider buying more than you are able to carry home on your own.

Shopping as a wheelchair user is always going to be more difficult than shopping without one. However, it doesn’t have to be a particularly difficult experience either. Once you have worked out a shopping routine that works well for you, stick to it. When you need to deviate from it, make sure that you plan ahead in order to avoid potential disappointment and difficulty.

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