Howard Smith, Head of Operations at Your Mobility discusses improving accessibility...
With the recent announcement that the government and a number of major high street brands are backing the UK’s first ever inclusive shopping day aimed at supporting the disabled and immobile, accessibility in our cities and towns will be vastly improved for those with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Called ‘Purple Tuesday’, the innovative scheme will take place on 13 November and will see retailers including Argos, Asda, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer introduce new measures to make shopping a more comfortable experience, especially for those in mobility chairs.
But whilst this is much-needed progression, many people are unaware of the experiences that approximately 10,000 MSers deal with before they can even enjoy the luxuries of shopping and eating out – things we often take for granted.
For instance, someone who has the condition may have to rely on a wheelchair or mobility chair as a means of getting around. Unfortunately, this can involve a lot of hoisting, such as from a bed to a chair, which can put a considerable amount of pressure and strain on loved ones.
Once in the chairs, accessibility can still be an issue. If the chair can’t be modified, for example, simple tasks such as going out into the garden, or even entering the lounge or living room from the bedroom to spend time with family and friends can become an unnecessary challenge.
If an immobile person is deprived of accessibility for a prolonged period of time, isolation and loneliness can become a daily issue. In the worst-case scenario, a lack of accessibility can have a detrimental effect on the person’s mental health, with illnesses such as depression arising from feeling as if they have no freedom or independence.
So, it is important to remember that mobility is about more than just making places accessible. Yes, chairs the immobile use must be inclusive to utilise accessibility, but ultimately, they need to ensure the user is kept comfortable and safe.
A bespoke mobility chair, for instance, can be adapted to cater to an individual’s specific needs. Adjusting a specialist lounge chair to suit the user’s environment or varying physical needs, will make spending quality time with family and friends a more comfortable and accessible experience.
As well as being portable, multi-adjustable, with tilt in space capabilities and light in weight, bespoke chairs can provide those with MS with a greater sense of independence and freedom, while offering the highest level of security, safety and stability.
Overall, as a nation striving for more inclusivity, we must make mobility more comfortable for those with MS. Yes, retailers recognising the need to better improve accessibility for mobility chair users is fundamental in reaching our ultimate goal of creating a fully inclusive society, but we must also endeavour to make the user’s quality of life as comfortable as possible both in and outside of the home.
Let’s continue to talk about accessible shopping to raise awareness. Why not share your good and bad shopping experiences, or what mobility aids make shopping possible for you. Visit out Facebook page to add your comments.