I am 19 years old and love my independence. However, health problems can quite often take this away from me. Therefore where possible I demand to have it back. My health problems can vary and I am classed as having a disability although some people do not see it this way. As I can stand and I can walk but some days – most days now I can’t because it is too difficult and too painful.
Due to my health problems I am spending more and more time in a wheelchair as it helps me to get out and about. I thought by becoming a more able wheelchair user it would help me to be more independent.
For me this meant I would be able to go to the supermarket without my partner. This would mean that I could do some shopping for dinner, I could be more helpful. I would be able to go out and get things if I were home alone and decided to bake one afternoon for example or if my partner were away for work he wouldn’t have to worry about making sure there was dinner in the house before he left.
However, over the last few weeks I have been to various supermarkets as well as a popular shopping complex with many clothing stores in as I was on the hunt for some new clothes and I discovered this; being more independent in a wheelchair is not necessarily possible.
I discovered that most of the time the card machines in shops were to high up or I couldn’t get close enough to a counter in my wheelchair. Granted in some shops you were able to remove the card machine from its holder enabling me to input my card and pin number but this was not the same in all shops.
I also had several issues when perusing the clothing stores, as I couldn’t get around the store without my partner moving a clothes rack aside slightly. I even have some slight scratches on the handrims of my wheelchair where we couldn’t move the clothing racks to allow me to get around or find my way out of the store.
I have also had several awkward experiences within restaurants where they haven’t allowed enough room for a wheelchair to get around. Which usually leaves me feeling difficult and slightly guilty – I know I know, I shouldn’t be the one to feel guilty. However, I think the worst feeling is the humiliation you feel knowing that everyone is staring at you whilst you’re squeakily moving chairs around.
This meant that the majority of the time my partner played a fairly big part in enabling me to get around a store and to use my debit card. In the few shops I found where they were able to remove the card machine from its holder they were reluctant to do so or didn’t do so as they expected my partner to do it for me.
Now this to me does not scream independence.
I can only imagine the humiliation and embarrassment I would feel if I were to ‘wheel’ in to a shop myself and get to the till to find that not only could I not reach my shopping but I was unable to pay for it to!
Also don’t even get me started on how shop assistants speak to us! We are not stupid and quite often we are able to converse with you so please don’t talk down to me, dismiss me and speak to my partner instead. Particularly in cases where it is obvious I am the paying customer!
I understand that as a disabled person I am a minority however, we deserve the same rights and equality as everyone else. I am also certain I am not the only disabled person to have these problems. I feel as though the whole world expects me to be/act a certain way just because I am labelled as disabled – I had not intended for that to sound like something Dr. Seuss would say but oh well moving on…
Just because I am disabled does not mean I can’t be independent and society should be helping us to be independent and to support us fitting into the world of ‘normality’.
Therefore shops and supermarkets I ask you this…
Please think of your disabled customers. Please think of those with disabilities who are trying to live life as ‘normally’ as possible. Don’t assume you know best. Instead ask what we need. Please don’t huff and sigh because you don’t want to move the card machine closer to us. Some of us feel annoying, as though we are too much trouble and not worth the extra effort we don’t need you to make us feel like that too; because we are not annoying or too much trouble we are people and we deserve to be treated as every other person and you should be looking to help us into society because being disabled doesn’t make us stupid or unworthy.
If this post has summed up any of your shopping experiences I would love to hear from you. Or if you have any stories of your own please do share in the comments below.