One of the things that stops people with infirmity or disability from leaving their home is, you may be surprised to learn, seating! Yes, I’m serious! If you think about it, a lot of people with disability reach a point where going to the shops becomes too difficult.
People with disability, in the form of mobility problems, will often express sadness at no longer being able to go out as much, or even at all. They will often describe how they miss going to a favourite clothes store or they miss having a chat with a familiar face in the local groceries store. Some find it hard to think of a varied range of products to buy, when ordering shopping online, and so miss out on trying new products, services or even on recipes. The opportunity to meet a friend or family member at a favourite café, bistro or restaurant can be lost, as we begin to stay increasingly at home. Social isolation starts right here.
A simple way to help people to continue to get out and about comes in the form of seating. Think about your local grocery store, clothes shop, bakery, hardware store, supermarket, pharmacy….I could go on. Now, give some thought to how many of these venues have seating dotted around the store, so that people may sit and rest at various intervals?
Some stores do provide seating, but they may place literally only one or two chairs, or a small row of seats, in one part of the store, only. In fact, that is no help at all to a person who may only get a one-minute warning, or less, that unless they sit, they may drop their shopping, lose their balance, slip, fall or even collapse. You see, seating needs to be provided at intervals around the store. Hand rails too, for that matter.
Many of the larger stores, these days, now provide wheelchairs and scooters on site, for use by their customers. This has been a major step forward. That said, may of those stores still do not make the space between aisles big enough, the space at and level of checkouts/tills suitable and the streets outside stores can still be difficult for a person to navigate on foot; making the idea of visiting any stores a definite no go. Where checkouts/tills are concerned, some people cannot stand, so are unable to queue. Seating should surely be provided at the checkout/till, too?
Pause for a moment. I’d like you to imagine that you can no longer leave your home for getting around at a shopping venue is just too difficult, too exhausting and too overwhelming. This also applies to other venues; from statutory services through to public service venues. Now, imagine that the solution, for many people, would be the addition of chairs placed at intervals around these venues. Imagine that every few hundred yards, there would be a bench in the street between a car park and the shopping venues. Imagine parks had many more benches. How would a person, who feels trapped at home due to lack of seating, feel if they could know that they are never more than a short distance from seating?
What are your thoughts on this subject? What is your experience of available seating? What can you do to raise this issue in your local community and start to encourage a change?
(c) Deano Parsons.