Howard Smith of Your Mobility looks at some of the challenges the immobile face on a daily basis, and how a new retail scheme, Purple Tuesday, could help to raise awareness and improve accessibility…
Recent research by the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that both shopping and eating out were amongst the top three most difficult experiences for the disabled and immobile, based on accessibility in the UK. Furthermore, it’s estimated that retail websites and apps inaccessible to those with varying disabilities accounted for around £11.75bn in lost revenue in 2016, with more than 90% of companies admitting to not having a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.
This is a very concerning statistic, especially as Britain is seen to be one of the leading countries for inclusivity across all sectors.
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, is evidence that we are heading in the right direction.
Called ‘Purple Tuesday’, the innovative scheme will take place on November, 13 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 the immobile and disabled deal with before they can even enjoy the luxuries of shopping and eating out – things we often take for granted.
For instance, someone who is unable to walk independently 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 of the person’s mental health, with illnesses such as depression arising from feeling as if they have no freedom or independence.
This can be very distressing for families, especially if they include young children. No one should feel as if they are unable to take part in family activities such as shopping or eating and drinking out, but a restriction in accessibility can have a negative impact on what an immobile person is physically able to achieve.
While high street brands are starting to recognise the need to offer more inclusive services, it is important to remember that the chairs the immobile use must also be inclusive, so that they can benefit from such services.
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, tilt in space and light in weight, bespoke chairs can provide the user 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 the journey for the immobile more accessible, not just the destination. Yes, retailers recognising the need to better improve services for mobility chair users is fundamental in reaching our ultimate goal of creating a fully inclusive society, but we must also endeavour to improve the accessibility of the user’s everyday life in and outside of the home.
Howard Smith is the Head of Operations at Your Mobility, the industry leader in bespoke mobility chairs. Your Mobility also provides free training on using the chairs, such as on fall prevention, good posture and pressure relief.
Find out more about Purple Tuesday at purpletuesday.org.uk