Christmas shopping ‘off limits’ to disabled consumers

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HIGH street stores have become “off limits” to wheelchair users, who are being deprived of the opportunity to sample festive attractions, a survey by a disability charity has found.

Vitalise say disabled shoppers will miss out on Christmas shopping and have no option but to shop online due to lack of accessibility.

The study, released today to coincide with Black Friday, which is expected to be the busiest online shopping day of the year, found that 84 per cent of disabled people and carers had experienced problems with the accessibility of major high street stores and more than half, 55 per cent, had been subjected to negative or unwelcoming treatment from shop staff.

Nearly seven out of 10 said a lack of accessibility had put them off visiting the high street to do their Christmas shopping, and the problem is compounded by the lack of information on the stores’ websites regarding access, helping to keep disabled people away from the high street, said Vitalise.

The charity’s own research found that nearly three quarters of the high street’s biggest retailers had absolutely no in-store accessibility info on their websites.

Vitalise chief executive Chris Simmonds said: “For most of us, a trip to the high street to enjoy the lights and the festive atmosphere – and of course do some gift shopping - is one of the things that makes Christmas special. But our study has found that many disabled people are being denied this simple pleasure.

“Today is ‘Black Friday’ - the busiest online shopping day of the year, but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking all disabled people are doing their Christmas shopping online out of choice. In fact they have no choice, since the high street stores are effectively off limits to them due to poor accessibility, negative attitudes and a lack of information.

“People with disabilities have every right to expect the same choices and opportunities as anyone else, and that includes the choice of where and how they shop. It is just wrong that the simple pleasure of a trip to the high street is being denied them.”

Vitalise has started a new campaign #AccessNow, to urge retailers to make their stores more accessible for people with disabilities and provide better information for shoppers online,