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'Shopping from a wheelchair is a nightmare'

By Kim Wooten, Staff Reporter
Published on Thursday, December 17, 2015

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Author Kim Wooten shows the difficulty shopping, even without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that accompany holiday shoppers.
 

Author Kim Wooten shows the difficulty shopping, even without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that accompany holiday shoppers.

 



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Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business-Camden, is one of the nation's foremost authorities speaking out for consumers with mobility issues, as well as people with hearing, vision and cognitive impairments.
 

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Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business-Camden, is one of the nation's foremost authorities speaking out for consumers with mobility issues, as well as people with hearing, vision and cognitive impairments.

 



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"Shopping from a wheelchair is a nightmare," stated Hope Hayes, a mother of two and wheelchair-bound due to cerebral palsy.

 

 



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Lisa Rice, a customer service representative, said understanding the difficulties of disabled consumers lead to a more pleasant shopping experience.
 

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Lisa Rice, a customer service representative, said understanding the difficulties of disabled consumers lead to a more pleasant shopping experience.

 



Long lines and crowded stores can come as a headache to some shoppers. However, Christmastime brings challenges to shoppers with disabilities.

“There's music and moving lights and large crowds and it's just difficult to maneuver anywhere," stated Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business-Camden. 

Kaufman-Scarborough has studied consumers with disabilities since 1995 and has found that most consumer research failed to consider customers with mobility issues ­– such as those having to shop from a wheelchair – as well as people with hearing, vision and cognitive impairments.

Kaufman-Scarborough stated, "Many of the problems these shoppers face are unintended. Store design choices can seem like good practice, but in reality, there are problems with aisle width and display height. Overcrowding reduces access, comfort and mobility."

An example, Kaufman-Scarborough stated is, “stores like Hollister has a choice in its store designs. Adding a porch with steps to the front of the store should have been an obvious problem.”

Shopping can be an ordeal for those with physical limitations. Being in a wheelchair and shorter than walkers, the disabled often get overlooked or ignored. A spouse or friends accompanying a wheelchair-bound shopper have to move racks and shelves to make way for my wheelchair.

Tanya Lambert, an occupational therapist at Vocational Rehabilitation’s the Bryant Center in Lyman, teaches individuals with disabilities daily life skills. Shopping is one of them.

“Some stores will have too (many) things in the aisles and aisle ends.” Lambert stated. “It makes moving through stores difficult. Shoppers might also not look out for people in wheelchairs as they are looking down on their phone, packages or rushing.”

Lambert said the most common misconception retail chains have is that all disabilities are the same. “Not everyone’s disabilities are visible. People might need assistance to get items off the shelf, to make choices, or to manage money,” Lambert stated.

Hope Hayes, a mother of two and wheelchair-bound due to cerebral palsy, said she can relate to the difficulty of shopping.

Hayes, in an email interview, stated, “Shopping from a wheelchair is a nightmare. Some places have (merchandise) on the top shelf so I can’t get them without help and the cashiers get impatient.”

Crowded spaces are difficult to squeeze into to look at specific items,” Hayes stated. “Cashiers and staff are rushed and appear to become impatient attempting to help a consumer with special needs.”

“Store personnel may be temporary so they may not have had the right training to know how to work with shoppers with disabilities. Patience is very important,” Kaufman-Scarborough stated.

Lisa Rice, a customer service representative for Spinx, stated, “I always treat every customer with dignity and respect regardless of any disabilities. I have walked around the store with someone who had a disability and helped them with their shopping whether it was getting something down from a shelf for them, carrying the items for them or just letting them know I’m there if needed,” Rice stated.

Rice said some customers with disabilities may require assistance carrying bags to their vehicles.

Kaufman-Scarborough gave three guidelines that retail stores can implement to provide quick accessibility to disabled shoppers:

• Post signs that offer assistance and ask for customers, who need help to explain what they need,

• Train their employees to assist shoppers with disabilities to help,

• Keep merchandise out of the aisles.

Lambert offered other suggestions:

• be courteous and assist other shoppers who might struggle in opening doors or having to stand in line,

• Take in consideration that people in wheelchairs might need more room to maneuver,

• Do not park in parking allocated for persons with disabilities unless you are a driver with disabilities or are in a vehicle that needs to deploy a ramp,

• leave handicapped bathroom stalls open for the disabled.

Two of the busiest shopping days remain for the holidays, according to Shopper Track. They are Saturday and the day after Christmas, this year on Saturday.

• About the author: Kim Wooten, 25, was born with cerebral palsy, which is a condition that affects her muscles and muscle control. She graduated cum laude in 2010 from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Business Administration. Wooten is married and has a 2-year-old daughter. Kim writes her stories and all interviews are conducted by email.

 

 

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