Disabled shoppers driven from the high street by poor accessibility, charity survey finds.

Vitalise logoNew Vitalise study finds the UKs disabled shoppers will miss out on the thrill of Christmas Shopping and have no option but to shop online

Wheelchair users are being deprived of the opportunity to sample the festive attractions of their local high streets due to access and security worries, a new survey by the disability charity Vitalise has found.

The Vitalise study, released on ‘Black Friday’, the busiest online shopping day of the year, found that 7 out of 10 disabled shoppers (69%) felt little or no security when paying for items at non-lowered shop counters with fixed chip & PIN machines.

At the same time, over 8 out of 10 disabled people and carers (84%) had experienced problems with the accessibility of major high street stores and over half (55%) had been subjected to negative or unwelcoming treatment from shop staff.

The lack of accessibility is forcing disabled people off the UK’s high streets and towards online shopping as their only option. Nearly 7 out of 10 respondents (69%)  said a lack of accessibility had put them off visiting the high street to do their Christmas shopping, although 9 out of 10 (89%) said they would return to the high street if they were reassured that the experience would be fully accessible, the study found.

But a lack of accessibility information on the leading stores’ websites is compounding the problem and helping to keep disabled people away from the high street, suggests Vitalise. Over 6 out of 10 respondents (61%) characterised the accessibility information about department stores and major retail chains on their websites as poor or virtually non-existent, causing 6 out of 10 (60%) to decide not to visit a major high street store or switch to a different store.

In the light of the findings, Vitalise is suggesting that high streets stores may be content to drag their feet when it comes to making accessible adaptations to their stores, as long as disabled people continue to shop with them online.

To support its case, the charity’s own research into some of the high streets leading retail brands found that nearly three quarters (74%) had absolutely no in-store accessibility info on their websites.

In the light of the research, Vitalise is urging all leading high street retailers to pay more attention to accessibility in their stores – and the information they provide online – in order to give disabled people and their carers the same choice between in-store and online shopping as everyone else.

Commenting on the charity’s survey findings, 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.

“Maybe department stores and high street chains are happy with the way things are. Maybe they would prefer it if disabled people did all their shopping with them online, so they don’t have to spend any money on accessible adaptations. Why else would they have so little information about the accessibility of their stores online?

“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.

“That’s why Vitalise is urging high street retailers to polish up their act by making their stores more accessible for people with disabilities and also providing much better accessibility information online. Stop marginalising disabled shoppers!”

To help make the UK’s high street stores more accessible, Vitalise is urging people to support #AccessNow, the charity’s campaign to enlist the support of people with disabilities in its push for urgent improvements to accessibility.

Vitalise is asking people with disabilities to share their experiences of visiting high street stores, visitor attractions and other public venues via an online form on the charity’s website www.vitalise.org.uk or by emailing them to media@vitalise.org.uk

People are also being encouraged to share their experiences with Vitalise via social media by posting photos, videos and updates on Facebook and Twitter, with the hashtag #AccessNow

Vitalise is a national charity providing respite breaks for people with disabilities and carers, combining 24-hour nurse-led care with a real holiday experience, at its three accessible UK centres in Chigwell in Essex, Southampton and Southport. Seasonal shopping trips and other accessible excursions are an integral part of the experience and the charity conducts a thorough assessment of the accessibility arrangements of each destination to which it takes its guests.

See the full results of the survey at www.vitalise.org.uk

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