In this column, Masuma Ali, Consumer Panel member at the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), writes about her experience of Eid shopping as someone with a visual impairment.
What is Eid?
Eid takes place at the end of Ramadan, which will be 21st or 22nd of April this year depending on the sighting of the moon. This is a day of celebration for all Muslims, consisting of Eid prayers and feasting on delicious food. Muslims spend time with family and friends on Eid and exchange gifts.
Gift giving and challenges as a disabled shopper
It can be a challenge deciding on what to gift whether it be for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and so on, and Eid is no exception. For me, add a visual impairment to the mix and let the chaos of stress ensue. Gift giving in my opinion should be fun and not a source of stress. Whilst it can have some magical moments, they don’t happen often enough.
Personally, for me, part of the gift giving experience is being able to go shopping in store and not to do everything online. You’d think popping into your local stores would be easy, but that’s the beginning of the challenge, you’d need to have a local high street full of half a dozen decent shops first. (Although I do recognise that boarded up high streets isn’t only an issue for disabled people).
The lack of shopping options locally results in needing to travel to bigger shopping centres further afield. I am fortunate to have shopping centres within a five-mile radius. However getting to some of them via public transport can be problematic, and considering driverless cars aren’t quite ready for me, my options can feel limited. Usually, I find myself navigating the joys of either Uber or public transport.
Support from concierge or retail staff
Once I arrive, finding myself in a shopping centre full of more shops than one could ever visit in one day, can feel a little overwhelming! Not knowing what support, if any I’ll receive I more often than not plan which stores I’d like to visit. Whilst this is a practical and sensible approach, it can take away from the spontaneous fun of shopping and coming across gifts I may not have considered.
Some shopping centres have excellent concierge services, which I have used many times and has generally been a positive experience. For those who may not know how the service works, in principle the shopping centre concierge staff can assist you to a store and help locate a member of staff from that shop. Once you are finished, you or the store call the concierge to come get you and go to your next shop. It is a great service and one that more shopping centres should introduce. One of the downfalls with such services is that they often require you to book in advance – which doesn’t allow you to run last minute errands.
I think you are getting the idea – being disabled and shopping requires a lot of planning! I’ll confess, I don’t always book ahead because life doesn’t operate like that, and sometimes you just have things you need to get done the same as everybody else. Assistance from store staff can vary, which in turn impacts on your shopping experience. Some are fab and take the time to show you items, locate what you need, read information, etc., but others just can’t wait to get away.
Why not just shop online?
I know what you are thinking, surely it would be much simpler to shop online. However, even this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Due to my vision impairment I need to use assistive technology on my laptop or mobile phone and how well a website is designed will determine my ability to use it. I often find websites vary in their accessibility. Some store websites are just about manageable, but others are completely inaccessible.
Whilst I do make use of services like the concierge and in store staff support, I prefer to go shopping with someone. It makes it a less stressful experience. I also make use of online shopping, but often get someone else to have a look before I purchase as there generally isn’t enough of a description for me to gauge information such as colour, style, size, etc. I recently purchased a Ramadan calendar for my nieces, but when it arrived it wasn’t what I’d imagined so returned it. This meant my nieces went without as it was too much for me to find an alternative and the worry of it not being what I wanted. This year to save myself the stress of shopping I am gifting tickets to days out, shows, etc. – plus I believe they make for a more memorable gift.
Eid Mubarak to all celebrating. Hope it is a wonderful day full of love, happiness, peace and beautiful memories created.
Masuma is a member of the Consumer Panel for RiDC (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers). The panel undertakes research projects ranging from online surveys to mystery shopping to the user testing of products to see how accessible they are and feed back to those who make and run things. To find out more and become a member yourself, go to https://www.ridc.org.uk/our-panel/joining-panel