Spokeout Winter 2014
[insert name here]
Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Confessions of a shopaholic
Rachel at home after returning from a recent shopping trip

Confessions of a shopaholic

Self-confessed shopaholic Rachel Creevey wants to spend her money, but shopping centres don’t always make it easy...

Someone once told me that the best way to challenge people’s perceptions of disability is simply to get out there and live your life, be visible in society. I firmly believe this but it’s not always easy to follow through on it, especially when the built environment throws continuous obstacles in your path. I’m a 31-year-old woman who uses a powered chair.

I’m also a bit of a shopaholic! My ideal day is a trip to a shopping centre for a browse and a bit of lunch. I always have a partner in crime on these trips, be it my mum, my sister or a friend. They’ve not come along to assist me; though they may have to wrestle the wallet from my hand at some stage!

I’m an independent woman; a shopping trip should be no bother for me. But no sooner am I out of the house and the problems begin.

The first question is always how am I going to get to the shopping centre? Is it on an accessible bus route? If I call a taxi, will there be a wheelchair accessible one available? Recently my sister and I made it to our local shopping centre and how that day went was fairly typical. Firstly, I arrived to find the kerb directly in front of the entrance was not dished, so I had to search for one which was before I could drive my chair up onto the path. We entered the shopping centre and had a leisurely browse.

In one shop, I spotted a few items I liked but wanted to try them on first. I approached the dressing rooms. They had a dressing room specifically designated for wheelchair users. It was a tight squeeze but with the dressing room assistant overseeing my driving, eventually I got in. I turned to hang the clothes on the clothes hooks while I undressed, but I couldn’t reach them so had to hold the clothes with one hand while I undressed with the other.

I decided I was going to buy one of the tops I’d tried on and headed to the counter to pay. Unfortunately the cash desk was high and the shop assistant didn’t notice me in the queue until another shopper pointed me out. The shopper then had to help me with my transaction as I couldn’t reach up to pay, and the assistant couldn’t come out from behind the counter.

After visiting all the shops on the ground floor, it was time to head upstairs. My sister doesn’t like lifts so while she took the escalator, I headed to the lift. Everyone uses the escalators so the lifts tend to be less busy – a positive you might think, but when I got into the empty lift I found I couldn’t reach the button for the next floor! After exiting the lift again to ask for a security guard’s help, I finally made it to the next floor, where I found my sister waiting, looking at her watch. “Long story, I’ll tell you over lunch”, I say.

After lunch, I headed to the bathroom. The first thing I noticed as I opened the door was that the toilet was on the wrong side for my transfers, and even if it hadn’t been, the cubicle wasn’t big enough to allow me space to manoeuvre my chair in and close the door.

Eventually we called it a day and headed home. As we unwound over a cup of tea, I could honestly say I’d really enjoyed myself – I shopped and spent time with my sister. But I also couldn’t forget the continuous reminders I’d had of my dependence rather than my independence.