I love Christmas. I’m 31 now and my Mum still must tell me every Christmas Eve, that there’s to be absolutely no present opening or movement to happen before 6:30am.
I hate Christmas Shopping. I mean, shopping excursions are a nightmare for people with disabilities at the best of times, but November hits and shopping centers and high streets get horrifically busy, fellow shoppers seem to lose all festive thought of good will to all men and it becomes more like the Hunger Games.
I live just outside Birmingham, best known for its shopping centers. The Bullring has 140 stores to peruse and the annual German Christmas Market. You’d think that it would be a dream for someone who loves Christmas, but I have a disability add that to mix and it’s a whole new level of festive anxiety.
I’m in wheelchair: and for starters, Birmingham is hilly, hills for anyone in a wheelchair may as well be Everest. I need to know where the flattest straight forward routes in and out are, so I’m not exhausted before I even start. Once you’re in a crowd your view is of claustrophobic pushing and shoving, and while shopping complexes are on the flat and easy to push around, The Bullring, like every shopping Centre is sprawling, I get lost in a sea of nothing but backsides, disabled toilets are often miles away from each other, and I am inevitably the furthest possible point away from a loo when I need one. And don’t get me started on queuing for the lift, infact just talking about it is, making me sweat.. All in all, It makes me feel harassed, anxious and in need of alcohol.
I like many disabled people, annually put my faith in the Online Shopping Gods that everything will arrive on time. Finding somewhere to store all the ridiculous oversized boxes that delivered a set of earrings and a pen, working out how long I have before my Dad complains that the hallway looks like Royal Mail Sorting Office This year I dared to be adventurous and wanted to try the traditional Christmas Shop.
Armed with the brand new AccessAble app and website, packed with detailed Accessibility Guides tell you all about a venue’s access. They are 100% facts, figures and photographs, I went to The Bullring.
Everyone’s accessibility needs are different, so having detailed, accurate information is so important. Trained surveyors to check out every listing in person and the information that’s collect been decided by disabled people, there’s detailed information about the important stuff, widths of disabled bays, exactly where the toilets and how roomy they are, and even what the lighting is like in the venue. It might seem boring to you, but to disabled people this knowledge is great and takes the stress out of going places. And Christmas Shopping is stressful.
With the information about where the facilities were, I was able to plan a route around the shopping Centre that meant I could spend time enjoying retail therapy! I could even relax a bit and go for a drink and something to eat knowing that I wouldn’t get lost finding a toilet, is a game changer, as the solution to not knowing where or if there were facilities is often to not drink anything for hours just to save hassle.
The App is brilliant, and means that the Access Guides are there if you need them, I spontaneously nipped into Debenhams to buy a party dress! What a revelation! I wanted to know where the lift was I was able to locate the accessible Changing rooms away without walking around and around through crowds and looking for signs and getting lost! Amazing!
If I could gift anything the disabled community this Christmas, it’s would be the sense of freedom that AccessAble is giving disabled people and what’s great is that it’s totally free to download and sign up with an account! Go on, try it. Make 2019 the year of an adventure. The more you know, the more likely you are to go! Merry Christmas!