Christmas is a busy time of year for all us, whether it’s getting last-minute Christmas shopping done, picking the best turkey in the supermarket or just out enjoying the festivities. While it should be a fun time for all, often people with disabilities don’t have the same experience that the rest of us do. People with all types of disabilities can struggle during the Christmas period and find getting around in the Christmas crowds difficult. Fortunately, there are things that we can all do to help people with disabilities. We’re going to focus on what we can do as a community to help those with physical disabilities this Christmas.
Why Christmas should be accessible for physical disabilities
Despite a rise in the number of people experiencing or living with some form of physical disability, research has shown that people with a disability are much less likely to be part of a club or enjoy an evening out than those with no disability.
The main reason for disabled people not being as active socially is a lack of accessibility. This includes physical access into and around premises as well as a lack of awareness in service offerings and amongst the general public. All of these issues can present serious barriers to people with physical disabilities feeling comfortable getting out and about.
These problems only increase during the busy Christmas season when crowds are bigger and people may be more impatient. Retailers will cater to the customer majority that doesn’t have a disability and often forget about the impact that this busy period may have on disabled customers.
It’s important for all of us to think about accessibility and how we can help improve the experience for disabled people this season and promote equality. This will help people with disabilities feel less isolated and more involved. Additionally, the disabled economy is growing which means retailers could benefit hugely from making sure they meet the needs of disabled customers.
Making your shop or event accessible
If you’re a retailer or are hosting events or offering services over the Christmas period then there are a few things you can do to make sure people with physical disabilities have a better experience.
Obstacles and physical access
You should make sure that disabled customers can get into your premises or event and around it. Walk around and think about the building in the eyes of a wheelchair user or something with a physical disability. If there are steps or thresholds then you will need to make sure that wheelchair users can get over these easily. You can find affordable temporary wheelchair ramp solutions that are lightweight and easy to fit so you can leave them out during busy Christmas times or offer to put them out for disabled customers when they arrived and then store out of the way when not in use. This way your premises remain easily accessible to all customers.
You should also look out for other obstacles such as cables or wires that can’t be put away. Cable protectors with a ramp up can provide safe access for wheelchair users while also protecting any wires and cable from the busy Christmas rush.
Additionally, think about any extras that you could include to help physical access around the building. For example, well place handrails can provide support at key areas to help people with physical disabilities get around or take a break when needed.
During the Christmas period, many retailers get in more stock and put more on the shelves than usual to meet busy seasonal demands. This can take up valuable space around shops and premises that can make it hard for people in wheelchairs or with other physical disabilities to get around. This is often made even more difficult by busy crowds and people trying to get around quickly.
Try and look at space around your store and leaving enough space between aisles for wheelchair users to get around. You should also think about areas for wheelchair users and people with physical disabilities to turn around easily and think about space around doorways making note of which way doors open. Try not to overstock shelves!
Services and facilities
Finally, consider how you can adjust your services to help disabled people. If you have ramps or other equipment that can assist people with physical disabilities that you can’t leave out, put out signs to say that you can provide these on request. Additionally, keep an eye out for anyone with physical disabilities to see if you can offer a helping hand right away.
Additional facilities you can think about providing including parking and disabled toilets. If it’s not possible for you to provide these directly, it’s a good idea to know your local area well so that you can provide information to disabled customers and point them to the nearest facilities if they need.
Looking out for people with disabilities
Even if you’re just out enjoying the festivities yourself there are ways you can help people with disabilities. Look out for anyone that may be struggling or looking overwhelmed in the crowds and don’t be afraid to offer to help. You may notice people moving slowly or unable to move in the crowd; be understanding that their physical disability means they won’t be able to move out of the way and think about helping to stop others pushing into them in the meantime.
You can also be spacially aware whilst Christmas shopping. Wheelchair users, in particular, may get overlooked and overcrowded due to the difference in height. Be aware of any wheelchair users and make sure you don’t reach over them trying to get to something on a shelf; this can be very overwhelming and may make people feel claustrophobic. You can also offer to help wheelchair users to reach things that higher up on shelves if they don’t have anyone else with them.