One of the most awkward things about having a disabled child is doing the weekly food shop which is why I seem to be in Tesco's every other day (my husband probably thinks I work there I'm there so regularly) So here are my top five things that supermarkets could easily change to make it way easier for us all..
Disabled parking spaces are good but for those who use wheelchair accessible vehicles and unload their wheelchair user from a ramp at the back it can be unnerving to wheel them out into the oncoming car park traffic.
If supermarkets removed the bollards often found at the front of the disabled spaces it would allow the driver to reverse in and unload onto the pavement where there is one available. Of course this isn't the case in all car parks but seems to be the norm in the vast majority near me.
It would also be fantastic if they could make the hatched areas to the side slightly wider for those of us with a side loading ramp - right now I can get the ramp down but there's not much space left to be able to wheel the chair onto it when there is a car parked in the next space!
Ever tried pushing a trolley and a wheelchair at the same time? Let me tell you it's pretty impossible! And it's probably the reason that wheelchair trolleys were invented. But those trolleys aren't compatible with children's wheelchairs or buggies which means we have to lug around a basket. Pop in a couple of pints of milk and that basket becomes really heavy!
But this problem could be easily resolved with the addition of wheelable baskets like you find in many express stores - and they're bigger than the average basket so we can fit more stuff in them - handy during the school holidays when I seem to have been in the supermarket most days!
And these baskets would also be great for parents with buggies, the elderly and anyone who struggles to carry a basket.
3. GoTo Trolleys
Some supermarkets now have the Firefly adapted trolley seats for disabled children which is fantastic as it allows children who require some additional postural support to sit in the trolley. This is a real help for a lot of people and these would be a fantastic addition to the trolley options in all supermarkets. Sadly these aren't suitable for my son as they don't provide enough support and he is a bit too heavy to lift into it now but they are still a great option for many.
One important factor to consider with these trolleys is that there should be a trolley collection/return point close to disabled parking bays otherwise parents face the decision between leaving their child in the car or carrying them to and from the trolley point which can be difficult if they are heavy.
4. Scan and Shop
My local Tesco has this option and let me tell you it is a god send! I hadn't realised how reliant I was on it until I went to a rival store recently and had the above basket issue! With Scan and Shop I hang two large shopping bags from mummy clips onto the wheelchair and just pop in my shopping as I go round. But try that when there is no Scan and Shop you run the risk of being accused of shoplifting!
The Scan and Shop option would be much better if there were bags for life available close to the entrance for the times we forget our bags!
5. Accessible toilets
I'm sure most parents are familiar with the mid-shop toilet dash... the one where you dump the trolley, run to the toilet with desperate child and hope the trolley is still there when you get back. That is a whole different saga when you have a disabled child.
Dumping the heavy basket is always a welcome relief but the Scan and Shop bags, that's another story and the first thing you consider when you have a disabled child is whether to slum it and put your precious child on the toilet floor, use the back the van and hope the wheelchair doesn't get stolen (or wet if it's raining) or just give up and go home without finishing the shopping.
This issue comes about because supermarkets don't have disabled toilets suitable for all disabled people and without the use of a hoist and adult sized changing table they are unusable for many. Disabled children are therefore often having to lay on the toilet floor to be cleaned in a supermarket toilet - pretty gross.
Of course online food shopping looks like the obvious solution to all of the above issues but let me tell you it's not quite that simple! First you have to remember to order your items in time and when you are also juggling remembering medications, timing seizures, carrying out therapies, making it to appointments and trying to communicate with a non verbal child, the weekly shop is often not the first thing on your mind!
Then you have to make sure you're going to be home when it is delivered so you can accept the delivery and put it all away - again not easy if you have a diary full of medical appointments, therapies and are used to your child having unexpected hospital admissions.
This is why popping to the shops is sometimes the preferable option, even if we do have to do it most days. If I'm being really honest I sometimes actually look forward to my supermarket trip as it might be the only time I get to leave the house and my son loves the supermarket as there are lots of people for him to look at (plus they sell chocolate buttons!)
So to all the supermarkets out there - pretty please could you make some changes to make shopping in your stores easier for parents of disabled children, it'd also make lives easier for other disabled people too!