An athlete hoping to compete in the 2020 Paralympics is calling for better accessibility in sports shops after being unable to use the changing rooms in JD Sports.
Wheelchair racer Lizzie Williams claims she was unable to try on new kit in her local JD Sports branch in Uxbridge.
“Went to go try on some sports gear in preparation for the 2017 competition season and the first hurdle was the stairs up to the changing room and no working lift,” she said on Facebook.
“Once I’m up there, they’ve filled and locked the disabled accessible changing room with manakins [sic] etc, telling me I cannot use it.”
Williams was born with the genetic condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which is characterised by bones that break easily and sometimes referred to as ‘brittle bone disease’.
The athlete enjoys many sports but competes in wheelchair racing. She won bronze at the Diamond League series in Zurich last year and now has the Paralympics set firmly in her sight.
Williams said she regularly struggles to enter public spaces such as shops and restaurants, let alone access facilities such as disabled toilets and changing rooms once inside.
She’s sharing her experience at JD sports as just one example of how people with disabilities are made to feel unwelcome.
She said the manager in JD Uxbridge “didn’t seem to understand” why it was important not to use accessible changing rooms as storage space and called the incident “rudeness and discrimination at its finest”.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to strongly encourage businesses, companies, individuals to contact me...if they feel more can be done to enable disabled service users within their business, company, workplace, etc,” Williams told Metro.
“Let me in, and let’s see where improvements can be made to meet even the basic requirements of the Equality Act.”
A spokesperson for JD Sports told The Huffington Post UK: “We are extremely disappointed to hear about Lizzie’s experience and have already been in touch with Lizzie directly to offer our sincere apologies that it clearly did not live up to the customer experience we pride ourselves on.
“The issues raised were investigated as a matter of urgency and the changing room was cleared immediately and is now in use in its proper function. The lift has a fault which means it is unsuitable for use and we are working to get it reinstated as soon as possible. In the meantime, staff will do their utmost to help and accommodate those with disabilities to access product on the upper floors of the store.
“We have dedicated teams looking at accessibility across our stores and we would welcome a meeting with Lizzie to discuss any ideas she has to help provide the best experience for all our customers.”