A shop assistant opened the curtain while I was trying on some trousers, without saying “Excuse me” or ‘Is anyone in there?”. I had left a shopping basket outside the curtain so it was a bit surprising she ignored it. When leaving the changing room, she said: “Sorry, but I didn’t see a wheelchair.” This was a strange thing to say because her colleague had indicated I could use the accessible changing room due to wearing an AirCast boot and being on crutches.
If I didn’t have a foot fracture I wouldn’t use the accessible changing room but I felt I needed to explain why I accepted her colleague’s offer to use it. I tried explaining that there are many kinds of disability, that I fractured my foot and have rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, but didn’t elaborate. It would have been better if she had just apologised rather than referring to the lack of a wheelchair outside the changing room curtain.
Happily, most of my other experiences shopping on crutches have been good ones. People have offered to carry shopping for me around different stores, open doors, help pack bags etc. However, lots of shops still don’t have an accessible entrance, which is actually illegal under the Equality Act 2010, and public transport has a long way to go to get it right. Apart from the one incident, people have been really attentive and helpful, treating me like any other customer. For example, visiting a stately house with a huge garden recently I was able to borrow a wheelchair, and staff pointed out the accessible routes. As 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability, I think shops and tourist attractions should make more of an effort to be accessible and the behaviour of their staff is just as important – i.e. everyone receives the same standard of service – otherwise people will just take their custom elsewhere.