Access

21 Oct

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good old moan about something, so strap yourself in. Because I am cross about something today.

BC, Bean and I were at the shops. We wanted to buy something from one of those cheap $2 type shops – you know, the shops with cheap products of all description, often poking out of every corner and overflowing out the front door.

GREAT places to get a bargain, but not particularly good on the access front!

I was pushing Bean in his stroller (navigating my way AROUND all the items not stacked on shelves but on the floor) and BC was in his walker, following me down an aisle when he accidentally knocked something over – I should point out that it was something that was IN the aisle, not on a shelf. I pushed it out of the way and we kept walking.

A few minutes later he knocked something else over – again, an item NOT on a shelf, but in the aisle.

This time, the shop assistant came down the aisle and told me I needed my son to be more careful.

I told her that she needed to arrange her shop more carefully as there should be clear access to all aisles.

“We won’t be responsible if something falls on him” she said gruffly, “and you’ll need to pay for anything that gets broken”.

Now that got my ire up, totally.

I know that as a parent I need to be responsible for my children in a shop and I am. But it got me thinking about what THEIR responsibility is to provide access to everyone.

If it’s hard enough for a little boy in a small walking frame to access a shop set up like this, so I am sure it’s near on impossible for an adult in an adult sized wheelchair. And then there is the risk factor for someone with vision impairment trying to navigate their way around the obstacle course created…

This has got me thinking about just WHAT responsibilities a shop has to provide access.

I’m still learning, and getting my head around what requirements a shop has in this situation and that search has taken me to the “Disability Discrimination Act”.

I also found the Australian Human Rights Commission website which provides excellent easy to read summaries and info regarding this issue and many others. Here, it states:

Every area and facility open to the public should be open and available to people with a disability. They should expect to enter and make use of places used by the public if people without a disability can do so.

For example:

  • Places used by the public should be accessible at the entrance and inside

It earlier lists ‘places use by the public’ to include ‘shops and department stores‘, so I am on the right track.

However, after a few other phone calls, I still haven’t been able to find out if there are any specific standards related to this issue or if it’s all just a matter of ‘guidelines’ – which aren’t of much use if a business doesn’t care to comply…

As I’ve said, I am still just gathering information, but I am realising that THIS ISSUE is going to be a CORE issue for BC as he gets older and needs to be able to navigate the world independently, so I am keen to find out more. I’d like to do what I can to allow for easier access for BC and to find out just whether I have any way of getting a store like that to at least ‘reconsider’ they way they display their products and make it accessible for everyone.

I am waiting for local council to call me back to find out what they have to say and will be speaking with a Disability discrimination consultant from a free legal service on Friday.

Anyone know more?

I will be back with more on this topic later…

There – moan over. I feel much better already :-)

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8 Responses to “Access”

  1. Sarah Clark October 21, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    Don’t blame you at getting annoyed about the lack of access issues either Di, I find those same shops just awful.

    It’s bad enough for someone without a stroller, walker etc! Also the added risk to elderly people that could trip on the stuff that is lying around in the aisles!

    I really admire you saying what you thought as it was all valid!

  2. bron October 21, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    Oh Di those shops are crazy! I have no idea why all their shit needs to be everywhere, it is so unsafe for everyone! I have seen a few accidents at these places with elderly women tripping on gift boxes- owner just said it is up to the individual and not their problem. I don’t take Cooper in there much as most of the stuff is crap and breaks within a few minutes. The funny thing about our local “crap” shop is that iit is next door to a “accessible scooter/equipment” shop! always makes me laugh.
    As for when the boys are older there are heaps of places that are not accessible as far as ramps/steps/clutter etc it is just so noticeable when you start looking. Bron

  3. Gina October 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    H Diane
    My family have a hair salon and we were able to extend into an adjacent shop a couple of years ago. This meant we had to put steps in between the two levels. We had to apply to get approval not to put a ramp or lift in which felt kind of strange considering how important access is to us. But the problem we face is it is a 50+ year old building we don’t own, the ramp would have needed to be 15+m long which either would have ended up in the middle of the street or taking up 30% of the available floor space. A lift was close to $30K. We have w/chair access to each level, but you can’t go from one to the other in a wheelchair internally. If you provide access in to the shop you are meant to provide access to every part – not just some – so that was what we had to appeal. We felt justified in the fact a hair salon is not a place you come to browse, and no one has a choice of where they sit, you are seated in an appropriate location by the stylist. Because chemicals etc are used extensively a salon is not where you want people just wandering around. So while we fall under the retail rulings it isn’t the same as a gift shop etc. We have a wheelchair basin in the the salon and our clients who use wheelchairs know which entrance to use but then so do our other clients, because we generally advise them with section they will be booked into and they use the relevant entrance. We also made sure with fitouts there was plenty of space to get around the salon in each section. So many of the modifications are out of financial reach of small business but the simple ones like aisles being accessible are basically smart business and common courtesy. I think it would be nice to have some window stickers to send out to stores with a letter asking them to display and it can either be ‘I am a wheelchair friendly store (or easy access)’ or ‘I am NOT a wheelchair friendly store’… I wonder what the managers/owners would do if they got the NOT letter. And what a great ‘real’ job for some people in wheelchairs to go out in the community and do the actual ‘audits’. hmmm, I can feel a council letter coming on…
    I still believe more research needs to go into stair climbing wheelchairs because that would make so many access issues go away – or affordable stair lifts.

  4. heike October 22, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    No legal rules as far as i know. And as Gina notes, most business owners don’t own the premises, and can’t do much about access. Stacking stuff on the floor though is an aera they have control over. You can only really do two things. One is explain (verbally AND in a letter) that their shop is inaccessible, and you will NOT come back, ever. In addition, explain that your child with a disability has a large family and lots of friends, and you will ask them all to boycot the store until it makes an effort to let everybody in.
    Second, get yourself some “Inaccessible, Unacceptable” stickers. I have some, they are fluo orange. Very visible. And i stick them on any store window i find lacking (try to do it when no one is watching, but if i am spotted, i put my poker face on and argue my case). Shames them big time. I can’t recall where i got them, but it was a website (maybe uk?). I googled disability stickers access and found them. If you want a few to get started, email me direct.

  5. n0thingbuteverything October 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks for all your thoughts! I am actually quite sympathetic to shop owners/occupants who face challenges because of the design/structure of their shop. My real beef with this store (and stores like it) is that they could EASILY rectify this problem by just better arranging their stock!!!

    And I hear you Bron. I know they are trashy shops! But there are always a few little things I but that I’m not looking for long term life spans or good quality ;-), just cheap and cheery ;-)

    Love the idea of the stickers Heike. Will look into those ;-).

    And I will be back another day to post more. I am hoping to get some interesting further info in the following days regarding local council responsibility in this area!

  6. terriblepalsy October 22, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    No uniform legislation but there are guidelines and best practice. Problem is no-one strives for best practice anymore. Sigh.

    On a positive note, although the major department shops in recent years have been cluttering isles, i have noticed that some majors (like target and kmart) have widened their isles lately – a sign of things to come? I can only hope.

  7. karamelissa October 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Thankfully I was able to get a stroller while in the states that I can lift Sebastian up and down the stairs (about 5 max) by myself. I can’t count on anyone here to offer to help really and ramps pretty much don’t exist (sidewalks either). Obviously we will have to move to a more accessible country in general when Sebastian gets older, so it’s really great for me to read posts like this so I can be prepared to fight back to places where there should be access. The way the shop keeper handled the situation was rude, and no matter what accessibility issues the store had, her demeanor should have been helpful not gruff.

  8. Gina October 23, 2009 at 2:01 am #

    Oh, Di and Bron, totally unrelated – these shops are often the BEST for art & craft supplies. We get all our Monte Marte brand stuff from the cheap store in town – runs rings around Spotlight.

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