Saffron Walden Essex Geraldine Burles

Geraldine Burles

Millions of people across England have a disability, and although sometimes it’s impossible to make somewhere accessible (old buildings with steep steps), there are options elsewhere to make places easier to navigate. Surprisingly, the most accessible city in England (Wells, Somerset) is also the smallest. Also read how to make use of disability benefits and make places more dog-friendly.

The big supermarkets often boast of ‘free 2-hour parking’ in order to help support community shops and cafes (after your ‘big shop’). But disabled people (and their carers) likely would be fined after shopping and enjoying a cup of tea nearby, if they didn’t arrive back in time. And many councils still charge disabled drivers for parking. If you have a strong case that you were late back with an elderly relative (or dog) it’s worth appealing a parking fine. This is because there is a ’10-minute government grace period’.

we need more accessible public bathrooms

Enter places you wish to travel at AccessAble to find information including accessible public bathrooms. Many towns don’t offer enough (or don’t make them accessible for elderly and disabled visitors). So many vulnerable people stay at home (or drink less water, leading to dehydration).

A £5 Radar key is a worthwhile investmenet, as it lets you into accessible toilets nationwide. Another idea is to use a Uribag (possibly free on the NHS, ask your GP). This little latex canister is a portable urinal for men (just pee, empty on the kerb, then wash at home to use again). The female version is designed for bedbound patients.

Other options are Shewee (pee without undressing) which also makes QeeZee (an easy-to-recycle vomit bag, just seal and dispose of in the bin).  Popaloo (ideal for churchyards and allotments) uses dry powder in a biodegradable bag that turns to gel on use. Natsol composting toilets are modern, hygienic and affordable, and accessible for everyone.

how to make indie shops more accessible

If your small shop is up a steep flight of stairs down a narrow cobbled street, you’re going to not be able to do much. But don’t think that you can’t still serve the local community. Here are a few ideas:

Offer foot or bicycle home delivery. If customers live nearby, deliver yourself (or hire someone) to deliver to those unable to visit in person. In the US, DoorDash employs people to earn good income by walking or cycling orders in local towns. They receive activation kits (food-warming bags, hand sanitiserse and facial masks) and keep all the tips.

Install a doorbell! Ask disabled customers to ring the doorbell and answer, just like you would at home. You can then take orders, your customers can go for a cuppa somewhere, and return for their groceries later on. Keep a tab, take the cash or bring the cash machine to the door.

Set up an online shop. This happened during the pandemic lockdown, when small shops realised people loved to support small shops, so simply ordered online. Code & Coconut themes (run on self-hosted WordPress) includes compatibility for free plugins to add a simple online shop.

Make your shop more accessible. Remove floor clutter (this also helps prevent ‘hidden corners’ to prevent theft. Don’t stuff counter areas full of clutter, as people in wheelchairs need space to write cheques etc.

Buy a good quality portable ramp, so people in wheelchairs can navigate small steps to your shop. This post offers good guidelines on correct width and height of ramps (that are safe and easy to use).

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