Shopping for that perfect outfit can be an ordeal. But for a lot of disabled people, it can be downright hellish.
In fact, many folks will opt to shop online because of the inaccessibility and ableism they often encounter in-store.
In 2014, Trailblazers, UK-based disability rights campaign, interviewed a group of 100 disabled people between the ages of 16 and 30. According to the report, three-quarters of the respondents said they feel coerced into shopping online due to the limited accessibility at stores. In fact, two-thirds said that a place’s physical accessibility determines whether they will visit it or go somewhere else.
But it’s not just accessibility that makes a shopping experience unpleasant for disabled: About half of respondents say retail workers’ attitudes dissuade them from returning to a store.
Millions of people around the world are physically disabled, which deserves better attention and awareness.
On June 26, Frances Ryan, a disability rights journalist, took to Twitter to address some of the obstacles people with disabilities deal with just to go shopping. “What would make clothes shopping more accessible for you?” she asked. “Are there any shops you particularly love for getting it right?”
Disabled fashion Twitter! What would make clothes shopping more accessible for you? Are there any shops you particularly love for getting it right? I’m interested in all types of disabilities so please shout. Thx.
— Frances Ryan (@DrFrancesRyan) June 26, 2018
Her tweet received hundreds of replies. Here’s a few of their suggestions:
1. Make fitting rooms accessible.
A lot of disabled people either use wheelchairs and/or need a relative or caretaker to help them try on clothes. Larger fitting rooms would give the space they need to figure out whether that sundress or trousers are worth buying.
In addition to creating more space, some simple adjustments could also be made: hooks to hang canes on, grab bars, and/or more seats, to help prevent toppling over when trying on things like jeans.
Yes! And more awareness among staff: I need my wife to come in with me or else I cannot put the garments on… 🤷♀️
Obviously I also need her opinion on what looks good but that’s beside the point 🤫
— Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (@JessicaOOTC) June 26, 2018
I know this but from a male’s prospective, I wish my wife could come in to help me when I try on shorts or pants so that I don’t topple over when putting it on because there are no bars to hold onto in the dressing room.
— 𝕸𝖎𝖈𝖍𝖆𝖊𝖑 𝕯. 𝕮𝖍𝖎𝖓𝖌 (@MichaelDChing) June 27, 2018
2. Lower the checkout counter.
High checkout counters can make a simple purchase extremely difficult for wheelchair users. Some stores have recognized this issue and made adjustments: The UK clothing company Primark, for example, offers a checkout counter for disabled shoppers.
Some of the young wheelchair users we work with were singing Primark’s praises – low till counters, larger changing rooms with simple doors
— Sam Hepworth (@sam_hep) June 26, 2018
3. Keep the sales floor clear of clothes or accessories.
This is something able-bodied shoppers and retail workers can help out with. If the floor’s covered with dropped clothes or boxes of product, it gets in the way of shoppers who use wheelchairs, canes, motorized shopping carts, or any other mobility device. That’s an added — and completely unnecessary — hassle.
Their only complaint was customers leaving clothes on the shop floor made it hard to wheel round the store
— Sam Hepworth (@sam_hep) June 26, 2018
4. Offering at-home try-ons for online shoppers.
Making online purchases can be anything but fruitful, since clothes often fit awkwardly or are the wrong size altogether. The return process can be hectic and stressful, too, when there are limited time periods for returns and refunds.
5. Include disabled models in advertisements and online stores.
While inclusivity is important, featuring both ambulatory and wheelchair-using disabled models provides a realistic depiction of the items available for purchase. Beyonce’s “Formation” athleisure line featured a wheelchair user in her online store — that’s how it’s done.
6. Offer more detailed descriptions of items.
Many blind and low-vision people navigate the internet using text-to-speech apps or screen readers. Providing more details — from the specific color to the style of a dress — would allow them to make more well-informed and accurate purchases.
I’m partially sighted. I was just about to say my problem with online shopping is that if there are only one or two choices they often *don’t* describe the colour and I may have to phone (f I can get through) to check if e.g. navy or black.
— StokeySue (@StokeySye) June 26, 2018
These are just a few ways that stores can make shopping a little bit easier for disabled shoppers.
But the onus is not just on companies and retail workers. It’s easy for able-bodied people to take the little things for granted, but speaking up and advocating for accessibility is something that we should all take part in.
Whether that’s by writing letters to theaters to screen movies with subtitles or suggesting a store manager add seating and grab bars in the fitting rooms, every bit of help can go a long way.
Read more: www.upworthy.com