Thursday, March 4, 2010

Universal Design Observations from the Grocery Store

Insight from the Grocery Store: The shopping experience is not designed for people in wheelchairs. It's not an inclusive, universal design.

Observations from co-shopping with Cheryl, a woman in a wheel chair that I met at Biggs after watching her struggle:
#1: Cheryl couldn't see above the 3rd shelf. If she wanted something from the 4th shelf she needed someone to help her.
#2: Luckily there's an electric wheel chair shopping cart. However when it's time to place the items from the cart on the conveyor belt at check out, Cheryl struggled. She didn't have the strength or reach to move a small bag of cat food onto the belt.
#3: Similar to the check out experience, Cheryl couldn't place her grocery bags in the trunk of her car. Regardless of weight (she asked for them to put just a few items in each bag), her bumper was too deep so she couldn't get close enough to her trunk. When she tried to put a bag in the trunk, it ended up hitting the floor.
#4: Grabbing an apple is like asking to play 52 card pick up. For those not in wheel chairs, we tend to grab an apple that is placed in a path of least resistance. But Cheryl could only reach the apple on the bottom of pile...then about 15 more apples came rolling down.

I could go on and on. Luckily I was there to help Cheryl. I let her do as much as she could because she wanted to feel independent and empowered. I helped where I could. It was painful to watch.

I ask that you reach out to and offer to help someone who clearly would appreciate your assistance. If they turn you down, that's fine. But at least you offered.


  1. this is a great post

    thank you

    and i ask people who do not have handicapped stickers to NOT park in handicapped spots in parking lots

    as someone who has an uncle who has been in a wheelchair since his teenage years due to muscular dystrophy, this is a huge pet peeve of mine

    those of us who are able should be parking as far as possible from the store and walking to get in our exercise! - there's no excuse for being lazy AND inconsiderate

  2. Agreed Julia. There's no excuse for that!