Purple Tuesday is an international call to action, focused on changing the customer experience for disabled people. Organisations of all sizes and from all sectors are encouraged to take decisive, practical actions to meet the needs of disabled customers and make the customer experience accessible.

Diana Morgan from Bristol Shopmobility has written a guide to an accessible day out in Bristol with a twist; written as a story of two people who want to spend a day shopping and socialising in Bristol. In the story one is disabled and uses mobility equipment and the other is non-disabled. The story, whilst offering some great tips and suggestions on where to go in Bristol, also serves to highlight the very different experience that a disabled and non-disabled person might have.

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Girls Who Shop in Bristol – with an electric wheelchair!

Chloe is a non-disabled young woman and Debs is her disabled friend.

It’s time to set off for Bristol, so Chloe grabs her bag and keys and quickly heads for the car.

Debs can’t get her powerchair in Chloe’s car so stops to think; should she take the bus and hope there’s a space in the wheelchair area? Or try to get an accessible rear entry taxi capable of taking electric wheelchairs which are often quite scarce? Or is there a third option?

Decision made, they’ll use Bristol Shopmobility. Debs transfers into Chloe’s car, leaves the wheelchair at home and off they go. They park in Cabot Circus car park where there is a Shopmobility unit which hires out equipment for those with mobility impairments to get around. They park outside the Shopmobility unit in one of the many disabled spaces available and a powerchair is brought out for Debs. The charge for the equipment is only £1.50 an hour and up to five hours parking is free.

They decide on some retail therapy first, Bristol Shopping Quarter has lots of very accessible shops without steps at their entrances which is great for Debs, but something which Chloe wouldn’t even have to think about. There are plenty of lifts in Cabot Circus and The Galleries, so they can spend time browsing the shops on all levels.

They enjoy browsing the shops, but sometimes Debs struggles to get through some narrow aisles of merchandise.

They make a quick visit to the excellent accessible toilets in Cabot Circus, which have a hoist and plenty of facilities for disabled visitors. Debs always makes sure she has her radar key with her, which opens the accessible toilets.

Debs also has a link on her phone for AccessAble, who provide details of the accessibility of many buildings and places to visit in Bristol.

A visit to changing rooms in any of the shops can sometimes be interesting – and Debs really appreciates changing areas with clear access free of boxes or hanging rails and room to manoeuvre her powerchair.

The girls go to Primark to load up on the T-shirts and it’s great as Debs doesn’t have to negotiate the long crocodile queues but can take her powerchair to the separate till near the entrance to the queue lines.

Where to eat and drink

Some of Deb’s favourite accessible places for food include The New Room, which is very accessible and the Commercial Rooms on Corn Street which has very good ramps.

Another place which Debs likes to visit is M Shed which has facilities for people with varying disabilities, not only is it accessible for those with mobility impairments but also has aids such as ear defenders available to borrow, and some tactile exhibits. They have a great café there too.

Wapping Wharf is just behind M Shed and has nice views across the harbour with lots of restaurants and shops, not all are accessible but there is a lot of choice and there is a lift to the upstairs units.

Generally, Bristol is a great place for getting around in a powerchair and Debs has a lovely day out with her friend. All it takes to make a great day out for Debs is a little thought from shops and restaurants about their layout and customer service, then Debs is happy to spend her Purple Pound with them.

The point of Purple Tuesday is to raise awareness of the issues and encourage positive change, not just for one day. If you work in retail, hospitality or are customer facing please give some time to learn about how you can help to make Deb’s day out more like Chloe’s – carefree and independent.

To learn more about Shopmobility and Accessible Bristol please take a look at our dedicated website section here

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