Disabled Shopping

Cazbarr dressed in leather jeggings and jade sparkly top

Being Disabled: Should It Mean I Can’t dress nicely?

Being Disabled: Should It Mean I Can’t dress nicely? I take a look at high street clothing and adaptive clothing to see how easy it is to dress nicely as a disabled person who is also a wheelchair user.

Dressing Nicely

Finding clothes that sit right AND look nice on a person who is always in a sitting position is not an easy task. When I go out, I want to look my best. It makes me feel happy and I feel much more confident.

I enjoy coordinating my clothes, shoes and make-up. I have different styles of clothing depending on the situation I am going out for. Rock chic look for karaoke nights down the pub, jacket & trousers for when I meet with shop managers and casual for meeting up with friends.

Being Disabled: Should It Mean I Can't dress nicely?  Woman sitting on the floor posing for a fashion shot

Fashion, unfortunately, is not geared for people in wheelchairs or disabled people in general. For example, models are 90% of the time in a standing position when being photographed for magazines/websites etc. If they do happen to be in a sitting position, it’s not a natural sitting position a wheelchair user would be sitting in.

Heels of any height is a no-no for me, as transferring in/out of my chair becomes impossible, I have to stick with flat shoes (ballerina type) which can leave a lot to be desired when it comes to style/design.

I have seen some lovely dresses hanging on the rail in clothes shops but as soon as I try it on, (oh, don’t get me started on dressing/fitting rooms in these shops) it is dreadful. It all bunches up on my lap, making the dress look far too long for me and looking like it could do with a good iron. So I now know it is pretty worthless even looking at dresses when out clothes shopping.

It has taken me many years to know what will suit me as a wheelchair user. Not only because I sit down all day but because of my body shape too. It’s still not an exact science but the majority of the time I can pick up an item, look at it and know if it’s for me. Well, I say that but I still have to fit them on as sizing greatly differs from shop to shop.

High Street v Adaptive Clothing for Disabled People

Adaptive clothing, I have to admit, is not something I ever think about. I suppose this may have something to do with the fact it’s not widely advertised, therefore, when doing a clothing search online, I can honestly say, I have never seen anything to do with adaptive clothing appear in my results. I have to tell my search engine I am searching for “Adaptive Clothing” before anything will appear.

Like everything else that is sold to make “disabled people’s lives better/easier”, it can come at a very high price:

Red linen wrap skirt with velcro fastening.

This is a wrap-around red skirt, it has two pockets and is fastened with a velcro strip on the waistband. I see a couple of issues with this skirt:

  1. How strong is the velcro? Will it come undone with manoeuvring, transferring out of my chair?
  2. Anyone half decent with a needle could attach a piece of velcro themselves.
  3. HOW MUCH?? £52.50…….You are having a laugh!!

There is no way, under any circumstances would I pay £52 for a skirt, no way!!

Red wrap skirt with tie fastening

By comparison, this skirt is also a wrap-around style…..Cost? £9.00 (was £12.99). Even at full price, it’s much more affordable. At the full price, you are making a saving of £39.51, not something to be snubbed at.

The item description says: “Calf-length skirt in a softly draping viscose weave. High waist with concealed press-studs and ties at one side, a wrapover front and asymmetric hem. Unlined”. A little needlework and a piece of velcro could be put in place of press stud.

Black decorative line with swirl in the center
Pair of floral jersey pull on trousers

Ok, how is this item any different to a pair of leggings??? They say ” Fully elasticated waistband for ease of dressing”. Errm, so are all the trousers I possess that I have bought from high street retailers! Again, how are these “Adaptive”?? And you want £40 quid……No!

At the end of the day, you can wheel into any high street clothing retailer and find an identical designed item for a much cheaper price!

So, by comparison, these next two items are what I would agree are in fact “Adaptive” pieces of clothing:

Black and grey coloured tie dye leggings

These leggings may not be floral but no different from the pair above: “Made from a stretch jersey fabric for comfortable wear, they feature an elasticated waistband and finish with a tie dye print”.

The price of these are again much more affordable: £14.99

I know which pair I would purchase.

Black decorative line with swirl in the center
Adaptive navy jacket made for wheelchair users

Now this is what I would believe to be an adaptive jacket, they say:

“This very comfortable Wheelchair Jacket has been specifically designed for wheelchair users. The front of the jacket has a shorter cut to prevent it bunching up and to keep it looking stylish at all times. Similarly, the arms of the jacket are reinforced on the insides for extra strength and durability, ensuring that the Wheelchair Jacket is strong enough to cope with all the usual scuffs and abrasions that occur when self-propelling without any loss of performance”.

So the problem I mentioned about dresses bunching up at the front has been catered for and I know how sleeves can get damaged very quickly while self-propelling in a manual wheelchair.

Look at that, a reasonable price too: £16.48 Just goes to show, adaptive does not have to mean expensive!

Black decorative line with swirl in the center
Adaptive polo shirt in light blue

This is a polo shirt that the wearer can put on like a back to front jacket. Or at least that’s what I think they mean.

The description says: “Full back overlap with snaps at shoulders. This adaptive polo shirt for men completely opens up, allowing the individuals arms to be slid into the garment sleeves without ever having to raise/lower their arms or struggle with small neck openings. The back overlap is then folded over and domed/snapped into place”. 

I’m extremely disappointed that this company shows no images of how the “Adaptive” part works. Just looks like an ordinary polo shirt as it stands.

Domed/snapped?? Not sure what that means. But at the price of £76.92, I really couldn’t care less as again this is just legalised robbery!!

Black decorative line with swirl in the center
Red suede ankle boot with fleece lining and lace fastening.

I have saved the most expensive for last…..Cosyfeet pair of boots: A website: Adaptaware, directs you to Cosyfeet when looking on their site for footwear.

As I mentioned before, my feet are odd sized and shaped, therefore I normally need to buy 2 pairs of shoes to accommodate this. But bugger if I would purchase 2 pairs of these.

Ironically, if they were more reasonably priced, I would have bought a pair, I like the style of them. Unfortunately, at the wonderful price of £112.00 – £93.33 without VAT I would not even consider purchasing a pair.

Would this be classed as a VAT relief disability aid? Hmm not sure myself!

  • 100% waterproof to keep feet dry in all weathers
  • Breathable and with climate control to keep feet comfy and fresh
  • Windproof to keep feet warm and comfy
  • Water-resistant lace adjusts to fit a range of swelling
  • Roomier than it looks due to hidden-depth design
  • Seam-free toe area is ideal for problem toes
  • Lightweight sole is durable, shock-absorbing and cleated for good grip
  • Deep collar offers additional stability around the ankle
  • Comfort footbed is removable for extra depth – ideal for orthotics

The description is still leaving me with the question of how are these “adaptive”? Hang on…….Seam-free toe area? Is it just me, or does it look like the seam goes right over the toe area?. Climate control?? Are you for real? Where’s the temp knob? Hidden depth design…..Oh, this must be like the “luggage” in Terry Pratchett books.

Conclusion

It would seem that some items described as “Adaptive” are truly adaptive and would benefit many disabled people but…As with all aspects of life, it would also seem that some companies are trying to “cash in” on the £259 Billion spending power of disabled people by advertising some of their products as “Adaptive” when clearly it is no more adaptive than I am Lady Ga Ga!!

The prices of the majority of these products are purely legalised robbery! Do these adaptive clothing really cost this much to make? I doubt it very much. Disabled people have much more to pay out for in comparison to ableds, yet still, companies who advertise to help make disabled’s lives easier, do this by fleecing us! In turn, making our financial lives much harder to impossible!!

Some of these products can be bought from many high street shops and with a little alteration, can be “Adaptive”. Yes, I’m aware not all people can do this (physically) I for one. The question is, would it be cheaper to purchase high street product and pay someone to make alterations, or purchase the “Adaptive” product??

As a disabled person, of course, I would love my daily life to be easier but I’m just not willing to pay the kind of prices that are being asked from some, of these adaptive clothing. Shoes are my nemesis, I have one foot that swells up much more than the other. Depending on style/sizing, I have to buy two pairs of shoes so I can have one of the shoes in the next size up needed for me to wear them. Boots? Well, I’ve given up trying to find a nice pair of those for wintertime. I really like the boots above but will not pay that price.

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Prices/information correct at the time this blog went live. (I have no affiliation with any third parties I may have linked to.)

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Hands holding a piece of paper with VAT at the top and coins and paper money in the background

Are You VAT Exempt?

Did you know, as a disabled person, you may be exempt from having to pay VAT on certain items?? Neither did I!! According to Gov.uk website:

If you’re disabled you’ll generally have to pay VAT on the things you buy, but VAT relief is available on a limited range of goods and services for disabled people.

VAT relief that may be available if you’re buying goods because of your disability.

Source: Gov.uk

You’ll only be able to have eligible goods VAT-free if you’re chronically sick or disabled and the goods are for your personal or domestic use. You do not need to be registered disabled or eligible for any other benefit to qualify for VAT-free goods.

Goods you can buy VAT-free

This section has information on the goods you can buy VAT-free because of your disability including:

  • medical and surgical appliances
  • invalid wheelchairs and mobility scooters
  • equipment to aid the hard of hearing, and low vision aids
  • specialist beds, chair and stair lifts, rise and recline chairs and other lifting equipment and sanitary devices
  • goods that have been designed solely for disabled people
  • computer equipment
  • emergency alarm call systems
  • boats
  • parts and accessories


You can hire or lease eligible goods VAT-free if you’re disabled.

Your retailer or other supplier is responsible for checking if the goods are eligible to sell VAT-free.

Medical and surgical appliances

You’ll not have to pay VAT when you buy medical or surgical appliances that are designed solely for the relief of a severe abnormality or severe injury such as amputation, rheumatoid arthritis, learning difficulties or blindness.

Appliances that can be bought VAT-free include:

  • invalid wheelchairs
  • certain types of mobility scooters
  • leg braces
  • neck collars
  • oxygen concentrators
  • specialist clothing
  • specialist footwear
  • wigs

Items that you cannot buy VAT-free include bandages, plasters or other wound dressings and dentures (unless you buy them from a dentist or other dental care professional).

For full information, please visit: www.gov.uk

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Stacked shopping baskets in blue, red and green colours

Is Your Shopping Basket Accessible?

My local Asda only offers the wheelie baskets shown here:

I suppose under normal circumstances, these would do nicely but what if you’re in a wheelchair?  I find these impossible to use for a few reasons:  

  1. Not easy to steer around the store and manoeuvre your own chair.
  2. When at checkout, I’m unable to reach into the basket as it sits on the floor.
  3. Or they are too big and clumsy to put on your lap.


So I contacted Asda via Twitter and to my surprise, they responded: “Thank you for getting back to us! The store manager has advised as they are only a supermarket they only get wheely baskets, however, he has put in a request for the regular baskets! Fingers crossed the baskets will be available soon”. 

This is great if it happens!  I will keep you updated.

One thing bugs me though in their reply.  They say because they are only a supermarket they get wheely baskets???  Is that not what supermarkets do??  Supply shopping baskets for their customers??

***UPDATE*** 23/3/19

This store now have many baskets that I can use on my lap……..Result!!!!

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Woman shaded all in black holding up two dresses, one pink, one black

Fashion Sitting Down!

Someone on Twitter was talking about having some mannequins sitting down in fashion shops to help people in wheelchairs see how clothing would look while in a sitting position.

I personally love this idea and feel it would be a massive leap forward in the fashion industry.  I have bought too many bits of clothing and found them to look completely different in a sitting position as they do in a standing position.  There are many factors a wheelchair user has to take into account when purchasing clothing:

  • Trousers – How high do they come up the back, are they hipsters?  Are they buttoned/zipped/elastic waist – Some of us can only wear elasticated waist.
  • Skirts – Will the hem hang too far down and catch on my wheels?
  • Sleeves – Are they going to get destroyed by my wheels too quickly?

So, to be able to answer these questions before purchasing an item of clothing, taking it home to try it on (as not all of us are capable of using the changing rooms) then find it’s no good and have to make another trip back to the shop to return said item, would be a massive achievement!!

Yes, obviously there are some mannequins that are sitting down but, is there enough?  I don’t think there is.  We need these to be commonplace, like the wheelchair.

Don’t you agree??

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Argos self checkout machines too high

Argos say “Good height for wheelchair users”.

26/11/18 – Argos self-checkout machines too high for wheelchair users.

Argos self checkout machines too high

So I emailed Argos regarding their recently installed self-checkout machines.

This is what Argos had to say,”

I know your concern was about the height of the Quick Pay Kiosks. Having investigated further, it seems that the design of the kiosks is historic and none of the current designers know where the guidance was consulted at the time.

We are however aiming to ensure that new designs are more inclusive and I am working closely with the Store Format teams to ensure moving forward this is the case. We are also trialling other technology where you can browse for products and pay on the same terminal and these are more accessible. However, there will always be aspects of Argos stores that are not accessible for every customer, and when it occurs, our colleagues are always happy to assist (which is of course something Argos is required to do under the Equality Act 2010)”.

Hmm, she says the new terminals where you can browse and pay (presumably the ones pictured above) are more accessible.  Not quite sure about that!

I’m in a pretty high seated wheelchair and you can see below, the touchscreens are too high for me to use, it is above my head!  For a disabled person like myself who is unable to raise their arms past chest level and doesn’t have very good dexterity, this becomes an impossible task.  Now, remember, you have to pump in numbers or the name of the item you wish to browse/pay for on this screen.  Gonna take some time I reckon!  Yes indeed, staff may be required to assist under the EA 2010 but try finding one in the Hounslow branch! 

Cazbarr sat next to Argos self checkout machines

Argos said in a further email, replying to my email with a few suggestions:

“I went around one of our stores on Friday in a wheelchair (before your email came through) just to try to get a view of the barriers in store for wheelchair users, albeit it was the Liverpool Belle Vale store that has just been refitted with the Pay at Browse device. While it is a good height for a wheelchair user, the screen while lower than the kiosk that you mentioned, may well present an issue to a user who can’t reach higher than chest level. We will need to give some thought to how we make sure a wheelchair user can get close enough to the screen e.g. get their knees under the desk and still have the screen and the pay point within easy reach”.

Now I’m really not sure what machines she is talking about as it seems she has mentioned several.  As she mentioned the Liverpool branch has just been refitted with the new machines, I can only assume she is indeed talking about the ones pictured above.  Now, this being the case, how on earth can it be concluded these are a good height for wheelchairs??  You would definitely need to reach up past your head.  

The plus side is, Argos haven’t completely disregarded my comments or even my suggestions.  They do say they will give some thought on how to improve things, this is definitely a plus for Argos.

So now the waiting game and in the meantime, I still can’t go shopping independently!!!! 

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

***UPDATE*** 27/11/19 – Argos self-checkout machines too high for wheelchair users.

Lowered counter with new argos self checkout machines

Argos have been true to their word!! They have indeed installed new LOWER machines in their Hounslow store. I was in the store last week and found these lowered machines to be much easier to use. Unfortunately, the machine at the lowered counter meant for wheelchair users wasn’t working. (I did report this).

The only slight issue is the fact if you’re not careful, you could very well hit your knees on the bottom of the machine. Other than that though, I say, good job Argos.

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Purple Tuesday £249 bn written in white against a purple square

Purple Tuesday, is it worth it?

14/11/18

Purple Tuesday has been and gone!  Did you go shopping?  Or did you stay at home because of the rumours that the DWP will be given CCTV footage so they can use it against claimants?  Yes, that’s right CCTV has in the past been given to the DWP for this purpose and guess who from?  Sainsbury’s!!

According to Disability News, they say:  

“Purple, the social enterprise formerly known as Essex Coalition of Disabled People, has secured the support of DWP for next week’s Purple Tuesday event but has denied that there is any “hidden agenda”.

Tuesday’s (13 November) event has also secured at least 14 high-profile partners, including retailers M&S, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Argos, and shopping centre owners such as intu and Landsec.

One of the partners, intu – which owns and runs shopping centres across the country – today (Thursday) refused to promise not to pass CCTV footage from the event to DWP, while Sainsbury’s has refused to answer questions.

But Disability Labour, which represents disabled people who are members of the Labour party – but is independent of the party itself – has called for a boycott of the event.

It has raised fears that those companies taking part could pass CCTV pictures from the day to DWP to use against disabled people who have made benefit claims.

It highlighted how Sainsbury’s has previously admitted that it occasionally passes CCTV pictures to DWP”.


Scary stuff that this can happen and the fact companies are willing to abuse their use of CCTV so willingly and feel they don’t have to “comment” on that fact, or be accountable!!!  I’m not going to debate about whether or not CCTV is good or bad but I never liked the fact that it was forced onto us, the public without consent or consultation.

So the purpose of Purple Tuesday was what exactly?  If you visit the Purple Tuesday website, this is what they say:  “The aim of Purple Tuesday is to make customer-facing businesses more aware of these opportunities and challenges and inspire them to make changes to improve the disabled customer experience over the long term”. Their slogan:  The UK’s first accessible shopping day!  Is in itself very confusing.  It suggests it is the very first day all retailers are going to be accessible!!  Eerr….No!  So straight away it is misleading.  PT was meant to highlight the difficulties disabled people have while out shopping and retailers were supposed to make a pledge to change at least one thing to help with accessibility.  Will it work?  I doubt that very much.  It was one day, on the quietest day of the shopping week.  Once the event is over, we will be forgotten again!  Over the next few days, I intend to go to my local high street & shopping centre and ask how they thought the event went.  I bet quite a lot of retailers will ask, what event was that?

A few retailers have been mentioned that are supporting PT but no real information regarding as to what these retailers plan to change or if they will be followed up to see if any changes have been made?  Has an audit been done to see what changes needed to be made to compare to any changes that may or may not have been done??

I hate to be so downhearted about this event because if it works, it will be a milestone movement for disabled people.  I, unfortunately, don’t believe this event will make the slightest change whatsoever.  I’ve had to contact the same company twice regarding access issues, so what does that tell you about how serious retailers are about accessibility?

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