London is one of the best places in the world to go shopping. People travel from all over the world to visit the capital and rightly so, it is a spectacular place at Christmas. The Christmas lights, the atmosphere and the Christmas angels hanging over the buses. It is a photographer’s heaven and a tourist destination pleasure.
As we know at this time of year, everyone is celebrating. Everyone wants to meet up with friends and family. Everyone wants to go down the pub being in the company of love ones and of course do the perilous Christmas shopping.
For me, being disabled and in a wheelchair, Christmas shopping can be a bit of a nightmare because you have a lot more people to navigate in the shops, a lot more people on public transport and so getting around can be a lot more difficult. However, it is Christmas and in the spirit of Christmas, Christmas shopping is something that I enjoy immensely, and so every year myself and my wife head down to London and do our Christmas shopping in the capital.
Like the majority of people, we always head to places like Regent Street and Oxford Street, as using the Snowball app mobile app tells me that the majority of places are reasonably accessible.
For those who don’t know, Snowball is a disability app, the equivalent to TripAdvisor for the disabled community where you can leave reviews add photos and say if you go back. It has thousands of reviews across the country and is available on Apple and Android to download. Snowball Community has over 100,000 followers on social media, and it is a great way of promoting independence all over the UK and beyond. It also uses a traffic light system ‘green for go, red for no go’ you can see from the picture the street of red.
Carnaby Street is hip, fashionable and has many independent stores for unique gifts. However, using this mobile app we found very quickly that less than 25% of places around Carnaby Street are accessible for people in wheelchairs. There are very few disabled toilets and the majority of stores were actually embarrassed that someone like myself could not get into the store. When the majority of the time it could have been resolved with a portable ramp which start at £19.99 on Amazon.
There is something called the purple pound in the UK. Stores have been hit hard by the pandemic and this year the rail strikes, shops are still in the recovery stage, and yet I have travelled specifically to London to do some Christmas shopping where I am willing to spend hundreds of pounds in one of those stores in Carnaby Street and yet I have been turned away because of the lack of access.
It is estimated that the purple pound is worth over £270 billion to the UK economy, very few companies are taking advantage of this or implementing changes to their stores to work with disabled customers, the whole area of Carnaby looks fantastic but when you get up close and personal as a disabled customer the whole place says go away, we do not want you here.
It is weird, it is a dreadful shame and a Christmas disappointment that I still cannot shop in the shops I want to or choose the presents that I want to choose because of lack of access it is diminishing. The tinsel is less sparkling and the lights look a little bit dimmer and the angels are not as bright in the sky and the majority of my Christmas shopping was done on Amazon, which was just a little over £900, sorry Carnaby you missed out.
There are 14.1million people with disabilities in the UK. One fifth (19 per cent) of working age adults are disabled. Source: Family Resources Survey 2019 to 20.
Life costs £538 more on average a month if you are disabled. Source: Scope – the disability price tag (2019).
In the UK the purple pound, the spending power of disabled people and their families, is worth £274 billion and is estimated to be rising by 14% per year. Source: Purple Tuesday.