Access – Independent Living

Picture of Bathmavathi Krishnan shopping for groceries

Bathmavathi Krishnan literally wheels her way into a hypermarket to do her shopping. She is a wheelchair-user but that has never been an issue when she shops at Tesco in Shah Alam. Not only are there ample parking spaces for PWDs, the staff too is just as helpful,  lugging her shopping bags to the car. She shares here one such experience.  THERE are times when one has to shop alone. I was in such a situation recently when my domestic helper ran off, leaving me all alone to attend to matters at hand, one of which included shopping for groceries. What appeared challenging for me was to be shop at venues which are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs)

I’m a wheelchair-user and if you are like me, you will better understand the challenges that stand in our way when it comes to seeking accessibility. In my many years of shopping for groceries I have wheeled in and out of several shopping malls. But the one that has struck a chord with me is Tesco hypermarket because it has given an extra thought to wheelchair access in their premise.

For me, the nearest Tesco to ply is the one in Shah Alam as it is a mere 20 minutes drive from my house in Petaling Jaya.  Since I work on a freelance- basis, I have the luxury of choosing when to shop. However, for my peace of mind, I usually go shopping on weekdays when the crowd is not there and I have the freedom of wheeling my way around freely.

Shopping made easy

Left on my own, with no one having to wait for me and in my own space and time, I felt so at ease and comfortable during my inaugural shopping there.

While I have shopped in several hypermarkets in the city, unlike them, this one greeted me warmly. It is ‘different’. The ambience was so soothing and the display of goods and wares are superbly inviting. You do not have to hunt around from aisle to aisle to locate whatever it is you are searching for. The neatly arranged rows have brightly coloured signages that literally prompt you to recall immediately what you have come there for. All items are clearly stacked in designated areas easily identifiable by the very practical signages.

Yes, the signages on the floor are a boon to wheelchair- users. From a sitting position it is easier to look down at close range on what is available at that aisle as one wheels along, rather than having to strain the neck to read from hanging signs. However, the hanging signs are useful for locating items from a distance. The aisles are also wide enough for a two-way traffic which allows the able-bodied shoppers carting trolleys and wheelchair shoppers to move about comfortably.

Although there are these cute ‘downsized’ shopping trolleys available, it is no simple task trying to manoeuvre it with one hand while propelling a manual wheelchair with the other hand. It would help if a way is found to enable us to harness such trolleys to our wheelchairs. But while waiting for that to happen, I in the meantime have come up with an alternative – I get a plastic shopping basket and place it on the floor at a strategic position. I then fill it by fetching my items, going to and fro the different sections – this may appear like a telematch if only the action is hastened!  Once the basket is full, I will go get another one.

 

Picture of disabled parking lots at Tesco
Accessible parking lots at TESCO

Parking convenient

I was elated to discover during my first visit there on how enjoyable it was to shop at Tesco.   For PWDs who drive, parking is always a big worry for us as often times the parking lots reserved for disabled people are conveniently ‘stolen’ by the able-bodied motorists.

However, in Tesco’s case, the parking at its outlet in Shah Alam is very convenient. There is ample choice. You can park at one of the wheelchair designated areas just yards away from the main entrance or in the covered area which is also provided for free. The main as well as the side entrance doors from the covered area are convenient to wheel through as they are sensor activated.

Before I get on with the business of shopping, my routine is to indulge in a cuppa and a quick bite at one of the eateries on the ground floor. This quick meal helps to top up my energy for the wheeling laps that await me. Once done, I am off upstairs to the hypermarket via a lift .

THERE are times when one has to shop alone. I was in such a situation recently when my domestic helper ran off, leaving me all alone to attend to matters at hand, one of which included shopping for groceries. What appeared challenging for me was to be shop at venues which are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs)

I’m a wheelchair-user and if you are like me, you will better understand the challenges that stand in our way when it comes to seeking accessibility. In my many years of shopping for groceries I have wheeled in and out of several shopping malls. But the one that has struck a chord with me is Tesco hypermarket because it has given an extra thought to wheelchair access in their premise.

For me, the nearest Tesco to ply is the one in Shah Alam as it is a mere 20 minutes drive from my house in Petaling Jaya.  Since I work on a freelance- basis, I have the luxury of choosing when to shop. However, for my peace of mind, I usually go shopping on weekdays when the crowd is not there and I have the freedom of wheeling my way around freely.

Shopping made easy

Left on my own, with no one having to wait for me and in my own space and time, I felt so at ease and comfortable during my inaugural shopping there.

While I have shopped in several hypermarkets in the city, unlike them, this one greeted me warmly. It is ‘different’. The ambience was so soothing and the display of goods and wares are superbly inviting. You do not have to hunt around from aisle to aisle to locate whatever it is you are searching for. The neatly arranged rows have brightly coloured signages that literally prompt you to recall immediately what you have come there for. All items are clearly stacked in designated areas easily identifiable by the very practical signages.

 

 

YesSignages on the floor useful for wheelchair usersthe signages on the floor are a boon to wheelchair- users. From a sitting position it is easier to look down at close range on what is available at that aisle as one wheels along, rather than having to strain the neck to read from hanging signs. However, the hanging signs are useful for locating items from a distance. The aisles are also wide enough for a two-way traffic which allows the able-bodied shoppers carting trolleys and wheelchair shoppers to move about comfortably.

Although there are these cute ‘downsized’ shopping trolleys available, it is no simple task trying to manoeuvre it with one hand while propelling a manual wheelchair with the other hand. It would help if a way is found to enable us to harness such trolleys to our wheelchairs. But while waiting for that to happen, I in the meantime have come up with an alternative – I get a plastic shopping basket and place it on the floor at a strategic position. I then fill it by fetching my items, going to and fro the different sections – this may appear like a telematch if only the action is hastened!  Once the basket is full, I will go get another one.

Fish, prawns etc

I had avoided going to wet markets ever since I became a wheelchair-user 32 years ago, simply because the thought of the slippery, messy floors frightened me. But here at Tesco, I had the wonderful opportunity to select items by myself from the wet market section. Shopping for fresh fish, touching and selecting them was deja-vu, bringing back memories of days when I could walk and used to go to the wet markets. To avoid touching them with my bare hands which I needed to keep clean to propel my wheelchair, I use the thin plastic packing bags as gloves while touching, handling and feeling the fish, prawns and squids to determine their freshness.

 

Convenient shopping for seafood and vegetables

Helpful Tesco staff

Once I am done, I seek the help of any Tesco staff, they are friendly and ever willing to be of assistance. They will take my baskets to the payment counter where I settle the bill. Then another staff  will assist me by carting my bags in a trolley to the car park. While I get in and load my wheelchair into my car, the staff will help load my purchases  into the boot.

For perishable stuff like fish it is placed in two layered bags and kept in front on the car floor with the air- conditioner switched on to prevent the fish from rotting.

My shopping done within 90 minutes, I take off, heading home with my two- weeks supply of food stuff. Having accomplished one task which I in no way consider a chore, I feel relaxed and am overcome by a sense of satisfaction that is no less  therapeutic.

 

Challenges Magazine Vol1 Issue4, 2008  (Challenges Magazine is a journalism skills training project for persons with disabilities started in 2007)