Sadly, I have not wrote as much as I have wanted to due to so many other commitments, however, today I just had to find the time to write this piece and within this piece: I pose two questions, question 1: why are we seen as gimmicks? 2: when will shopping centres, town centres and all public areas become truly disability friendly?
I have seen a rise in shopping centres offering ‘autism friendly hour’ or ‘anxiety hour’, for those how do not know what it is, it is where shopping centres turn down the music and the lights are dimmed to create a more relaxing experience. However, shopping centres usually trial this once and it is never heard of again and what is even more insulting is that it always occurs at awkward times, usually at 8-9 in a morning or 9-10 at night. What are they saying? Are they saying that people with sensory conditions are only allowed at these times and should be locked away when ‘everybody else’ comes out? It is an awful message to suggest. What is even more frustrating is that this shows the shopping centres are capable, so why can’t they offer this service all the time? Everybody can cope without loud music and less intense lights, however, not everybody can cope with the opposite. It is so easy, why not make shopping a truly inclusive experience that all can enjoy. are we seen as gimmicks?
Businesses seem to only use us to look like the ‘good guys’, to look like they are being supportive and doing the ‘right thing’ , If they truly cared about their customers with disabilities, they would adopt supportive measures all day, every day! (all views are my own!)
The reason I am writing this is because now it is Christmas, I am finding it increasingly hard to go out and shop. I went to my local city centre today and because they offer a Christmas market, it is extremely busy to the point where I felt physically and mentally drained trying to cope with the crowds, even feeling a little dizzy at times. It is the same story every year, they allow a Christmas market to fill the high street and the council knows how busy this makes the city centre, yet they offer no extra benches and no quiet places to help those of us who find it overwhelming. I look around and I think people with severe anxiety, Dyspraxia, sensory conditions and autism would not cope, there is no chance!
I have dyspraxia and anxiety and most days I would not cope, today was somewhat of an exception! The shopping centre was also full and again, nowhere for people to take 10 minutes to relax. I couldn’t even hide in the toilets as the queues were horrendous! One shopping centre close to me temporarily used an empty shop to create an environment for people with anxiety chance to escape the crowds and while that is fantastic, again that is temporary.
It is getting to the point where I will not be able to go the shops at my local city centre as I know it is not for me, I will not be included for. If physical difficulties were not catered for, there would be uproar (and rightly so!) but those of us who are neurodivergent are just expected to get on with it. Society seems to think we have chosen our fate. Not only was the high street hustling and bustling but lately more and more shops are hiring DJs that are blasting out extremely loud music, I walked past 3 of these stores today. It was too much, I felt like a failure because I could not cope, and it was all too much. For the sake of some music and no quiet areas, thousands of people like me will feel the same, they will feel like they are a burden, like they are a failure because they cannot cope with a trip to the shops!
If this story resonates with you, please write to your shopping centre, tell them what your last visit was like for you, offer suggestions on how they can improve your experience and together, maybe, just maybe we can make a difference.