SHOP workers and car park bosses are being urged to remember the law – and be more helpful to disabled shoppers as further measures are taken to ease the lockdown.
Heidi Turner, campaigns director at disabled motoring charity DMUK, says disabled shoppers’ additional needs have often been forgotten or ignored during the lockdown.
She said: “We have been contacted by members who have had difficulties when they are in shops, because the staff refuse to give them the assistance they require – citing health and safety concerns as the reason they cannot help at this time.
“For example, staff refusing to lift things off high shelves or provide assistance with carrying shopping to the disabled person’s car.
“This is not acceptable and retailers should put in place the provision to give assistance to disabled customers whilst still keeping their staff safe.
“We’d like to see a national policy that would exempt disabled people from queuing at retail outlets. Most retail outlets do not have the capabilities to put adjustments in place which would allow disabled people to queue, for example providing seating. A reasonable adjustment would be to let them go straight to the front.”
The charity is also concerned at the numbers of blue badge parking bays being reduced – or sometimes completely disappear – to accommodate social distancing.
Heidi said: “We understand the predicament many retailers find themselves in and they need to put in place measures that protect everybody. However, we also want to see retailers think about their disabled customers’ needs.
“Disabled parking bays are always the first to be cordoned off for construction work, temporary toilets, storage and the list goes on. Social distancing is just the latest excuse. A disabled bay is a life line to a Blue Badge holder, and without one it could mean a dramatic loss of independence.
“The removal of disabled parking bays should be a last resort. If there is no other option, the bays should be re-sited to an appropriate place in the car park, sign posted correctly and managed properly so they are kept free for genuine Blue Badge holders.”
Dave Smith, head of public affairs at the British Parking Association, said: “Parking operators should work with landowners to ensure that disabled motorists are not unfairly penalised by a reduction in designated parking bays due to social distancing requirements.
“This means continuing to meet their obligations under the Equality Act and making reasonable adjustments where necessary. It’s also important that spaces allocated for Blue Badge holders continue to be effectively monitored to ensure they are not abused”