Vitalise Accessible Shopping Survey launched.

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28th November 2014

New Vitalise study finds the UKs disabled shoppers will miss out on the thrill of Christmas Shopping and have no option but to shop online.

Wheelchair users are being deprived of the opportunity to sample the festive attractions of their local high streets due to access and security worries, a new survey by the disability charity Vitalise has found.

The Vitalise study, released on ‘Black Friday’, the busiest online shopping day of the year, found that 7 out of 10 disabled shoppers (69%) felt little or no security when paying for items at non-lowered shop counters with fixed chip & PIN machines.

At the same time, over 8 out of 10 disabled people and carers (84%) had experienced problems with the accessibility of major high street stores and over half (55%) had been subjected to negative or unwelcoming treatment from shop staff.

The lack of accessibility is forcing disabled people off the UK’s high streets and towards online shopping as their only option. Nearly 7 out of 10 respondents (69%)  said a lack of accessibility had put them off visiting the high street to do their Christmas shopping, although 9 out of 10 (89%) said they would return to the high street if they were reassured that the experience would be fully accessible, the study found.

But a lack of accessibility information on the leading stores’ websites is compounding the problem and helping to keep disabled people away from the high street, suggests Vitalise. Over 6 out of 10 respondents (61%) characterised the accessibility information about department stores and major retail chains on their websites as poor or virtually non-existent, causing 6 out of 10 (60%) to decide not to visit a major high street store or switch to a different store.

In the light of the findings, Vitalise is suggesting that high streets stores may be content to drag their feet when it comes to making accessible adaptations to their stores, as long as disabled people continue to shop with them online.

To support its case, the charity’s own research into some of the high streets leading retail brands found that nearly three quarters (74%) had absolutely no in-store accessibility info on their websites.

In the light of the research, Vitalise is urging all leading high street retailers to pay more attention to accessibility in their stores – and the information they provide online – in order to give disabled people and their carers the same choice between in-store and online shopping as everyone else.

Commenting on the charity’s survey findings, Vitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds said:

“For most of us, a trip to the high street to enjoy the lights and the festive atmosphere – and of course do some gift shopping – is one of the things that makes Christmas special. But our study has found that many disabled people are being denied this simple pleasure.

“Today is ‘Black Friday’ – the busiest online shopping day of the year, but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking all disabled people are doing their Christmas shopping online out of choice. In fact they have no choice, since the high street stores are effectively off limits to them due to poor accessibility, negative attitudes and a lack of information.

“Maybe department stores and high street chains are happy with the way things are. Maybe they would prefer it if disabled people did all their shopping with them online, so they don’t have to spend any money on accessible adaptations. Why else would they have so little information about the accessibility of their stores online?

“People with disabilities have every right to expect the same choices and opportunities as anyone else, and that includes the choice of where and how they shop. It is just wrong that the simple pleasure of a trip to the high street is being denied them.

“That’s why Vitalise is urging high street retailers to polish up their act by making their stores more accessible for people with disabilities and also providing much better accessibility information online. Stop marginalising disabled shoppers!”

To help make the UK’s high street stores more accessible, Vitalise is urging people to support #AccessNow, the charity’s campaign to enlist the support of people with disabilities in its push for urgent improvements to accessibility.

Findings of the Vitalise Accessible Shopping Survey 2014

Visiting department stores and major high street stores

  • 84% of respondents have frequently or sometimes experienced problems with the accessibility of major high street stores
  • In terms of the problems encountered, the top three were:
    • Poor layout of stock, aisles etc      72%
    • Difficulty entering the store            62%
    • Lack of lowered counters               57%
  • Over half (55%) of respondents have been treated in a negative or unwelcoming way by store staff


  • 7 out of 10 (69%) reported feeling little or no security when paying for items via chip and PIN from counters that are NOT lowered


  • In order to attract more shoppers with disabilities, the top three improvements rated ‘important or very important’ by the respondents were:
    • Easier access from outside                                    94%
    • Better overall accessibility inside              92%
    • More disability awareness training for staff        87%

Christmas Shopping

  • 69% of respondents have been put off visiting the high street to do their Christmas shopping due to concerns about a lack of accessibility


  • 89% would visit their high street stores for Christmas shopping if they you knew the experience would be fully accessible

Online shopping


  • 61% of respondents characterised the accessibility info about department stores and major high street stores on their websites as ‘poor or virtually non-existent’


  • 60% of respondents said that a lack of info about accessibility had made them decide to either not visit a major high street store or switch to a different store


  • 84% said that if major high street stores had better overall accessibility for disabled people, they would resume visiting them or visit them more

Vitalise survey of major stores’ websites

  • Of 19 of the largest department store and high street retail chains studied, 14 (74%) had no accessibility information at all about their stores on their websites

About the survey

The Survey was conducted by Vitalise via an online survey form between 14 and 26 November 2014. There were a total of 167 respondents to the survey, comprising 129 wheelchair users (77%) and 38 carers (23%).


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