This half-term we have been testing the various ‘Shopmobility‘ centres, firstly in Liverpool and then in Bath. In the past we have also borrowed from Milton Keynes.
The Shopmobility scheme offers short-term loans of mobility aids, all over Britain, to enable access for those with reduced mobility, to the shopping areas around the country. A small charge or donation is usually asked for.
I had assumed that once registered with the scheme, that would be it, where ever we wanted to borrow a chair, but it transpires that each centre has its own arrangements and therefore a fresh registration is required at each place. It’s quick and easy though! If you’re planning to try it out I suggest ringing the centre the day before to book and to ask what proof they need, of who you are, and where you live. This is essentially to ensure the borrower doesn’t run off with the goods, so to speak. We took a utility bill and a passport to prove our validity.
In Liverpool we shopped mainly within the newly developed shopping areas, where smooth surfaces and ease of access have been incorporated into the design – we loaned a neat new wheelchair with a soft padded cushion to sit upon. It had 4 small wheels, which were well pumped up and a comfortable ride was reported. From the pushers point of view I found the handles were quite low compared with my height… and would have struggled with this if there had been a lot of hill pushing. As it was, there were no complaints, really. The cost was £6 and we had the chair from 11 am – 5 pm.
In Bath we picked up the chair at lunchtime. This chair was of the large-back-wheel design, again with a comfortable padded seating area, and this time with the addition of a waterproof bag to hang over the handles to transport our shopping. Again the chair was reported as comfortable, but the pavements we had to negotiate were a little more tricky, uneven and not on the flat! Not every place we needed to cross had a dropped curb and not all the shops had entrances with easy access. That was OK for us, as I am fairly strong, and our tester could get out and walk a little – but it could have been tricky! We had to get the chair back for 4:30 pm, but the charge was on an hourly basis, and we only had to pay £2! Bargain.
As we left after returning the wheelchair our tester’s eyes lit up at the sight of the mobility scooters… the electrically powered ones, to be operated by the occupant.
“Next time,” said my companion, “but perhaps you need to pass a test first?”
The assistant smiled.
“We’d give you a lesson, before we let you loose!”