You can almost feel the buzz of anticipation and excitement in the air, jolly festive music plays in the background, cheerful chatter amongst fellow shoppers fills the store, the gentle hum of the air conditioning units and persistent bleeps of the scanners.
My palms feel sticky, I dread conversation, avoiding eye contact at all cost, a thousand thoughts race my mind as I constantly look side to side and behind almost becoming overwhelmed and anxious of my surroundings. On the odd occasion I catch an assistant’s eye, panic sweeps over me as I fear I’ve misheard them and they’re cussing me in their mind.
I have lost a degree of my hearing for nearly 16 years now, shopping alone is something that is still unpleasant for me.
I try to avoid social situations and work parties in the fear of appearing stupid and thick. Im the girl at the shaded end of the table quiet and would rather not speak and join in than mishear and repetitively repeat ‘pardon?’, My hearing is a barrier that I have been ashamed of showing for so long now. And it’s time to use my experience and passion to spread awareness of the non hearing world.
Purple Tuesday is giving all retailers big or small the awareness of how important accessibility for disabilities is. Working with staff to ensure that the disabled community have an equally pleasant experience. And as cliché as it sounds, minor changes can really contribute to independence. Something we desperately seek and deserve.
Rushden Lakes has encouraged the entire complex to participate in this event and raising awareness. Majority of stores will be reducing their music (which is fantastic for the deaf community). The Rushden Lakes customer service team will be in purple for awareness of the day and easily spotted on site, so if in doubt please don’t be afraid of asking any lovely member for assistance or help with your bags!
I am so proud to work on a complex that really cares towards improving and valuing the additional needs of people with disabilities. To showcase the awareness on such a big local retail park is honestly humbling. And this could really be the start of changing the lives and empower the confidence to shop independently.
Why is shopping with Deafness difficult?
Background noise of music that is vocal is really disorienting, conversations of other shoppers can be picked up and makes it harder to concentrate on the conversation we are having, loud bleeps of scanners and air con or refrigerators is an excessive noise and high ceilings with hard flooring creates an echo and magnifies the noise – the larger the store the worse the situation is. With the excessive noise it is almost unbearable and insurmountable to carry a conversation out or even try to purchase our products, upon research majority of us that are deaf will walk out of a store or leave their purchase due to the overwhelming noise.
Loop systems still seem to be unknown and a myth, do people still use it YES. But are staff trained in knowing how to use this system to its best ability for the hard of hearing customers and where to stand?
Quite simply, No. But the loop system does not work across the entire store, so reducing background noise and training staff in deaf awareness could conquer the issue if needing to ask for help around the store.
What could help?
I believe if stores in the U.K. Could really increase their awareness of how to talk and how to engage in conversations with deaf customers, even with behaviours of deaf children it could really make the store more accessible and pleasant to visit. Making these minor changes, it could really benefit the store and customers.
To combat the popularity of online shopping which is evidently the reason for the increase of store closures across the U.K Could learn a thing or two from listening to the feedback of the disabled community, Simple adjustments of turning music down/ more preferably off, less vocal music and more instrumental music would really help during communicating with staff, good lighting to see face or lips and visual engagements, small knowledge of simple basic signs, quiet times should be welcomed across every store no matter how big or small no matter how big and successful, without your customers the stores simply couldn’t trade, staff presence to be allowed 1-1 time with customers for preferred communications, like texting/writing rather than spoken. A lot of people prefer online due to struggles or accessibility around stores for wheel chairs to navigate more freely, those with ‘can’t wait’ cards and keys are often unknown if they can use the stores accessible toilets. This should be widely allowed. There is more info online and easier to answer your questions which is a strategy of avoidance due to the barriers with in store staff.
Being a part of the deaf community, has really opened my eyes to just how much there is to learn about accessibility for disabilities in this modern day and age. Whether that is Autistic, Hearing impaired, vision impaired, mobility or physically impairments or learning disabilities we all have certain needs that are still struggling to be met in order to help us live independently lead a normal life.
The complex is also asking for our help, please let your voice be heard, whether it’s for you or for your children you’re their voice and the future depends on you!
No changes can be made if we do not shout out for our needs to be met, let the team know today your thoughts surrounding accessibility on site.
What changes would you make and why?