Guest Blog – ‘Are you alright dear?’

‘Are you alright dear?’

One wheelchair user’s experience of customer service

As a wheelchair-user, running my own successful company and with a hectic daily schedule, my frustration with the way I’m often treated when I independently do my weekly shopping has compelled me to write about disability awareness in the world of high street retail.

Don’t talk to the chair – it doesn’t talk back you know!

I am always tense when entering a shop, knowing that an assistant will undoubtedly rush towards me kindly offering me assistance and sometimes assuming that they can talk down to me. I may be perfectly capable, enjoying my independence and browsing like any other shopper. Yet the need to sometimes patronise is never far away. ‘Are you alright, dear?’ will soon be heard.

I’d rather not be referred to as ‘dear’, nor ‘darling’, is this just because I’m in a Wheelchair perhaps? I would just like to be an ordinary shopper, selecting and purchasing my goods, the same as everybody else. If I required help or assistance I would ask, obviously top shelves can pose a great problem!

Depriving independence

If I need a carer to help I would have brought one with me! Please don’t deny me my independence if I have shown no indication of needing help, please don’t rush over, I have voice and I will use it when needing help. It would be nice if people interacted with me just the same as any other customer and offered assistance based on what I need rather than what they assume?

People with disabilities today, are educated, they enter higher education, and graduate with honours. They are sports people, competing at higher levels, actors and actresses, in business, getting married and having children, socialising in bars, restaurants and clubs, if access will allow! People are people and deserve equality.

Good customer experience

Oh! how I’ve loved my normal shopping experiences.  Whizzing in from the car park, one-handedly pushing the trolley in front of me, requiring little or no help at all. Filling my basket and staff only too happy to help through the checkout and to my car, with no reference to being called ‘dear’ or ‘darling’ just a simple ‘cheerio just the same as any other customer.

Am I being sensitive? No, I want shop till I drop just like everyone else, not making a big drama, not always requiring help, and not feeling exhausted from the tiring ‘thanks, but no thanks’ conversation.

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About the author

Daniel Williams, the director of Visualise Training Consultancy