Coventry City Centre takes steps to become more disability-friendly

Access to and the shopping experience in the city centre for those with a disability is set to improve.

A new Disability Shoppers Charter recognising the importance and needs of customers with disabilities was launched in Coventry last week.

The Disability Equality Action Partnership (DEAP), constituted by the Council, is made up of the Council and disability organisations, universities, schools and colleges and individuals with disability.

The DEAP has teamed up with the Coventry Business Improvement District (Cov BID) to improve access to and the shopping experience in the city centre for those with disability.

The new Disability Shopping Charter outlines commitments including: recognising the ‘purple pound’ as a valuable source of income to the shops; introducing personal shoppers and staff training where possible; accessible toilets in stores with automatic push buttons, sliding doors and signposting; and disability logo stickers at the entrance of shops to offer a welcoming experience.

The initiative is for businesses to acknowledge how they currently support disabled people of all ages with both visible and non-visible disabilities, and how they can assist even further.

The aim is not only to improve awareness among retailers of the difficulties faced by disabled shoppers, but to also reinforce the message that they are fully committed to putting in any measures that are both practical and possible to improve access, freedom and inclusion to city centre shopping.

While it is not a compulsory measure for all businesses to comply with the charter, many recognise that their actions are advantageous to their business in attracting more disabled customers.

Chair of the Disability Equality Action Partnership and Disability Shopping Charter Lead, Cllr Christine Thomas said: “This builds on making our city a disability friendly place and goes towards forming part of the legacy for the Year of Wellbeing and City of Culture 2021.

“Looking forward to 2021 it is important that businesses understand the value of the ‘purple pound’, and equally important that disabled persons feel included in the planning of our city.”

The Disability Shopping Charter came about in response to feedback gathered from a variety of groups, organisations and individuals with disabilities, stating more needed to be done to ensure the freedom and inclusion of all persons with disability across the city.

Director of Public Health and Wellbeing at Coventry City Council, Liz Gaulton said: “The new Disability Shoppers Charter marks an important commitment by Coventry, to making community shopping accessible for all.

“Small changes matter and can have an enriching impact on the life of a disabled person, both from an accessibility point of view and in terms of their mental wellbeing”.

Director of the Coventry Business Improvement District, Trish Willets said: “This is about showing that we are a city that cares, but this is only the first stage (Phase 1) in making our city centre more disability-friendly.

“We will then look to review and gather feedback from the community to future proof this charter ready for 2021, so that Coventry will be at the top of the list of cities for disabled persons go shopping in and feel welcome.”

A scaled-up version of the charter will be on display in the Council House for elected members from all parties to sign up to in recognition and commitment.

special video featuring Councillor Christine Thomas, Chair of the DEAP is also available on the Coventry City Council YouTube channel, demonstrating good practice when completing shopping tasks in the city centre from the perspective of a mobility scooter user.