We all know that shopping can be hard on your feet, and on your wallet. But whether it’s out of necessity, or enjoyment, going to the shops is something we all either have to do, or want to do.
Online shopping is great, but it doesn’t completely replace the bright lights, and colourful displays in actual physical shops.
A shopping trip with friends can be a social occasion.
Picking a gift for someone special is often better done in person.
And if you’re feeling a bit down, getting out and just buying yourself a little something can be immensely cheering. I like to go to a make-up counter for a free make-over, and to try some new perfume. I find it gives me an instant lift.
Shopmobility is a great aid to a shopping expedition, and there are a number of different schemes at major shopping venues and town centres.
This is a guide to using Shopmobility for those who have never given it a go.
Even though I have three scooters of my own, I do still use a Shopmobility scheme in a large out of town shopping centre where I visit once or twice a month. I
like to go shopping on my own, and using Shopmobility is easier for me than getting my scooter in and out of the car when I have no help.
Also, my own scooter once broke down when I was shopping, leaving me stranded. I like the reassurance of having staff on hand if I should run into any problems whilst I’m shopping.
The scooter I hire through Shopmobility is larger than the one I can transport in my car, so it is more comfortable. This is a real consideration as I usually stay for several hours, incorporating lunch and coffee breaks into my shopping trip. It also gives more space to carry all my shopping!
Another advantage is that I can book a larger car parking space near the Shopmobility office.
There are lots of disabled parking bays at the shopping centre, but on some days they do fill very quickly.
I don’t have to worry when I’ve pre-booked a space with Shopmobility.
What exactly is Shopmobility?
Basically, Shopmobility is a service that helps anyone with mobility problems to continue to get around shopping areas (or town centres), independently.
It achieves this by loaning out mobility equipment.
Who can use Shopmobility?
Schemes are open to anyone who considers themselves to have mobility problems. This could be through illness, accident, injuries.
You do not have to be registered as a disabled person, be in receipt of certain disability benefits, or be a blue badge holder to register and use the scheme.
It’s open to people with long-term or short-term problems.
What sort of equipment do Shopmobility schemes offer?
Equipment availability can depend upon the scheme. But most schemes will offer:
- Manual wheelchairs
- Electric wheelchairs
- Mobility scooters (and they will have different models, to accommodate a wide range of users)
- Portable hearing loops
How do I access the scheme?
Most Shopmobility schemes will require you to register with them. This is usually a simple process, you fill in a form about the type of equipment that you want to borrow, and provide some ID to prove who you are.
When I registered, it was enough to show them my driving licence, as that is picture ID. There were a range of options for ID purposes though, for example, passports, recent utility bills, a letter from a Government department such as HMRC or the pensions service.
You may have to provide a small, passport type photograph, this is so they can issue you with a registration card. Once this is done, it makes it easy to book equipment next time you need it.
Most schemes charge a small annual fee, which helps to cover their costs. I paid £5.00 to join for a year.
And then every time I hire a scooter it costs £2.00. But I can have the scooter all day if I want.
Some schemes do put a time limit on hire, this is to allow the maximum number of people to access the equipment across the day.
Do I receive any training to use the equipment?
Yes, you will be shown how to use the equipment, and can have a go before you are ‘let loose’ on the unsuspecting shoppers!
You will also be given health and safety advice. For example, not carrying children on the scooter with you. Not going too fast in pedestrian areas. Common sense really, but useful to know.
I had to undertake a small driving test before I could take the scooter out on my own. This was really simple. I had to drive along a path which had been painted onto a section of the car park. Then I had to go around a roundabout, come back, and reverse the scooter into a parking space. Bit daunting if you’d never used one before, but you get a chance to have a go before you undertake the test. And no-one at my local Shopmobility has ever failed the test, so it’s not something to worry about!
What do I do if I’m planning a shopping trip?
Once you’ve registered, it’s easy to book your equipment. You just ring up a day or two before, and book your equipment for a specific time.
When you arrive, your equipment is ready for you. You pay the small hire fee, and off you go.
When I book I also book a car parking space (not available at all schemes), and then I walk from my car to the Shopmobility office using my rollator. When I pick up my Scooter, the scheme staff take care of my rollator until I get back from my shopping.
All the equipment has the office number printed on it, so if I ran into any problems, I could ring the office for help and advice. I’ve never had to do this, but it’s reassuring that help is on hand if I need it.
I then just enjoy my shopping trip, and when I return the scooter I pick up my rollator, walk the short distance to my car and head back home.
Many people arrive at the scheme via taxi. Other people will arrive by bus, managing the short walk from the bus stop to the Shopmobility office, and then using an aid for the rest of their trip.
Where can I find out more information?
The National Federation of Shopmobility (nfsuk.org) is a non-profit organisation, run by the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). The NFSUK sets standards for Shopmobility schemes who are members of the Federation. If you have any complaints about any scheme, you can report your concerns to NFSUK.
NFSUK also supports scheme providers at home and abroad.
The Federation also provides information to members of the public. This is primarily about the availability of Shopmobility schemes, but also has a magazine, newsletter and information leaflets. You can access these through their website.
Contact the National Federation of Shopmobility via their website.
Telephone 01933 229644
The National Federation of Shopmobility
2-4 Meadow Close Ise Valley Industrial Estate
Shop Mobility www.shopmobility.org.uk gives information, news and advice on Shopmobility across the UK.
This covers the location of Shopmobility schemes, costs, and different types of equipment available.