Small changes can improve unobstructed shopping

Vatenk, the Tampere-based advisory board for the social welfare of the disabled and for health care, began cooperation with K-Group district operations in Pirkanmaa in order to enhance unobstructed shopping at local K-stores. The representatives of Vatenk, Kesko’s District Director Jari Alanen and Hypermarket Director Matti Mäkinen have familiarised themselves with barrier-free shopping while also assessing the current situation at K-citymarket Turtola.
Sirpa Virtanen and Riitta Virenius remind designers that there should be, for example, sticks available in the frozen foods department for customers in wheelchairs to help them pick up products from freezers to their shopping baskets.

During the past year, Vatenk representatives have made two evaluation visits to K-citymarket Turtola with Jari Alanen and Matti Mäkinen. Shopping in the hypermarket has been viewed from the perspective of customers with physical, visual or hearing impairments.

“Shopping can be made easier for disabled customers with many small changes. It has been pleasing to notice that K-citymarket Turtola has already carried out many improvements based on our proposals,” says Tuula Joenperä, Secretary of Vatenk.

Easy access inside and out

K-citymarket Turtola already has parking facilities for disabled customers near the doors, unobstructed entrances and easy-open doors. There are also in-store wheelchairs and different shopping trolleys available for customers.

“Some shopping trolleys could, in addition, be fitted with a magnifying glass, which would greatly help visually impaired customers. There could also be one or more sales assistants wearing a special vest in the store to help a disabled person without an assistant to get a product from a shelf, for instance,” says Tuula Joenperä.

The store’s info desk should also have a lower section for shorter customers or those in wheelchairs ─ the desk is currently too high for them. ”The info desk should also have an induction loop for those using a hearing aid.”

Fitting rooms with enough space

The size of fitting rooms is important for customers in wheelchairs. K-citymarket Turtola has a fitting room spacious enough for a customer in a wheelchair or with an assistant. The fitting room should be square so that there is room in every direction, even for a customer in a wheelchair. A movable, solid and sufficiently high seat should also be provided. Clothes hooks on the wall should be placed low enough for wheelchair customers to hang up their coats. At least one of the scales in the fruit and vegetable department should be placed low enough for wheelchair customers to reach all the push buttons.

“A stick for pushing buttons in upper rows would make transactions at scales easier, while visually impaired customers would appreciate large, clear numbers,” says Tuula Joenperä.

Challenging freezers

Products that are right at the bottom of a chest freezer are difficult to pick up. “In Turtola, steps have been brought next to freezers to help customers reach the bottom. However, they do not help wheelchair customers who could benefit from the availability of a stick or hook for them to pick up products. Fruits and vegetables are often placed on relatively high platforms, from which they may be difficult to pick.

Thanks are given to K-citymarket Turtola for a checkout lane that is sufficiently wide for a physically impaired customer.

“Obstruction-free payment transactions should also be taken into account. If the payment terminal is fixed, card payment that requires a PIN code is difficult for a wheelchair customer. Alarm gates at checkouts should also be adjusted so as not to react to a wheelchair or other devices without reason. Large letters and clear colours make signage easier to read. In order to prevent rushes, information about larger fitting rooms and unobstructed checkout lanes should also be clearly visible,” says Tuula Joenperä.

Right placement of fixtures in toilets for the disabled is important

In the first evaluation of K-citymarket Turtola’s premises, many proposals on how to improve the store’s toilet for the disabled were put forward. Some of them have now been implemented, but some would require a larger renovation.

”Fixtures in the toilet for the disabled are often placed unsuitably. Shorter customers or wheelchair users cannot reach the toilet paper when seated or the hand towel from the washbasin. A large washbasin is seldom suitable for physically disabled people, because they cannot reach the tap. The mirror and clothes hooks are also often placed too high,” says Tuula Joenperä.

”Since the previous survey, a cord has been added to the toilet’s alarm button, but it could be even longer in the event that a customer happens to falls on the floor.

Valuable feedback

Kesko’s District Director Jari Alanen is satisfied with the feedback given by Vatenk.

“The feedback has also opened my eyes to notice small things which could promote unobstructed shopping. Many of the proposals are very easy and cheap to implement in every K-store, for that matter,” says Alanen.

”Some of the changes require major policy definitions in chain concepts, for example, but we will pass the feedback forward so that accessibility can be better taken into account in the future.”

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