It is not often that I can go out somewhere and feel completely catered for when in my wheelchair. I tend to find that although there is rules and regulations surrounding accessibility for disabled users most places blindly carry on with designing their shelves and aisles sticking to the letter of the law and not understanding what difficulties disabled people really have. The examples I would give are clothes aisles that are set apart but once there are items hanging on the rails you cannot get through them, mirrors too high up to see yourself in them, “flat door frames” that really aren’t flat to name a few.
Today though we visited Highways Garden Center for a spot of lunch and a look around. All the disabled bays were full upon arrival however I was able to be dropped off outside whilst my wife parked up and got my wheelchair out for me. I said almost perfect because had there been other cars this wouldn’t have been possible so a small drop off zone would be welcomed. The restaurant/cafe is just inside and to the right down a fantastic slope for wheelchairs – perfect to race my LG and Grandad down. We got to the restaurant and having initially sat at a table in an area that was closed we were redirected and the waitress informed me that there were some tables specifically for wheelchair users. When we got to them I was very pleased. The tables were slightly higher meaning I could comfortably wheel myself up to the table getting my knees under the table with ease. This is the first time I have encountered this anywhere and it made such a difference pain wise being tucked under the table meaning I was sat upright and not leaning forward putting unnecessary pressure on my lumbar spine.
The aisles around the food selection and paying station was wide enough for 3 chairs to pass easily and this was a real plus. Being left at the table whilst dessert was being chosen I realised I needed some water to take my medication I asked a member of staff if they’d relay a message for me and with no hint of annoyance or derision (I often experience this) she did this and then asked me if I would like help clearing the table. I was stacking the plates up and putting them on trays. I appreciated being asked as I was able to finish clearing the plates up feeling useful, and ask for the tray to be carried away for me. I have to admit the slope out of the restaurant didn’t impress my wife so much but you can’t have everything. The clothing areas all had plenty of room around and between the rails and the mirror was low enough to see myself in the.
The books, toys and game sections all had plenty of maneuverability around them able to turn 360 if I needed to. There was a good selection of books etc on low shelves and only a handful of things up high that I couldn’t reach – this is their only other area of being knocked down on the scores and that was items significantly out of reach.
The plant and pet/aquatic areas did not disappoint either, again all had plenty of room around them and were easy to see the items on sale. The fish were easy to see there was loads of room around them, the plants and the other items around the garden area. The tills had low bits for me to reach and easy access back into the car park. If you want to see somewhere that has got its access and space right then look no further. I was very impressed