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Mall Survival Guide: 10 Shopping Tips For Wheelchair Users

Shopping in a wheelchair presents with a number of difficulties. It's often harder to maneuver around crowds and clothing racks, rolling down narrow aisles can be a struggle, and complications can arise at the checkout counter. An estimated 2.2 million people in the United States use a wheelchair for mobility and to accomplish day-to-day tasks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you use a wheelchair to shop, follow these tips to make your trip to the mall easy and painless.

1. Skip the Weekends

Unless it's a necessity, try to get your shopping done during the weekdays. When you avoid Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, you can usually steer clear of long lines and large crowds. This is especially true on weekends during the holiday season.

2. Choose Accessible Stores

Not all stores are accessible, although most are. Opt for a shopping center that has an easy-to-access ramp or wheelchair-accessible entrance. You'll also want to stick to stores with large aisles that provide ample space to maneuver your wheelchair.

3. Make a List

Before heading to the store, jot down everything you need to pick up. Move from section to section in the store, picking up the items you need. A detailed list of items will help you avoid repeat returns to previously-visited parts of the store which can waste time and energy.

4. Hunt for Elevators

Many malls have multiple floors which require the use of an elevator. While most bargain-hunters utilize the visible elevators in the center of the mall, these high-traffic elevators are not your only option. To avoid having to deal with crowded elevators, navigate to the elevators found in most department stores at each end of the mall.

5. Bring a Reacher

Carry a reacher tool when shopping. These light-weight, easy-to-use tools can help you retrieve various items from higher shelves. If the item you want is heavy or fragile, don't hesitate to ask for assistance from a nearby employee.

6. Find a Wheelchair Cart

Most shopping centers now have several wheelchair carts available for shoppers. These wheelchair carts may be manual or powered for effortless shopping. If you're able to, bring your own power mobility scooter to avoid using up all your energy as you shop.

7. Bring a Hand-Held Mirror

Carry a small hand-held mirror in your pocket or purse. Use your mirror to easily look into large, wide bins that may be difficult to see into when seated in your wheelchair. You can then use your reacher tool to retrieve the item you want.

8. Slow It Down

You may feel like hurrying through the store to get your shopping done, but don't be in a hurry. Remember that you're in a public space and you should maintain a relaxing pedestrian speed. This will help you avoid any accidents when someone steps in front of you or you accidently hit into a rack or display.

9. Pack Some Snacks

If you don't want to deal with shopping center vendors, consider bringing a few snacks with you while you shop. Consider a baggy of crackers or trail mix, as well as some chilled bottled water or other refreshing beverage.

10. Shop Online

If you don't have the time or energy to go to the store, consider shopping online. Nearly everything you need can be found on the Internet, from your groceries and cleaning products to clothing and personal hygiene products.

It can be difficult to shop while in a wheelchair, but there are ways to make the process easier and less stressful. For more information or to buy wheelchairs or power mobility scooters and accessories, contact your local medical equipment supplier.