On Monday I took a little trip to Rushden Lakes
, Northamptonshire. It’s approximately fifteen minutes from my front door and this certainly wasn’t the first time I’d visited but this time it was for a different reason. Of course I shopped, I mean, hello, do you even know me? But I also went and scrutinised how accessible the brand spanking new the retail and leisure park is. And before we get into the nitty gritty, I can unequivocally say that it’s bloody good.
I drove to Rushden Lakes and found parking extremely easy. There are plenty of dedicated disabled parking bays and even new accessible parking bays marked with a large letter A. These are specifically for those who need extra room when getting in and out of their vehicle. They are not just for disabled people but also those with children who require a bit more space for prams etc. I think it’s a great addition to the car park and will hopefully make life much easier for those who need it.
Getting in and out of my vehicle at Rushden Lakes has never been a problem; there’s always plenty of room to transfer into my wheelchair and there is extra space at each side of the car. It doesn’t matter what disabled bay I end up in, I’ve always got that much needed wiggle room.
Something I absolutely love about going to the Lakes is just how easy it is to get around. It’s a completely step-free complex, making it totally wheelchair accessible. The paths are wide, there’s plenty of crossings and dipped kerbs, and I never have to worry that I might not be able to get in somewhere because my needs are catered for. Accessibility: it’s the future! And it’s totally done right here.
In the Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre there are customer toilets including disabled facilities and a Changing Places toilet. The room is large, laid out well with manoeuvrability room, has a height adjustable bench, height adjustable sink, ceiling hoist, privacy screen and non-slip floor. These are open 8:00 – 8:00 seven days a week and require a RADAR key. I carry my RADAR key around with my car keys so am never without it.
Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are also available to hire free of charge for up to three hours, so definitely take advantage of that if you want to visit but are concerned about the walking.
A few of the stores (especially the larger ones, Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser etc) also have disabled facilities. And I am incredibly impressed with those in M&S. Never before have I seen disabled toilets with transfer sides on the doors (they have a left hand transfer too, it was unfortunately out of order when I went). If you didn’t know, some people can only transfer from their wheelchair to the toilet one way, from the left or from the right hand side, and having these on the doors is just awesome. I personally can transfer from either side as I usually stand up and swivel so it isn’t an issue for me, but for others that need this, it’s amazing. Massive pat on the back M&S.
I do appreciate that there’s more than one location with a disabled loo as if they were only on one side of the park and I was desperate to go but at the other side, I’m not sure I’d be able to make it.
So, on Monday when I visited for blogger duties, my afternoon began with lunch at Bill’s
. We were seated at a table with a glass partition to one side of us which my autistic boyfriend appreciated, and I had plenty of room to expertly manoeuvre my wheelchair into the space provided (no crashing, I’m getting quite good at this driving thing). The staff were really friendly, attentive, accommodating and fast. And the food, oh my days, it was so good. I’m pretty sure I devoured the best burger I have ever eaten, although it did beat me in the end. If you’ve never been I highly recommend it, but make sure you book a table as they’re often busy.
I mean, look at that view. Not only is the site a wheelchair users dream, it’s absolutely glorious…well, when the weather is on it’s best behaviour anyway.
After I’d been defeated by my delicious lunch I set off to the shops to check out how convenient they were for someone in a not-so-small powerchair. I often get pretty frustrated when I’m shopping, despite loving it, because some stores set out their stands like an obstacle course. I feel like I’m waiting for John to pop up and announce, ‘Gladiator, you will go on my first whistle. Sarah, you will go on my second whistle’ before I can make havoc of the aisles and knock clothes off rails and items onto the floor. All completely by accident. All because some shop floor designer doesn’t think about those of us in wheelchairs or people with pushchairs.
|(FYI I may look like I’m heading to House of Fraser in this pic but in reality, I’m following that man because he has a dog)
House of Fraser does not conform to the above mentioned shitty obstacle-like layouts. The aisles are wide, there’s plenty of room to get around the counters and they’re all at eye level for someone that is sat down. There’s no awkward neck straining or requiring a ladder to see things. It’s accessibility at it’s finest. They also have a disabled toilet on the ground floor in Caffe Nero, and upstairs. With two lifts at the back of the store.
Marks and Spencer is another beautifully laid out shop floor. Just look at all that room! They could have crammed in a load more product (*cough* Next) but no, they have the customer in mind and have kept the floor uncluttered and easy to get around. It’s simple things like this that make shopping whilst using a wheelchair that less stressful.
L’Occitane was another of my favourite accessible shops. Not only is it absolutely beautiful, luxurious and smells incredible, but all that empty floor space is a pure delight. I didn’t run anyone over, I didn’t knock anything off a shelf. A store can be accessible to all and still look amazing. Take this as an example.
And finally, you see a Sarah in her natural habitat; surrounded by stationery in Paperchase. Again, there’s wide aisles with rows of stands that are easy to get down and around, adequate amounts of room if someone wanted to get by and the majority of product on my level. Bloody marvellous.
I absolutely love Rushden Lakes, it’s such a great place to shop and not have to worry about whether it’s accessible, whether I can use a toilet, if the restaurant dining is upstairs and there’s no lift. I can go to Rushden Lakes and know I’ll get into every store without a problem, I can pop into somewhere for food and my needs be catered for. This is truly what accessibility is all about; it’s putting my needs on par with abled society. We only need a few adaptions, it’s easily done, and it’s amazing to witness it done correctly.
I’ll probably see you very soon, Rushden Lakes, but until then, thanks for being a wheelchair users dream.
Have you been to Rushden Lakes?
*Disclaimer: This post is sponsored