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Navigating the Aisles: Strategies & Shopping Tips for Wheelchair Users

by Jessica Hegg August 08, 2023 0 Comments

man shopping in wheelchair

Shopping can be a hassle for everyone, though those in wheelchairs face a few extra challenges. Especially if you’re not used to shopping in a wheelchair, the process may at first seem daunting. Luckily, there are plenty of simple tips that can take the stress out of your next trip. Take a look at a few of the best wheelchair-shopping tips below.

Tips to Simplify Your Shopping Trip

The truth is that shopping with your wheelchair doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you take the right steps to simplify your life. Try to work a few of these shopping tips into your routine.

  • Start in the Parking Lot

    Most shopping trips start in the parking lot, which means it’s a step that should never be overlooked. If you’re shopping at a store you haven’t frequented before, check ahead to make sure they have handicapped parking available. It’s also a good idea to check Google Maps images to get an idea of the lot and ensure there aren’t potholes or other hazards.

    When pulling into the spot, leave your trunk facing outward. This will make it easier to put away goods when you return.

  • Choose the Store Carefully

    As mentioned above, handicapped parking is essential. If you don’t like the parking lot at a particular store, it may be better to skip it entirely and find a different option. However, the parking lot is only one factor to consider when choosing the right store. It can also be a good idea to call ahead and make sure the store is easy to navigate in a wheelchair. While all stores are required to be handicapped accessible, not all of them are made with wheelchairs in mind.

    In general, look for all of the following:

    • Wide aisles with easy-to-reach merchandise
    • Wide checkout lanes
    • Wide doors with flat entryways

    In addition to the layout of the store, don’t forget the staff. You’d be surprised how helpful a friendly staff can be when finding the right product or loading items into your car.

  • Learn to Handle Your Cart

    While most people don’t think twice about how they’re handling their cart, those in wheelchairs need to think ahead. Keep in mind that a cart is harder to handle in a wheelchair, as you need one hand to operate the chair and the other to handle the cart. In some stores, you can find carts that will attach to your chair, which simplifies the process.

    Don’t forget that your cart will only get heavier as it fills up. Try to stick to shorter shopping trips if possible, so you’re never pushing a full cart. You can also leave your cart at the end of the aisle and bring items to it, saving some hassle.

  • Time Your Trip 

    As you probably already know, the difference between shopping in an empty store and a full one can be huge. When shopping in a wheelchair, it’s always a good idea to go when the store is less busy, making it easier to navigate and reducing stress. It’s also the best time to ask employees for assistance, as they’ll be less busy. Weekday mornings are a good bet if you can fit it into your schedule.

  • Try Online Shopping

    As long as you’re a little tech-savvy, staying home might be the easiest option when shopping in a wheelchair. If you haven’t already tried it, online shopping services can be a real-time-saver, letting you get what you need from virtually any store, and have it delivered to your home or waiting for you to pick up at the store.

    Some stores charge a small fee or require you to pick up your purchase in your car. Make sure to read all the details of their service before you place your order!

  • Stay Organized and Take Your Time

    It’s important to do everything you can before you leave the house to simplify your shopping trip once you get to the store. A list is essential, especially if you’re going grocery shopping. It can cut down your time in the store and eliminate the need to backtrack. If you can organize your list by section, even better. Try to plan your route through the store to make your life easier.

    While it’s important to be efficient, don’t rush yourself! By taking your time while shopping, you can cut down on stress and avoid accidents.

  • Get the Help You Need

    As mentioned above, one of the most valuable assets a store can offer is a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Whether you need help reaching something off a high shelf, finding the item you need, or carrying items to the register, employees are here to help. Some stores may even provide shopping partners who can accompany you on your trip to simplify the process.

Tools to Help Simplify Shopping

While planning and staying organized can go a long way toward simplifying your shop, sometimes the right tool can be even better. Take a quick look at these wheelchair and mobility accessories to cut the hassle out of your next trip.

  • Reacher Grabber

    One of the hardest things about shopping in a wheelchair is grabbing items off of high shelves. Luckily, a reacher grabber can make this task a breeze. There is a range of different styles available, with suction cups, claws, or foldable designs, based on your need.

  • Phone Holder

    Keeping your shopping list on your phone is a convenient way to remember all the items you’ll need at the store. An attachable phone holder can help display your list and keep your hands free to shop.

  • Extendable Mirror

    Sometimes, seeing on those high shelves is just as difficult as reaching. In this case, try an extendable mirror, which will let you get the perfect view from your wheelchair.

  • Transfer Aids

    Sometimes, getting into and out of your wheelchair can be the biggest challenge of all. If this is a problem for you, it may mean you have yet to find the right transfer aid. There are plenty of options to choose from, from belts to boards, each with its unique advantages.

  • Other Mobility Accessories

    You’ll be surprised at just how many kinds of mobility accessories are out there to help simplify your weekly shop. A wheelchair bag can be the perfect way to store small purchases or carry any of your other must-have items. A gel seat cushion will ensure you stay comfortable and supported all day. You can even try a wheelchair poncho to keep yourself dry on rainy days.

    This foldable reacher grabber makes it easy to reach items off shelves and can be stored away in your bag.

Popular Wheelchair Options for Shopping Needs

When it comes to choosing a wheelchair for shopping, there are plenty of options available. Take a look at these categories and find out their pros and cons when it comes to shopping.

Click here for a complete guide that compares our wheelchairs side-by-side

Transport Chairs

Transport chairs are wheelchairs that are pushed and maneuvered by a caregiver. These are the ideal option for those with the most limited mobility, but can also be a great idea for shopping. As long as you have someone to push, you won’t have to worry about reaching items off high shelves yourself.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are operated by the wheelchair user, allowing a degree of independence over transport chairs. They’re very maneuverable and easy to use with a bit of practice. However, they can be a challenge for shopping if you’re getting more than a few items. Make sure you can push a card while operating your chair or find someone to help you.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs are even easier to use than manual wheelchairs, using a battery-powered motor to push them forward. This can simplify the process when pushing a cart, though it still might prove a challenge for those who aren’t used to it. The other factor to keep in mind is that many electric wheelchairs are bulkier than non-electric ones, which means narrow aisles may be a challenge.

Power scooters are another great option to help make shopping with mobility issues easier.

Test Out These Shopping Tips

Everyone has different mobility needs, which means there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to shopping. However, being aware of the options that are out there can help you simplify your regular shopping trip. Consider a few of the options listed above, and try to work them into your next grocery run.

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.



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