Lifestyle

5 accessible shopping centres to visit this Christmas

Christmas shopping can be fun – but it can also be tiring and chaotic, especially if somewhere doesn’t cater well to your disability. To take the stress out of Christmas shopping, wheelchair users, mum and AccessAble champion, Fi Anderson, rounds up five accessible shopping centres to make your Christmas easier.

With Christmas just around the corner, the panic to beat the queues to get this year’s top toys and festive treats has started.

While online shopping has its place, there’s nothing quite like going out to a bustling shopping centre to see the products for real and make a day out of it with loved ones.

Fi Anderson in her wheelchair with her daughter in front of Tower Bridge in London

But when you have a disability – and especially if you have kids too – Christmas shopping can be daunting. So here are five shopping centres that have the accessibility you need, giving you that peace of mind and showing retailers the power of the Purple Pound!

Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet

Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet is a decorative ‘village’ of high-end brands, such as ASOS, Superdry and Calvin Klein, to name a few. It also has some lovely little eateries to make it a proper day out.

Location wise, it can be accessed by Ellesmere Port mainline, but due to the more rural location, it would be easier to go by car if you have a disability. Happily, parking is free for public use.

Bright lighting is noted throughout the majority of shops and information points, and there is lift access to all upper/lower levels.

Do take note that the accessible toilets are located in car park B and C, but sadly only the latter has a sufficient turning circle for a wheelchair.

Bullring, Birmingham

Entrance of Burling shopping centre Birmingham after dark

Attracting 36 million shoppers each year, the Bullring shopping centre is a very popular choice for the Christmas season and a personal favourite of mine!

Just a four-minute walk from Birmingham New Street station, the ample transport links makes the location of this shopping centre ideal for wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility. If you happen to drive, there is Blue Badge parking beneath the Bullring centre itself.

Staff at this shopping landmark take their disability training seriously and even advertise a member of staff trained in British Sign Language, which is quite a rare find.

There is level access at all main entrances with either no doors to navigate or automatic doors, ideal for wheelchair users.

Walls feature contrasting colours to aid those with visual impairments and there is seating at regular intervals.

Accessible toilets can be found on all levels and I’m pleased to say they’ve recently installed a full Changing Places toilet, which can be found on the Middle East Mall.

Trafford Centre, Manchester

With 230 stores and 55 bars/restaurants, it’s no wonder that the Trafford Centre is a hot spot for shopping!

It can be easily accessed by bus from surrounding areas and has no end of lifts throughout the huge multi-story complex.

Popular for its Odeon cinema that features audio described and autism-friendly screenings, it also has huge M&S and Next stores that even provide wheelchairs to borrow!

Due to the size of these megastores, there’s plenty of room to navigate in a wheelchair with few display obstructions in the aisles.

Accessible toilets can be found throughout, as well as a Changing Places facility.

Southbank Centre, London

Accessible attractions - Southbank at Christmas

Known for its cultural integrity, this shopping, eatery and entertainment complex is lovingly placed next to the River Thames, making it a big tourist attraction as well as shoppers paradise!

Filled with unique and bespoke gifts, the Southbank Centre shops offer an alternative to the usual high street brands. Plus, being on the Southbank, visiting will give you ample opportunity to check out other shops along the Thames.

There is lift access to the Riverside Terrace, where there are many restaurants to choose from, and accessible toilets can be found in most areas of the centre.

If you want to stay into the evening, the Royal Festival Hall, a hotspot music venue in the complex, provides its own Access Scheme in which concessionary tickets are free for carers.

Arndale, Manchester

This shopping centre is easily accessed via Manchester Victoria, with just a short walk to the shopping centre itself.

Full to the brim with top Christmas contenders, such as the Apple, Disney, Lego, Pandora and Next, as well as all your fast-food favourites in the food court, it’s the ideal shopping destination.

There is ample lift access to all floors with audible announcers and contrasting colours. There is also a Shopmobility, where you can hire a powerchair/scooter for as little as £5!

If you want to know more before you go shopping, visit the AccessAble website and download the free AccessAble app to put those important access details right at your fingertips!

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