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Supermarket Sweep; online shopping and the disability perception gap

1st May 2020

Like many other disabled people I am not classed as ‘vulnerable’ according to official government criteria and therefore do not qualify for priority online grocery shopping. This perception gap is putting many of us at risk whilst for others it has become a dangerous and/or desperate situation.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that supermarket shopping prior to and during lockdown has been crazy. Toilet rolls, pasta and flour flew off the shelves while people panic bought for the fear of running out of commodities. And online supermarket shopping became fully booked overnight!

Disabled people who have been classified as ‘vulnerable’ and are required to self-isolate for 12 weeks are able to register for online shopping through the government website. However there are many disabled people who don’t qualify according to the official criteria and have therefore slipped through the net. As Dr Frances Ryan points out in her recent article for The Guardian, the situation is putting a huge amount of vulnerable people at risk:

“The government’s scheme entitles 1.5 million people at high risk from coronavirus to food parcels and priority online deliveries, but conditions from cancer to motor neurone disease are being excluded from support because of the selective criteria. (The scheme is England-only and devolved countries have expressed concern about their own arrangements.)

Charities and organisations joined the Guardian’s call to expand the list as concern grows that many are falling through the cracks. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the British Retail Consortium to ask members to do all they can to support disabled people not on the government’s list, while the Royal National Institute of Blind People is campaigning for visually impaired people to be included.

The disability charity Scope says it has heard from huge numbers of disabled people who have been forced to put their health at risk by going to the supermarket.”

I am a disabled person who falls into the apparent ‘non vulnerable’ category, however I don’t want to take the risk of visiting supermarkets at the moment. Nor do I particularly want my PA’s to go – I have a duty of care to myself and my Personal Assistants and don’t want to put any of us at risk.

Where I live, delivery slots are in extremely high demand and you just can’t get them. Luckily I do have the option to visit smaller local stores but for those who are living in remote areas who don’t drive or don’t have PA support, it is a desperate situation and needs to be urgently addressed.

I’ve just been listening to TV Presenter and disability campaigner Sophie Morgan speaking to Martyn Sibley from Disability Horizons on his show #thedailysib. They were saying that supermarkets and retailers should give disabled people the option of disclosing their disability directly to supermarkets when they register for online shopping.

I agree that this could go some way to help ease the situation, however we need positive action from both the government and supermarkets themselves to address this urgent problem.

How are you managing your shopping? Are you visiting supermarkets, shopping local or have you managed to secure a home delivery slot?

Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash

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