Photo of a women's clothes shop

Navigating the jungle - the reality of shopping with MS

As a teenager I used to love spending a Saturday browsing the shops with friends. Nowadays, my experience of shopping is a little bit different.

Going shopping after my MS diagnosis

After getting diagnosed with MS at 24, shopping started to get challenging. My walking was getting progressively worse, and if I wanted to go shopping I had to plan a route that included benches so I could have little rests.

Over time, my walking deteriorated so much that I needed to use a wheelchair or mobility scooter when out and about. That was when the real challenges started!

To begin with, there are some shops that I can’t even get into as they have steps, and no ramps. I would’ve thought by now this issue would have been rectified everywhere. But no, it hasn’t been.

The challenges of shopping in a wheelchair

Imagine you are the height of a child. That’s what my view is like when I enter a shop. Clothes rails are like a jungle and you‘re the explorer fighting your way through. The rails are often packed in so tightly it’s virtually impossible to navigate around them.

Unless you know where the items you want are, it can be hard to find or reach anything. Yes, some shops do have signs hanging from the ceiling, but these are pretty hard to view through the jungle.

And then when you go to pay you find that many shops still don’t have low accessible tills. They expect you to navigate the snake queue like everyone else!

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 Imagine you are the height of a child. That’s what my view is like when I enter a shop. Clothes rails are like a jungle and you‘re the explorer fighting your way through. The rails are often packed in so tightly it’s virtually impossible to navigate around them. 

Dealing with dropped kerbs

Navigating around town centres is another challenge. When using a mobility scooter you have to be very aware of what other people are doing, because you don’t want to run into anyone. It’s particularly hard when people just stop dead in the street and change direction. Or when they’re browsing clothes and they don’t see you, and almost end up on your lap.

Dropped kerbs are the bane of my life. I spend forever looking for them, and when I do use them they’re often still too high. Or there’ll be one missing from the other side of the road. So you end up in the middle of the road looking for one to get back onto the pavement.

A couple of months ago my daughter was pushing me in my wheelchair. We crossed a road and when trying to access the dropped kerb, I hit it and went flying out of the wheelchair. My poor daughter was mortified.

I could go on and on about the challenges. But instead, I'll leave you with my top tips for managing shopping trips.

Emma's top tips for shopping with MS

1. Plan your trip

"Make sure you know exactly what you need to buy, so you can buy it and then get out of there!"

2. Pick the right day

"Try to shop on a quiet day if you can. Weekends are always busy so bear that in mind."

3. Shop online

"Online shopping is a godsend. Order what you want and get it delivered to your door. Ok, it can be a nuisance if you need to return the item, and there is the delivery cost. But I think these inconveniences are worth it. And you don't even need to leave the house!"

Read more about getting about with MS