You’d Better Sit Down

One of the things that stops people with infirmity or disability from leaving their home is, you may be surprised to learn, seating!  Yes, I’m serious!  If you think about it, a lot of people with illnesses such as, for example, Parkinson’s may reach a point where going to the shops becomes too difficult.  One of the reasons for this difficulty may be that it becomes hard to keep walking.  For some, there may be balance problems. For others, slowness. Walking a particular distance, or length of time, may be problematic. For example, slowness can increase the opportunity for falls to happen.

People with mobility difficulty may experience sadness, loneliness and even social isolation, at no longer being able to go out as much, or even at all.  Some people may miss going to a favourite clothes store or miss having a chat with a familiar face in the local groceries store.  While online shopping is helpful, if you have access to that, some people may find it hard to think of a varied range of products to buy, when ordering shopping online, and so miss out on trying new products, services or even recipes.  These subtleties are the stuff of life. The opportunity to meet a friend or family member at a favourite café, bistro or restaurant can be lost, all because being out may simply be too difficult.

Where seating is concerned, some stores do provide seating but, not uncommonly, they may place literally only one or two chairs, or a small row of seats, in one part of the store. In fact, that is no help at all to a person who may only get a one-minute warning, or less, that unless they sit, they may drop their shopping, lose their balance, slip, fall or even collapse. 

Seating needs to be provided at regular intervals around a store.  Hand rails too, for that matter.     Many of the larger stores, these days, now provide wheelchairs and scooters on site, for use by their customers.  This has been a major step forward.  That said, many of those stores still do not make the space between aisles big enough. The space around, and height of, checkouts/tills is often problematic and ill thought out. Where checkouts/tills are concerned, some people cannot stand, so are unable to queue.  Seating should surely be provided at the checkout/till, too?

Pause for a moment. 

I’d like you to imagine that you can no longer leave your home; for getting around at a shopping venue is just too difficult, too exhausting and too overwhelming. Imagine that the solution, for many people, would be the addition of chairs placed at intervals around these venues.  Imagine that every few hundred yards, there would be a bench in the street between a car park and the shopping venues.  Imagine parks had many more benches.  How would a person, who feels trapped at home due to lack of seating, feel if they could know that they are never more than a short distance from seating? 

Right now, we have an epidemic of obesity in the United Kingdom. We are seeing increasing instances of ill health through obesity. We are seeing increased mental health difficulty in people who are socially isolated. This is not specific to any age group, although certainly there is clear vulnerability to social isolation in older generations in particular.

Yet, here I am stating that increasing seating provision in public places and business/commercial premises would help minimise some of this harm that is caused by what is, effectively people being marginalised or excluded due to their needs not being provided for. Social isolation is unnecessary and can be prevented.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  What is your experience of available seating? What can you do to raise this issue in your local community and start to encourage change? Have you helped make this change happen in your area, already? Are you a person who is already isolated or excluded because of the lack seating?

This may seem like a simple matter, but I can assure you that lack of adequate seating provision does affect people all over the United Kingdom, and no doubt beyond. This would be a relatively simple matter to resolve. What can you do, today, to make a difference? Increased seating in public spaces and commercial/business settings is my campaign target.

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