Paralympian Sophie Christiansen Hits Out at Retailers Over Access

Published August 16, 2023

A gold-medal winning Paralympian has criticised retail businesses after experiencing difficulties accessing shops in her wheelchair.

Sophie Christiansen, who has cerebral palsy, said “nothing has changed” since she recorded a video of her trying enter shops in Farnborough, Hampshire, in 2021.

She has called for proper enforcement of the Equality Act.

The government is currently consulting on its new Disability Action Plan.

Ms Christiansen posted a video on Instagram, recorded two years ago, showing her trying to enter a convenience store but stopped by a small step.

She said the store, a Londis on Giffard Drive, fulfilled its legal requirements as it was able to provide a portable ramp, but it “took forever” for staff to put it in place.

“It is things like that we face every day as wheelchair users to get over a single step which could be made into a ramp, if people could be bothered,” Ms Christiansen said.

The BBC approached Londis for comment, but the company has not responded.

The Equality Act 2010 requires “reasonable adjustments” to be made to buildings to allow accessibility.

The 35-year-old, who has won eight Paralympic Games golds and was appointed an OBE in 2009, said the current legislation “doesn’t go far enough”.

She said: “Many shops don’t know their responsibilities. What are the local councils doing to help educate them about their responsibilities?”

The Paralympian called for “accessibility officers” to be sent to check on and advise businesses, similar to Covid officers during the pandemic.

In 2019 South Western Railway apologised to Ms Christiansen when she was left in tears when there was no guard to help her off a train.

Last month the government launched proposals that it said would “allow all disabled people to live, work and shop freely”.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Tom Pursglove MP said the Disability Action Plan would lay out practical measures to improve the lives of disabled people.

He said: “From leading the way globally with assistive technology to improving inclusivity and accessibility across sport, travel and culture, the plan will also be important in setting the stage for longer term change.”

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