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How to Respect Shoppers with Disabilities


Hi. My name is Lilli Sprintz, and I'm disabled. Saying this often makes me feel like I'm in a 12-step program, rather than stating a fact about my physical body! Nonetheless I am disabled, and here is some information about disabilities, and some tips on how to help make shopping easier for disabled co-shoppers.

More about me; my first experience with the Wedge co-op was in 1983, when I moved into an apartment on Garfield Avenue behind the co-op. Living there, I immediately became familiar with the co-op, learned about organic and bulk foods, and the politics of food. I officially became a member about 5 years ago.

There are many people who shop at the Wedge who are disabled. Sometimes you can tell, and sometimes you cannot.

You may see a person in a wheelchair or scooter chair. You might see us being assisted by a PCA (Personal Care Assistant) or staff member. We may be walking around the store with a seeing-eye dog or cane, indicating we are blind; or otherwise taking it kind of slow as we go through the aisles with assistance or without.

Approximately 20% of U.S. citizens are disabled. This can include physical disabilities: congenital—meaning "born with"; or acquired—are illnesses or injuries that happen during the course of life. It can also include developmental and emotional disabilities. And with the baby-boomer generation aging, the number of disabled people shopping at the Wedge will increase in the next several years.

Here are some tips to help you be aware of people shopping at the Wedge who may have disabilities.

Take it slow: many people with disabilities need to take time to move through the store. We may have structural problems, or vision or hearing problems that prevent us from moving fast, reading signs and labels, or easily knowing what is going on around us.

We may not be able to move or react quickly, as people speed by us. We may be in a scooter that does not move or change directions quickly. Bumping into us can be hard.

Therefore, please be aware of others shopping around you. Be courteous by noticing how other shoppers are moving. Try not to rush too fast through the store, especially if it is crowded. Mindfulness is the key.

The produce area is one of the toughest areas to shop in at the Wedge. The aisles also can be challenging. If it's busy or crowded, pushing a cart can be difficult. We know the store will be making some physical changes in the near future. But meanwhile, being relaxed and aware of others, is the most helpful.

If you notice someone struggling with moving, or getting something off the shelves or picking something up, please do not assume that the person needs your help. But it's OK to ask! And if they say they need help, ask them how you can help.

Finally, checking out at the cashier can take a bit longer for us. If you are in a hurry, you might want to go to another line to speed your check-out.

That's all for now. Please ask questions. If you would like to know more about disability, and disabled shoppers at the Wedge, please send me a note in-care of the Wedge coop. And I'll be happy to answer them in a future newsletter.

Thanks! And Enjoy Shopping!

Lilli Sprintz
c/o Wedge Community Co-op
2105 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55405

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