A disabled man who bemoaned the lack of mobility support for shoppers in Cardiff said he feels “invisible” at times.
Chris Kay, from Tylorstown, has called for better mobility support provision in the Welsh capital, saying he is now restricted from a pastime he used to love – browsing the shops on Cardiff’s streets and in its arcades.
Chris, 50, has been registered disabled for two and a half years due to failed spinal decompression surgery and says he lives much of his life in “constant pain”.
“Cardiff used to have quite a good Shopmobility scheme,” said Chris, whose wife is also disabled.
“We used to go into Cardiff, we used to get mobility aids, we would be off around the shops no problem, but obviously then Covid turned up. Because we both have less than great immune systems, we didn’t really go out.”
Chris said the Shopmobility service, which allowed use of mobility aids in a wider variety of areas across the city centre, was no longer available when he and his wife felt safe enough to return and do their shopping.
St David’s shopping centre currently has a mobility service, but use is restricted to its premises.
Chris described the day he and his wife decided to return to Cardiff.
He said: “It was our first real trip out. It was my wife’s birthday. I thought ‘we will make a bit of a day of it, we will go out and have something nice to eat, we will do able bodied people things’, and we couldn’t.
“We went into Cardiff and we went into some shops and I had to say ‘I am really sorry, I am going to have to call it because I can’t move. I physically can’t go any further’. And it is like that a lot.”
There are Shopmobility schemes in a variety of cities around the UK, including London, Birmingham, Bristol and Sheffield. It also operates at three centres in Wales, including Wrexham, Aberystwyth and Cwmbran.
Chris said shoppers like him and his wife would reap the benefits of being able to access a similar service in Cardiff and was bemused by the idea that the capital city of Wales didn’t have one.
He added: “To be able to go into Cardiff on one of my good days, drive into the centre and park in a disabled bay, walk a short distance and get a scooter and be on my way would be fantastic. It just doesn’t happen.
“There are places in Cardiff I would love to be able to go. I can’t get to them. I know it’s not just me.”
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “Although there isn’t a statutory requirement for the council to provide shop mobility services, we do have a buggy and a driver that can be booked to pick someone up from a destination in the city centre and drive them to another, as long as it is within the pedestrianised areas.
“The buggy can be booked via the Visit Cardiff website – www.visitcardiff.com/visitor-info/mobility-buggy/ or by calling 029 2087 3826.
“Personal mobility scooters are also welcome in the city centre, but are not allowed to be driven on the cycleways.”
A spokesperson for St David’s shopping centre said: “It’s important to us that every guest is able to have a positive experience when they visit.
“Sadly, Shopmobility were not able to continue offering services in the city centre after the pandemic and they made the decision to close.
“Through our partnership with AccessAble, we ensure we continue to create a destination where everyone feels welcomed and supported.
“The partnership has helped us to deliver a new bespoke system of support, including mobility scooter and wheelchair services, for disabled guests in centre.”