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Mobility shopping should be 'more exciting' says the UK's top Paralympic medallist

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompso

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson has won more medals than anyone else in the disability sports arena and combines life as a busy wife and mum with a hectic career as a sports coach, broadcaster and motivational speaker.

But along with millions of other people living with disabilities she feels she is often poorly served when it's time to go shopping.

"There are not a huge number of specialist mobility shops around and most of them are not terribly pleasant places to visit and offer little or no choice," she said.

"Displays and packaging tends to be more functional than attractive. And although there's some really great equipment available these days why can't the shops make things look a little more exciting? Just because you're disabled doesn't mean you've had your design sense ripped out."

Dame Tanni, a lifelong wheelchair user, was speaking at the official opening on Friday, 10th October, of the Indy Enabled Living Centre in Evesham, Worcestershire, which includes a purpose-built outdoor all-terrain test track for mobility scooters and offers the chance for people with disabilities to see, try and compare a wide variety of specialised clothing and equipment in a bright and attractive high-street-style environment.

Dame Tanni's own shopping nightmares have included the mobility shop with a steep step outside and a doorbell that had to be rung before she could get in, and stores so packed with equipment that there was no room left for her to move around.

"When I was pregnant I wanted to buy a sliding board to help me get in and out of my car, yet the only one on offer had been in the shop so long all the varnish had come off it," she recalled.

By contrast, the Indy Centre aims to display items ranging from easy-grip electrical plugs to complete bathrooms and kitchens which are adapted for accessibility. Experienced staff, including qualified Occupational Therapists, are available to provide individual advice, and to work with other healthcare professionals in ensuring that customers' needs are always foremost.

The Centre is backed by web-based and mail order shopping facilities covering all the items on display.

"We're aiming to provide the breadth of choice and attractive ambiance of a top-notch high street store with the quality of service and professional advice that will help disabled people to improve their quality of life," explained Indy founder, David Badham, a well-known local pharmacist.

"The term 'retail therapy' has had all the wrong connotations for far too long where people with disabilities are involved. It's time to break down the wall that has prevented them from joining the rest of us in enjoying a trip to the shops."