Persons with disabilities (PWDs) have the right to enjoy trips to shopping centres as much as non-PWDs do. While online shopping and retail stores have universally increased the convenience of purchasing essential and recreational items, a lot of people still find regular trips to shopping centres part of their recreational – sometimes, even “therapeutic” – activities. For some people, physically examining merchandise before a purchase, the experience, ambiance of casual or semi-fine dining, and going out to watch movies with friends are well worth the effort of diving into a bustling shopping centre crowd.
In general, PWDs have very similar concerns regarding security and safety as non-PWDs. However, because of their special circumstances, PWDs will have either heightened vulnerability to certain untoward events or additional concerns depending on their disability.
Most, if not all, PWDs have a well-founded feeling of increased vulnerability to criminal activities like theft, terrorism, and assault. PWDs dependent on mobility aids, who are visually impaired, and who have reduced cognitive functions are easier to steal from, less able to avoid dangerous or compromised areas, and are less able to defend themselves against unlawful elements.
Addressing these PWD concerns requires no special or extreme measures. By ensuring that shopping centre security personnel are well-trained, deployed in adequate numbers, professional, and visible, the likelihood of such occurrences can decrease significantly.
However, if crimes against PWDs are committed, security personnel need to be able to respond quickly and competently. There have been some instances where PWDs have felt like the commitment of security personnel in resolving such situations were less than ideal just because they were “not normal”. Security personnel must strive to avoid giving such impressions by being professional, efficient, and empathic.
PWDs are at increased risk of falls, especially if the walking surfaces are uneven, slippery, or the PWD access areas are not well-designed. Objects falling from shelves that a PWD client tries to reach for are also added risk, especially for PWDs with muscular diseases, impaired vision, and arthritis.
Risk of fall and falling objects can be mitigated by proper design and construction of safety features and facilities, such as non-slip walkways, safety handlebars, and properly visible signages. However, shopping centre personnel are perhaps the most important assets in preventing such accidents and ensuring that should such events happen, the resulting injuries or inconveniences would be minimal and properly addressed.
Accessibility and support pertain to certain shopping centre features like ramps, handlebars along the aisles and toilets, elevators that can accommodate wheelchairs, well-placed and visible signages (and the equivalent for the visually-impaired), and electric wheelchair charging stations, among others. All of these features enable PWDs to maximally access the many offerings of a shopping centre with minimal impairment from their disability.
More importantly, however, accessibility and support pertain to the availability, ability, and overall willingness of shopping centre personnel to ensure that PWDs are able to have an overall positive experience and not feel that they are different or less welcome compared to clients without disabilities or special needs.
PWDs should be able to enjoy their shopping centre experience just like those without disabilities do. Most of the time, PWDs feel the safest when around friends and family. And by also ensuring the safety of their friends and family, PWDs are given an added layer of protection and enjoyment to ensure that they never feel marginalized or unwelcome members of the community.
Prosek Security can help you design a security and risk management plan that caters to all of your stakeholders, including PWDs. Reach out to us so we can guide you on how ensuring the safety and security of the PWD sector can be incorporated in your shopping centre’s daily operations.