Shopping can be stressful for disabled people. These 6 tips can help immensely.

Shopping for that perfect outfit can be an ordeal. But for a lot of disabled people, it can be downright hellish.

In fact, many folks will opt to shop online because of the inaccessibility and ableism they often encounter in-store.

In 2014, Trailblazers, UK-based disability rights campaign, interviewed a group of 100 disabled people between the ages of 16 and 30. According to the report, three-quarters of the respondents said they feel coerced into shopping online due to the limited accessibility at stores. In fact, two-thirds said that a place's physical accessibility determines whether they will visit it or go somewhere else.


But it's not just accessibility that makes a shopping experience unpleasant for disabled: About half of respondents say retail workers' attitudes dissuade them from returning to a store.

Millions of people around the world are physically disabled, which deserves better attention and awareness.

On June 26, Frances Ryan, a disability rights journalist, took to Twitter to address some of the obstacles people with disabilities deal with just to go shopping. "What would make clothes shopping more accessible for you?" she asked. "Are there any shops you particularly love for getting it right?"

Her tweet received hundreds of replies. Here's a few of their suggestions:

1. Make fitting rooms accessible.

A lot of disabled people either use wheelchairs and/or need a relative or caretaker to help them try on clothes. Larger fitting rooms would give the space they need to figure out whether that sundress or trousers are worth buying.

In addition to creating more space, some simple adjustments could also be made: hooks to hang canes on, grab bars, and/or more seats, to help prevent toppling over when trying on things like jeans.

2. Lower the checkout counter.

High checkout counters can make a simple purchase extremely difficult for wheelchair users. Some stores have recognized this issue and made adjustments: The UK clothing company Primark, for example, offers a checkout counter for disabled shoppers.

3. Keep the sales floor clear of clothes or accessories.

This is something able-bodied shoppers and retail workers can help out with. If the floor's covered with dropped clothes or boxes of product, it gets in the way of shoppers who use wheelchairs, canes, motorized shopping carts, or any other mobility device. That's an added โ€” and completely unnecessary โ€” hassle.

4. Offering at-home try-ons for online shoppers.

Making online purchases can be anything but fruitful, since clothes often fit awkwardly or are the wrong size altogether. The return process can be hectic and stressful, too, when there are limited time periods for returns and refunds.

One way retailers can minimize this frustration is to follow MM.LaFleur's example: Ship items for an in-home try-on before purchasing.

5. Include disabled models in advertisements and online stores.

While inclusivity is important, featuring both ambulatory and wheelchair-using disabled models provides a realistic depiction of the items available for purchase. Beyonce's "Formation" athleisure line featured a wheelchair user in her online store โ€” that's how it's done.

6. Offer more detailed descriptions of items.

Many blind and low-vision people navigate the internet using text-to-speech apps or screen readers. Providing more details โ€” from the specific color to the style of a dress โ€” would allow them to make more well-informed and accurate purchases.

These are just a few ways that stores can make shopping a little bit easier for disabled shoppers.

But the onus is not just on companies and retail workers. It's easy for able-bodied people to take the little things for granted, but speaking up and advocating for accessibility is something that we should all take part in.

Whether that's by writing letters to theaters to screen movies with subtitles or suggesting a store manager add seating and grab bars in the fitting rooms, every bit of help can go a long way.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad โ€” her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany โ€” but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway โ€” not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts โ€” and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for themโ€”and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergencyโ€”all in a remarkably calm exchangeโ€”the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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