TODAY |

Like 'a wheelchair taking on Mt Vesuvius' - Supermarket's obstacles disappoint disabled Aucklander

When Neil Kitto decided to start shopping late at night, he thought he'd picked the quietest time of the day but he was wrong.

Neil's in a wheelchair, and has a brain injury, so he and wife Deanne try to avoid large crowds and lots of noise.

They thought shopping at their local Countdown Silverdale in the couple of hours before it closed would be a peaceful, calming experience.

"The general public think it’s, 'Oh yeah, we'll just go in and grab this and that and out again,'" says Neil. "But [when] we go to the supermarket it's a major blimmin' outing."

For the last year, supermarket staff have started re-stocking from around 8.30pm onwards – and the mess in the aisles makes it nearly impossible for Neil to get around.

"It's a bomb site," says Deanne. "I'm just appalled."

The couple complained to Countdown in January, and the manager responded quickly – things changed and their weekly shop went back to usual. For a little while.

But just a couple of months later, management had changed and the aisles were worse than ever.

"Once they start putting boxes in the aisles, it's near impossible to get through," says Neil.

Neil's issue is not a one-off. Disability advocate Gerri Pomeroy says there are very few facilities that take non-abled people into account.

"There's generally a lack of awareness… All spaces on the whole are designed for people who can walk and see," she says.

Gerri Pomeroy says people with disabilities often share information about which stores are good to shop at – and which aren’t.

And that's a list Countdown doesn't want to see itself on the wrong side of.

"We really pride ourselves on being a store that is inclusive… and we really let ourselves down here," says Kiri Hannifin, Countdown's general manager of safety and sustainability.

Ms Hannifin says the photographs supplied by Fair Go and the Kittos clearly show the store wasn't following protocol.

"Even if the store is open, the customers should be able to shop in a way that's convenient – regardless of whether they've got a mobility issue. Our process is clear, this store did not follow the process," she says.

Countdown's re-trained staff, and is promising the Kittos will have a clear run through the aisles from now on.

After a lot of changes in recent years, this is one the Kittos are looking forward to.

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About a quarter of New Zealanders have a disability, Fair Go points out. Source: Fair Go