‘JD Sports made me feel worth­less’

Par­a­lympic hope­ful told dis­abled chang­ing room was be­ing used for stor­age

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Alexan­der Ballinger

A PAR­A­LYMPIC hope­ful Lizzie Wil­liams was left ‘ab­so­lutely dis­gusted’ when the man­ager of the JD Sports store, in Uxbridge, re­fused to open a dis­abled chang­ing room be­ing used as stor­age space.

Brunel Univer­sity stu­dent Lizzie Wil­liams was shop­ping at the sports re­tailer in the intu Uxbridge shop­ping cen­tre on Satur­day Jan­uary 21 when she at­tempted to try on an item of cloth­ing.

A mem­ber of staff told the 21-year-old that the chang­ing room was locked be­cause it was be­ing used for shop stor­age, in­clud­ing man­nequins.

Miss Wil­liams, who is study­ing sport sci­ence at Brunel, asked to speak to the man­ager, who re­fused to clear the chang­ing room so she could change.

The in­ter­na­tional-level wheel­chair racer posted on Face­book the day of the in­ci­dent: “Ab­so­lutely dis­gusted by the JD Sports store in Uxbridge.

“They’ve filled and locked the dis­abled ac­ces­si­ble chang­ing room with man­nequins, telling me I can’t use it.

“I asked to speak to the man­ager be­cause, quite frankly, that’s bang out of order.

“Man­ager says ‘we don’t have enough stor­age to put ev­ery­thing, do you ex­pect me to take ev­ery­thing out?’

“She re­fused any­thing then away.

“Ru­de­ness and dis­crim­i­na­tion at its finest. Sort it out JD Sports.”

After shar­ing the story with her 5,000 Face­book fol­low­ers, the post was shared more than 200 times.

Miss Wil­liams, orig­i­nally from Wor­thing in Sus­sex, is hop­ing to to do walked com­pete in the Tokyo 2020 Par­a­lympics.

She said that after up­set­ting or­deals in the past, she de­cided this was the fi­nal straw and wants shops to im­prove in help­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

Miss Wil­liams told the Gazette: “I’ve had ex­pe­ri­ences in the past from stores, restau­rants and other public places where there’s been no ac­cess even into the build­ings, no ac­ces­si­ble toi­let, no ac­ces­si­ble chang­ing room and no lifts.

“On this oc­ca­sion it sparked some­thing within me and I re­alised not enough is be­ing done to fight this, it’s al­most be­come so nor­mal that we just ex­pect it and many dis­abled peo­ple just ac­cept that they can’t ac­cess ev­ery­thing like able bod­ied peo­ple can.

“I want to chal­lenge that.”

Miss Wil­liams said that the man­ager did not un­der­stand why it would be im­por­tant for the only ac­ces­si­ble chang­ing room to be avail­able.

She now wants to work with shops to show them where im­prove­ments can be made, say­ing: “The fact the she re­fused to do any­thing made me feel worth­less.

“I want to send the mes­sage out there to busi­nesses that we can ac­tu­ally work to­gether to pro­vide, not against each other.

“Let’s turn this neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence into a pos­i­tive.”

A JD spokesman said: “We are ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed to hear about Lizzie’s ex­pe­ri­ence and have al­ready been in touch with Lizzie di­rectly to of­fer our sin­cere apolo­gies that it clearly did not live up to the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence we pride our­selves on.

“The is­sues raised were in­ves­ti­gated as a mat­ter of ur­gency and the chang­ing room was cleared im­me­di­ately and is now in use in its proper func­tion.

“The lift has a fault which means it is un­suit­able for use and we are work­ing to get it re­in­stated as soon as pos­si­ble.

“In the mean­time, staff will do their ut­most to help and ac­com­mo­date those with dis­abil­i­ties to ac­cess prod­ucts on the up­per floors of the store.

“We have ded­i­cated teams look­ing at ac­ces­si­bil­ity across our stores and we would wel­come a meet­ing with Lizzie to dis­cuss any ideas she has to help pro­vide the best ex­pe­ri­ence for all our cus­tomers.”

‘DIS­GUSTED’: Brunel Univer­sity stu­dent Lizzie Wil­liams

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