Actor and disability-rights campaigner Samantha Renke has called out Zara for its treatment of disabled customers, after assistants refused to help her reach the card machine at their Stratford Westfield store. Renke called the fashion brand “absolutely disgraceful” in a series of tweets documenting her experience.
“I had to pull it down a bit and I really struggled,” Renke told The Huffington Post of the card machine at the high payment desks. “Everyone could see my pin as there was no way of me covering it. I had to punch it in above my own head. She didn’t even offer to get the manager for me or anything, it was just like: ‘No, it doesn’t come down.’ The staff don’t seem to be clued up about disability.”
According to a customer-services phonecall between the store and Renke, lower tills are installed for disabled customers at the men’s and women’s tills, but not at the returns till where she was paying, despite a recent refurbishment. Renke reports that the lift was also broken in the store, making it even more inaccessible to those with disabilities, and Zara told her that they are aware of the situation and are working on it. “They feel they are meeting the equality act,” she tweeted, and said of the whole experience: “It did really affect me. Nobody gave me any answer or solution, or even a bit of empathy. But they still took my money.”
Following the incident at Zara, Renke also visited Pull&Bear in Stratford Westfield, which is run by the same company, Inditex, and came up against the same problem. A spokesperson for the parent company said that this was because Pull&Bear is an older store, but other shops across the country have been refurbished to make them more accessible.
Twitter users came out in support of Renke following her tweets, with some claiming they had experienced the same issues with Zara stores:
Renke says that she feels so alienated by the high street’s dismal attitude to accessibility that she rarely shops there any more – a fact that is made all the more upsetting due to her love of fashion. “Fashion for me as a child and a teenager was a real saving grace,” she said. “My sister said to me: ‘Maybe the reason people are staring at you is because of your great fashion taste, not because of your wheelchair.’ And that really helped me.”
As for the outcome, Renke hopes that Zara and other stores will take the opportunity to make shopping an easier and more pleasant experience for all customers by including disabled people in the planning and designing process of stores. “You can’t hide away from not getting us involved,” she said. “Because we are the ones living that life.”