How Shopmobility Began
The first idea for a Shopmobility scheme came from three men who were active in Peterborough Disabled Drivers Club. They were strong campaigners trying to improve conditions for other disabled people.
When the trio heard about a proposed large pedestrianised shopping development for Peterborough City Centre they realised that this would become a no-go area for all with mobility difficulties unless some form of wheelchair transport was made available on site.
At the same time in Milton Keynes planners were also trying to find their way around a similar problem.
So, when Milton Keynes Shopping Centre opened, (18 months before Peterborough), a free wheelchair loan service was incorporated which operated from its Information Centre. This was the first Shopmobility service.
Shopmobility is a response to the changing environment. The success of Milton Keynes and Peterborough encouraged other towns to open similar schemes. Thus giving independence, dignity and freedom to all with a limited mobility.
History of Sutton Shopmobility
In 1989 the Mayor of Sutton chose his charity to be ‘the development of a Shopmobility scheme’. Sutton is a forward thinking borough and supports the needs of disabled people. A steering committee was formed which included members from Sutton Council, local disability groups and voluntary organisations such as the Sutton Centre for Voluntary Service.
Initially it was planned to open the scheme three days per week, to see what the take up would be ‑ running costs were estimated at £10,000 per annum. Until Sutton Shopmobility gained charitable status, it was administered by Disability Action Sutton and Sutton Centre for Voluntary Services. The London Borough of Sutton and British Telecom jointly funded the original operating costs of £10,000.
The capital costs for chairs and equipment was met from the Mayors fund, and other local businesses, groups etc. This accumulated to £20,000 from which was purchased 3 scooters, 3 electric wheelchairs and 6 manual wheelchairs. This came to a total of £12,615 ‑ the balance of the money £7,385 was set aside for future purchase of vehicles and for maintenance.
The scheme was offered premises free of charge by the local authority, located in a car park fairly close to the town centre. Sutton Shopmobility opened in July 1990 at a cost of £22,500.
Although the premises were free they were not in an ideal location with two roads to cross before reaching Sutton Town Centre.
In October 1991 negotiations began with Norwich Union who were building a new shopping centre in the High Street. In May 1992 they offered to build new premises in the car park of the new centre.
This was an ideal location, as the scheme would be ideally situated by the link bridge to the St Nicholas Centre which meant direct and easy access to the High Street, ten disabled parking bays were also included. In October 1992 Sutton Shopmobility moved to its new premises, and is looking forward to celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer.