By Sarah Alexander-Georgeson. [caption id="attachment_6268" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Image: Disabled woman sat in a wheelchair, in the Garden Square area of Rushden Lakes, wearing grey jumper with black hearts, pink tights, black skirt and black hat.[/caption] As a wheelchair user there is nothing more reassuring than knowing you can go somewhere and have no accessibility issues. Rushden Lakes offers that, and so much more. Whether it be to shop, dine out at a restaurant, or go watch a film at the cinema, I know I can go to Rushden Lakes and all my access needs will be met. Having a place where I can do so much, practically on my doorstep is amazing. All the shops have wide doorways, step-free access and the majority of aisles in the shops are spaciously laid out. Those that do have another level have elevators. I especially like the lifts in Primark that are glass as they are big, and you can see the whole store whilst using them, and scope out the things you want to buy. [caption id="attachment_6269" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Image: Back of a wheelchair, with store fronts to the right blurred out.[/caption] Outside the stores it is level access and completely flat which I really appreciate because driving over uneven surfaces in a wheelchair is agony on my already sore joints. There are only smooth surfaces at Rushden Lakes, and I am very grateful for that. This is not only beneficial for me but for everyone, it’s so much better walking on an even floor. Getting around in a wheelchair is easy as a lot of crossings are level access and the ones that aren’t have dropped kerbs. At other places I have to go out of my way to find dropped kerbs, often they will be blocked, or I have to drive into the road putting myself in danger, but this is never the case at Rushden Lakes. With the site being so big, you would think it would be difficult to navigate but there are signposts all over the park. I guarantee you won’t get lost, and if you do, there is always someone on site to help direct you. [caption id="attachment_6270" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Image: Outside of Rushden Lakes, with a wooden bench and trees in the background.[/caption] There are also plenty of places to sit, with benches and plenty of available seating outside shops, not that I need them, but my boyfriend certainly uses them when I’m spending a little too much time looking at shoes. I find that they’re always in use and are a great feature for those that would rather wait outside the store, have a dog with them, or simply want to take a seat. With 105 Blue Badge parking spaces and 47 ‘A’ bays, available for Blue Badge holders, parent and child, or anyone that needs more space, there is plenty of accessible parking. I have luckily never had any problems parking or finding a Blue Badge parking bay. I drive a large wheelchair accessible vehicle, with rear access and there is plenty of space to safely get in and out of my car. The accessible parking is throughout the site, too, which is great. I like the idea of the ‘A’ bay because a lot of people do not meet the eligibility criteria for a Blue Badge but they do require more space when parking, so this is something that will help a lot of people. [caption id="attachment_6271" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Image: Back of a wheelchair, with a disabled women sitting in it, wearing a black hat. Background shows two Accessible Bays, and the front of stores blurred out.[/caption] By the lake there is a large bathroom with accessible toilet and a Changing Places facility, which when I found out about a few years ago, I did a happy dance, even though I don’t need one for myself, I know a lot of others do. It includes a hoist, adjustable sink, shower, and changing table, amongst other things. [caption id="attachment_6272" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Image: Orange sign with toilet signs, onside the side of a building with a blue and white sky in the background.[/caption] Amongst the shopping and the parking etc, even the walk (wheel, in my case) around the lake is accessible, if not slightly bumpy, but that is to be expected. I love taking my dogs, and my nephew. It’s lovely to be out in nature and it’s a totally different experience from the shopping and leisure side Rushden Lakes. Having a powerchair really enables me to have that freedom to venture around the lake and have that time outdoors that I don’t often get to have, so I really appreciate it. If you had not already noticed, I am a big fan of Rushden Lakes, not only because of how much there is to do there but because I don’t feel like a burden there, I don’t feel like I am in the way or going to have a disastrous accessibility issue like I have at other places so many times before. It is why I keep returning. It is why the shop assistants know my dogs names. I always feel welcome at Rushden Lakes.