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Special needs shopping carts debut in St. John’s

Colemans, Dominion, Sobeys and Walmart all feature ‘Caroline’s Cart’

St. John’s has become the first major city in Canada to offer accessible shopping carts at several of its major grocery stores, thanks to a partnership between The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, the local chapter of fundraising organization Canadian Progress Club, and the Newfoundland city’s major grocers.

The organizations have partnered to bring 20 “Caroline’s Carts” to Sobeys, Dominion, Colemans and Walmart stores throughout the city. There are currently 16 carts in 16 stores throughout the city, with another four carts currently on-order for Walmart.

“Caroline’s Cart” was conceived in 2011 by Drew Ann Long, a woman from Alabaster, Alabama who determined a market need after realizing that her special needs daughter Caroline would one day outgrow the seating provided by a typical grocery cart.

The first Caroline’s Carts began shipping in 2013, and can now be found in Kroger, Publix, Hannaford, Food Lion and Wegman’s stores in every state in the continental U.S.

The carts are designed to provide a viable option for people faced with the daunting task of having to manoeuvre both a grocery cart and a wheelchair through a grocery store. Each of the specially designed carts is capable of holding up to 250lbs.

Ralph Chiarot, grocery cart project chair with the Canadian Progress Club – which raises funds to benefit people with both intellectual and mobility disabilities – said that he was inspired to bring the carts to St. John’s after seeing a news story about their adoption in Edmonton.

“It gave me that idea to say ‘We should be doing this not just for one grocery store, but for the entire city?’” said Chiarot, who used connections from his fulltime job as regional development manager with Danone Canada to facilitate the program.

Chiarot presented the program to the local chapter of Canadian Progress Club in December, with the first Caroline’s Carts delivered to participating retailers in June and a press conference announcing their adoption on Sept. 11.

He told Canadian Grocer that it was “exceptionally easy” to enlist the four competing grocery banners. “It was just a great partnership between all four retailers,” he said. “It was ‘It’s good for the community, let’s all support this.’”

Chiarot said that his goal is to expand the Caroline’s Cart program throughout Newfoundland and Labrador by as early as November. “I’m expanding it over the next couple of months to go beyond the greater St. John’s area, and we’ll make Newfoundland and Labrador the first province with accessible grocery carts,” he said.

The goal, he added, is to enlist other grocery banners – as well as other retail banners – to participate in the program.

According to research from The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, there are approximately 75,000 people in the province with “limited participation” due to disability.

A Caroline’s Cart costs close to $1,000 to manufacture and deliver, compared to about $300 for a standard grocery cart. Canadian Progress Club is providing approximately one third of the cost, with the remainder absorbed by the participating grocery banners.

All of the carts are made by Newton, North Carolina based
Technibilt, the world’s largest manufacturer of grocery carts. According to Chiarot, there are currently approximately 70 Caroline’s Carts in use throughout Canada.

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