HEB in Austin adds cart for shoppers with special needs

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin mom Lauren Hoffer doesn’t want her son’s disability to keep him from going to the grocery store like any other kid or shopper.

Her 5-year-old son, Ben, has Angelman Syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder with mobility and cognitive challenges. This makes walking — especially long distances — difficult for him, Hoffer said.

Hoffer said her son was getting too big to fit in a shopping cart or to carry around the store, making shopping difficult for his family and other families with special needs. Leaving him at home with a parent is an option, but it makes Ben’s world feel small, Hoffer said.

Courtesy of Caroline’s Cart

“He can’t live in a world where he can’t go anywhere,” she said.

After a HEB trip pushing two carts through the store, Hoffer contacted the HEB store on Far West Boulevard and asked them to invest in a Caroline’s carta shopping cart that caregivers can use to push children and adults with disabilities around stores.

“I came back from that trip a little exasperated on my own because it was the first time I really couldn’t handle it,” she says. “I was like, ‘OK, that’s all…all I can do is ask.'”

In response, HEB store management said they would order a cart from Caroline “to make HEB a more inclusive place for all shoppers” in an email to Hoffer. A HEB spokesperson said several Austin-area stores carry Carolina carts, and more HEB stores are ordering carts each year.

She said the trolley will allow her family to do their shopping without worrying about someone staying home to look after Ben.

“It will allow him to be in the community and get to know the people in the community and also learn how to shop for groceries and all the things you do when you grow up,” she said.

These carts will also help Hoffer’s family in the long run as Ben grows. Caregivers of the elderly can use Caroline’s carts for the elderly to do their shopping.

Other HEB stores in the area also have Carolina carts, according to the cart maker. Other retailers, including Target, Lowe’s and Trader Joe’s, have also cart locations on the list.