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Open Access: Where Have All the Wheelchairs Gone?

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Some years ago when I went to the CNE I discovered that they had electric scooters for people with mobility issues, to rent. They requested a piece of ID they could hold, and a small monetary hold on a credit or debit card. The ID was a wonderful idea, as no one would want to leave the area without their drivers license, CNIB card, or whatever else they chose to leave, and while they’re picking up their ID, they might as well drop off the scooter. This was a wonderful way to ensure that visitors with mobility issues got what they needed, and that the items weren’t stolen or misused.

Today my question is this. Why doesn’t Stone Road Mall do the exact same thing?

Because I use the buses, I enter the mall at the back doors near the lotto booth, and guest services. If I want a slice of pizza, or to get something at Shoppers Drug Mart, i have to go to the other end of the mall. For a number of reasons besides my mobility issues, this is way too much. For one thing the lights the mall uses are incredibly disorienting for some, so having to visually interpret the chaos while attempting to navigate through it can be extremely challenging.

To be fair, the mall does offer a wheelchair. However, manual wheelchairs can be a bit iffy.

For one thing, places that offer manual wheelchairs miss the mark by getting extremely small ones. Not everyone who uses the wheelchair is going to weigh 90 pounds. I once got a blister from trying to fit into a wheelchair at a grocery store. It would be better to get larger ones. Not only will they accommodate any size, but they will offer space for us to put our purchases.

Also when it comes to manual wheelchairs, they need maintaining. The last time I used the chair at the mall, I could hardly get the wheels to move, and I think there may have been a problem with one of the brakes. Standing up and sitting down in a chair with improperly maintained brakes can be dangerous.

It would not be hard for Stone Road Mall to get at least a half dozen electric scooters, keep them maintained, and lend them to customers, with a bit of collateral, so they will be returned.

The scooters are generally a bit bigger, so size will not be an issue. At full speed they do not move excessively fast, so unless someone does something irresponsible and jumps out in front of one before the rider has a chance to stop, there will be no problems. Parents and guardians, hold onto your small children, but then I would say that no matter what.

I am legally blind and physically challenged, and I use the motorized “shopping chairs” at Zehrs on Imperial, and at Food Basics on Clair Road, all the time! These things make my life a lot easier. I am one of those people who does not require one all the time, and who still wants to walk when I can. If I am walking down the sidewalk or across my parking lot, I am fine. There is not a lot on which I need to concentrate my vision. When I am trying to walk and look for something at the same time, there is difficulty. Unlike most people, I and some others with mobility issues, need to mentally concentrate on how I am moving. When I have to use my limited vision, on which I also have to mentally concentrate, it can get to be too much, and shopping the old fashioned way can get overwhelming. At least when I have an electronic scooter, I can take my mind off my movements, and only worry about my vision.

I’m not the only one who has these experiences. Someone once asked me why, if I can walk to and from the bus stop, even a little further, would I need this kind of mobility aid. Look at it this way. You want to take an uber to Tim Horton’s, and it’s going to cost you $11 each way. When you get to Tim’s, you’ll want a coffee and a donut, right? What if you only have $22 on you? It’s a lot like that with certain people and energy rations. If I use up all my energy wandering around the mall, and overdo it because I got lost looking for something, how am I going to get to the bus stop, to my transfer, and then from my transfer across my parking lot? This actually happened to me, looking for a place I’d never been, after getting off the bus. When I realized I’d still need to do whatever I had to do on the energy I had left, I turned around and headed back to the bus stop. I got on the bus, and took a nice long ride to a location that I knew would be easier for me to find.

The long ride gave me a chance to recover some of my energy.

With the availability of shareable mobility aids such as electric scooters, there really is no reason for every mall not to have at least a few. The grocery stores have caught on, so why not the malls? For those with lesser challenges who still have issues, even something as simple as being able to push a shopping cart would suffice. These are available in certain stores, but why not have some carts to be used throughout the entire mall?

While there would be a small cost at the beginning to acquire these resources, the end result would be good for business. 

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