Shock­ing find

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - AN­THONY THANASAYAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

IDON’T know what it is about hy­per­mar­kets and me lately, folks, but it seems that ev­ery time I visit one, the episode turns into a night­mare.

Last week­end, I vis­ited a hyper­mar­ket in a hip and hap­pen­ing part of Petaling Jaya in Se­lan­gor. I re­gret to say that there was an­other ugly con­fronta­tion.

The only ac­cess to the hyper­mar­ket was via es­ca­la­tors on the ground floor. How­ever, there were clear signs to in­di­cate that wheel­chairs were barred from us­ing the es­ca­la­tors for safety rea­sons.

This is a good move by the man­age­ment as not many peo­ple who han­dle wheel­chairs are aware of the dan­gers of ma­noeu­vring them on a mov­ing plat­form.

It is easy to lose con­trol of the wheel­chair no mat­ter how strong your helper may be. The user could also lose his grip and fall off the wheel­chair.

How­ever, what the hyper­mar­ket failed to pro­vide was a suit­able al­ter­na­tive ac­cess for shop­pers with dis­abil­i­ties.

All they had were the goods lifts. These were two very large lifts that could even fit a small car. The lifts dis­abled-friendly fa­cil­i­ties that are in a de­plorable state tell a sad tale of ap­a­thy. were in a de­crepit con­di­tion. There were rude and ex­plicit graf­fiti on the walls; it was ex­tremely undig­ni­fied and embarrassing to any­one who read them whilst us­ing the lift.

The en­trance from the goods lift into the store was blocked by dozens of shop­ping trol­leys that made ac­cess vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for wheelchairusers. The area was also smelly and filthy.

I was ap­palled that any man­age­ment could sub­ject dis­abled shop­pers to such in­dig­nity.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, it did. The wheelchair­friendly toi­lets were blocked by large clean­ing trol­leys loaded with mops and de­ter­gent.

A wheel­chair user would need su­per­hu­man strength to move the trol­leys. The fact that none of the clean­ers or staff mem­bers of­fered to help was even more telling.

The slid­ing door in­side was so badly dam­aged that it looked like it was go­ing to col­lapse at any time. There was fae­ces ev­ery­where. The toi­let seats and floor were black with dirt and stank to high heaven. The sink and grab bars were bro­ken.

It was ob­vi­ous that this was not an overnight in­ci­dent; it has prob­a­bly been that way for weeks or pos­si­bly months.

I asked for the top man­age­ment to get an ex­pla­na­tion, and was given the runaround. All I got even­tu­ally was a very weak apol­ogy fol­lowed by a string of ex­cuses on why things were the way they were at the hand­i­capped-friendly toi­lets.

How sad that a build­ing with signs like wheel­chair park­ing, dis­abled­friendly loo and hand­i­cap ac­cess pasted on the out­side, could be just the op­po­site on the in­side.

Shock­ing sit­u­a­tions like these make us won­der how peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are val­ued in our so­ci­ety.

Shouldn’t it be ev­ery­one’s pri­or­ity to en­sure that fa­cil­i­ties for the hand­i­cap are well-main­tained at all times and ready for use?

If not, what’s the point of hav­ing dis­abled-friendly fa­cil­i­ties when the dis­abled can­not ben­e­fit from them?

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