Back on my soapbox again

February 27, 2013

(Part Two of a three-part blog entry.)

At about this time last year, I wrote an op/ed column that was printed in a local newspaper. (Trip to Jefferson County courthouse with MS an unpleasant one) In the column, I recounted an experience that was fraught with problems because of my inability to walk long distances or stand for long periods of time.

Well, I’ve climbed back up on my virtual soapbox to communicate with people who work in customer-service jobs. I hope that the suggestions I make here will help them better serve customers with disabilities.

Part One of this entry, which was posted on Feb. 20, addressed my concerns about restaurant staff members who seat people with disabilities. In Part Two, I have written about a  lack of sensitivity among managers and employees of big-box stores who are responsible for maintaining motorized shopping carts. Part Three, which will be posted soon, will focus on hotel and motel staff, and will describe how they can do a better job of finding appropriate rooms for guests who have disabilities.


I prefer to shop in locally owned, smaller stores, but sometimes, a big-box store can be a more convenient choice. However, when I enter a large store, I often find a shortage of motorized shopping carts.

This situation can happen if store personnel leave carts in the parking lot instead of returning them to the store to be recharged. And, even if the carts have been returned and recharged, they may have been configured so that an uncharged cart blocks my way, making it impossible to access the charged carts behind it.

A partially charged cart can cause additional problems. If I unknowingly select a shopping cart that is only partially charged — because its indicator lights make it appear that the cart is fully charged — I may soon find myself stranded in the back of the store, sitting in a shopping cart that literally won’t move an inch.

When that happens, my choices are few; I can flag down an employee to help me, or, if I can’t find an employee, I can attempt to walk back to the front of the store with my cane and purse but without the items I plan to purchase. 

I have attempted to contact the managers of the three big-box stores where I shop to discuss these problems. The results have been mixed.

I was unable to contact one store manager by phone. The two managers I spoke with responded as though they were sensitive to my needs. One even apologized for the situation, citing that some of their motorized shopping carts were being repaired. But the next time I went to there to shop, I was again unable to find a cart that was charged and operable.

People with disabilities often find it difficult to manage their lives from day to day, even if those disabilities are as minor as my being unable to walk long distances. So if you work in a big-box store, I ask only that you be more sensitive to the needs of people like me. Please bring those motorized shopping carts in from the parking lot. Please configure them so I can get to them. And please, keep them fully charged so that I don’t get stranded in the back of the store.



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