Shopping Center Apologizes For "Humiliating" Wheelchair
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 19, 2006
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA--The operator of a shopping center has offered an apology to two brothers after security guards refused to allow them to take wheelchairs out to their car.
Last Sunday, Ross and Tony Costa, and their sister, Sandra, all went to the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre in Melbourne. When they pulled up at the passenger loading zone, a security guard allowed Sandra to bring two of the center's courtesy wheelchairs out to her brothers, who both are in their 40s and have muscular dystrophy.
The security staff changed shifts during the Costas' visit. When they got ready to leave, the new guards on duty told Sandra she could not take the wheelchair past the shopping center's entrance -- even the 15 or so feet to the car at the curb.
"I pleaded with them for about five minutes with the boys there, saying: 'Can we please? Well, how am I going to get them to the car'?" she told the Australian Associated Press.
"They said: 'Well, we don't know how to help you, we can't change the policy'."
With the security officers standing guard, Sandra said, she was forced to carry one brother to the car. She was unable to carry the other brother, so he had to crawl most of the way.
"Every time I think about it I get emotional," Sandra told a local radio station. "They have a disability. They need the courtesy to be treated like human beings.''
"There's really no words for me to really explain the whole thing and how we felt on the day and many, many days after we're still feeling dull, (the) situation being very, very disturbing," she told Channel Nine's "Today Show".
Sandra told the AAP that the media's response to their story has made her brothers feel the public generally supports people with disabilities.
"I think it's brought them back to thinking people do care, 'cause they had lost a little bit of their hope for society," she said.
Westfield, the company that operates the mall, apologized directly to the family for the incident. In a statement, Westfield said that it deeply regretted the embarrassment and indignity the family suffered, and promised to review its wheelchair guidelines with an eye on making them more flexible.
"Disabled men forced to crawl from shops" (The Age)
"Westfield seeks meeting with disabled pair" (Australian Associated Press via The Age)