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‘Terror’ for disabled B.C. senior after Walmart staff reclaim borrowed wheelchair, citing policy

Kathleen McMahon speaks out after husband is left clutching shopping cart for balance
Walmart says it is investigating a complaint that a security guard wouldn’t let a disabled customer wait outside the South Surrey site’s doors in one of the store’s courtesy wheelchairs. (Walmart Canada photo)

A South Surrey senior is calling on Walmart to better-train its staff to deal with disabled customers, after she says her husband was left at risk of a serious-injury fall during a recent shopping trip.

Kathleen McMahon said she and John were at the Grandview Corners Walmart Supercentre (2355 160 St.) on April 20 when a security guard made John use a shopping cart for support while McMahon was fetching their van from the parking lot.

John, 79, has balance issues due to Parkinson’s disease, and Kathleen had left him waiting just outside the exit – “exactly the same spot that I always do” – in the store’s courtesy wheelchair, which he had used throughout the half hour they’d spent shopping in the store.

When she returned a few minutes later, however, she was shocked to find him standing, clutching a shopping cart to steady himself.

“The look on his face was one of pure terror,” Kathleen said.

“His legs, because of the Parkinson’s, the thighs freeze up. There’s no warning. He can just fall, and has done many times,” she explained.

“He was hanging on for dear life.”

Peace Arch News has not yet received a response from Walmart to a request for comment.

READ ALSO: Walmart to open ‘state-of-the-art’ South Surrey distribution centre

The company reportedly told television news that they were looking into the incident and would be reaching out to the McMahons.

However, Kathleen says she’s heard “not a peep” from the store manager, nor anyone at the corporate level – both of which were left messages on the day of the incident.

“I would’ve at least liked to have heard that they are looking into it and they would get back to me,” she said. “They haven’t even done that.”

Kathleen said she did make a point of speaking to the security guard at the time, but says the response she got there “did nothing to alleviate the anger that I felt.”

The employee simply confirmed that she’d taken the wheelchair from John – who also has Alzheimer’s disease – and said store policy prohibits them being taken out of the store.

If that was the case, “there are many ways that she could’ve handled that situation,” Kathleen said.

“The one she chose was irresponsible, reckless. To take a wheelchair from a handicapped person is irresponsible.”

Kathleen said her husband holds no animosity over what happened, and said she is not looking for financial compensation from Walmart – although she would most certainly have sued had John fallen that day.

She went public with the experience because she’s confident it wasn’t the first time something like that has happened, and “I’d like it to stop.”

She’d like to see a policy put together and education for staff so it “never happens again.”

“When something that is wrong on so many levels happens, I believe that it’s important to speak out,” she said. “I will not stand for this kind of behaviour. It’s just not right.”
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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