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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, December 23, 2018 1:00 am

Shopping in store can present mobility challenges

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Call me old-fashioned – I prefer to shop in stores rather than online.

But I understand the appeal of shopping online, especially for my mom. She suffers from multiple sclerosis and cannot walk long distances.

I occasionally shop with her, usually for groceries, so I know some of the struggles she encounters.

With stores bustling for the holidays, it's worth reminding my fellow able-bodied shoppers the importance of patience and kindness when encountering customers using canes, walkers and wheelchairs.

My mom readily accepted when I invited her to share her experiences for publication; it helped relieve some of her frustrations as a physically challenged customer.

I was unsurprised that she praised online shopping – a convenience that has saved her time and energy when buying gifts for others.

To her, Glenbrook Square and Jefferson Pointe are places to avoid. Handicapped parking, if available, is too far from her destination to walk, and renting wheelchairs is a hassle, partly because of inconvenient rental locations.

And, she pointed out, wheelchairs are only helpful when she has someone to push her.

"I haven't been to the mall in years by myself to get those special gifts or just shopping by myself," my mom said. "The last time I asked about motorized scooters, I was told that they were too expensive – so they lose my business instead."

Long lines and crowded stores are also turnoffs for my mom. She doesn't have the stamina to wait for a cashier if standing, and jam-packed aisles can be difficult to navigate when using a cane, walker, wheelchair or scooter.

Big-box stores get her business because they provide motorized carts, but even that can come with frustrations. She has waited upwards of 30 minutes for an available cart and watched teens race each other with the carts, wasting both her time and the cart's battery charge.

My mom, however, concluded with an uplifting note about the considerate, caring people she has encountered year-round: a gentleman who held an umbrella over her head as she walked steadily but slowly in the parking lot, and the many people who offer to help load her groceries in the car or reach for items on a shelf.

"These kindnesses warm my heart and are far more remembered than the negative side of human nature," she said.