A major DIY chain has provoked the anger of its disabled customers by banning the use of mobility scooters in store and forcing users to ride in manual wheelchairs instead.
B&Q has withdrawn its powered wheelchairs in stores throughout Britain and asked shoppers not to bring their own into shops. Instead, the DIY giant has replaced them with manual wheelchairs claiming that it has become concerned about a series of accidents and other incidents across the country.
The decision, however, has angered scooter users and disability campaigners who say that thousands of B&Q customers rely on mobility aids to help them get around what are enormous shops. B&Q has responded by saying that staff are “on hand” to help disabled customers to use its own wheelchairs.
One B&Q customer, Jason Uren, 44, who suffers from spina bifida and uses mobility scooters, says that he relies on the powered devices to be able to get around the store and to shop independently.
Mr Uren described B&Q’s decision as “insulting” and said that all disabled people have the right to remain independent. He told the Plymouth Herald: “Surely they have lost business as a result of this. Not to mention their duty of care and basic morals, which appears to me have been superseded by profits.
“The disabled community is such a big part of the local community these days. People don't realise just how big it is and companies that make these kind of choices will lose business as a result.
“They say they want to provide the best possible environment, but the best possible environment for me would be a mobility scooter - which isn't provided.
“I don't really want staff to assist me. I've lived all my life to try and not have to rely on anyone else and to be told this is quite frustrating.
“What I don't understand is why they've gone to the expenses of putting a number of disabled spaces in a car park, but not provided the appropriate support in store. They've not thought it through.
“My condition resulted from my spine not developing properly as a foetus in the womb and results in a gap in the spine.
“I was quite lucky, if I'm being honest. I am able to walk to a certain degree, but I do have difficulty walking for long distances."
But B&Q insisted that the removal of mobility scooters from its stores was for health and safety reasons following a number of accidents involving them. The spokesman added: “We now offer customers manual wheelchairs with staff on hand to assist on request.
“We work hard to provide the best possible shopping environment for our customers and are committed to providing a shopping environment that is accessible to all.
“We have made a number of adjustments to ensure disabled customers are not put at a disadvantage including disabled parking, automatic entrance and exit doors, clear level access around the stores, and induction loops.”
Meanwhile police are hunting a mobility scooter user who they believe ran over a pedestrian in a deliberate act.
A 67-year-old man was walking on the pavement using a walking stick when he was struck by a mobility scooter. Witnesses to the incident in Southampton said that the victim was then repeatedly driven over. The assault was only stopped when a customer came out of a nearby shop to intervene
Police think that the so-called ‘pavement rage’ incident may have been caused by something that had happened between the two people earlier.
The scooter user has been described as in his mid to late 70s. A police spokesman said: “Something like this is rare and we do think that this man was deliberately driven at.”
Earlier this year, figures revealed as many as three people a week are injured in accidents involving mobility scooters, with five drivers killed in 2014 alone.
MPs have demanded compulsory scooter training following the release of the statistics.
By Help Mobility Team