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Disabled pensioner forces Chineham shop to re-think wheelchair policy
WHEELCHAIRS will be made available to disabled or infirm customers at a major Chineham store after a pensioner and her daughter went into battle over the issue.
Disabled Margaret Gowers, from Magnolia Court, Popley, Basingstoke, has visited Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food store, in Chineham, since it opened two years ago, accompanied by her daughter Jan Skillett.
But on a recent visit, the pair were shocked to find the wheelchair they have used every week was no longer there. When Mrs Skillett, from Tadley, asked in the store where the chair had gone, she was told it was no longer available.
She complained to M&S head office, and said: “I was told that I should never have been given one in the past and that their wheelchair was only for emergencies. I then enquired if this was the case at the Camberley store, and was told their health and safety policy is different.”
The mother-of-two and grandmother-of-one added: “My mother and myself are loyal customers and spend hundreds of pounds a month at the store. I think it is disgusting discrimination against the disabled.”
Mrs Gowers, who is 92, is unable to walk, and her daughter has only ever taken her to places where there is a wheelchair to use.
The pensioner is looked after in sheltered accommodation, where wheelchairs are available to use within the home but cannot be taken out.
Mrs Skillett said: “For her to be able to enjoy an afternoon of shopping, we need to be able to have the use of a wheelchair.
“If the service had never been offered, this conversation would never have taken place, but M&S has withdrawn a service that has been available for two years.”
Jo-Anne Burridge, from the executive office at M&S, responded to Mrs Skillett to say the wheelchair was for emergencies only, and said: “M&S are not legally obliged to provide our customers with a wheelchair to use while shopping.”
She added: “I understand this will be disappointing for you and, once again, I’m sorry you have both been left upset.”
However, when The Gazette contacted M&S about the issue, a spokeswoman said wheelchairs are now available in the Chineham store for any customer who needs one.
She added: “We’re sorry for any confusion caused during Mrs Skillett’s visit to the store. We want to put the situation right, and will be inviting the customer back into the store to meet the store manager.”
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