A frustrated, overweight and tearful woman struggled in her battery-operated wheelchair. Her arm was outstretched toward a corner inside the Santa Monica AMC Theater. The angle of her arm seemed as if she were pointing toward a wall with posters promoting future movies. This area of the theater was not heavily trafficked and served primarily as an overflow for people wanting to see a popular movie.
Unable to turn her heavy wheelchair around and with her back to theatergoers rushing to find seats, no one was aware of the effort that was going on. It was only by happenstance that my wife and I happened to walk to this part of the theater. The wheelchair lady, dressed in somewhat worn, non-descript clothes that did not go together was intent in trying to reach for something not immediately apparent to us. It was then that she noticed us and asked if we could help her.
Willing to assist but not knowing what she wanted, we saw an electrical cord in her hand. It turned out that with her battery totally drained, her wheelchair had died about three feet from an electrical outlet in the wall. This woman was imprisoned in her wheelchair. She did not have enough strength to get out of her chair and plug the recharging cord into the wall. No one stopped to assist until we happened to see her struggling in a corner. We plugged the cord into the wall and it was then that we heard her story.
Apparently, earlier in the evening, while shopping at a well-known clothing store (TJ Max), she noticed that her battery was nearly drained. There was enough â€œjuiceâ€ to maneuver her wheelchair to an area that had an electrical receptacle. As she was attempting to plug in her charging cord, someone from the store accused her of â€œtaking advantageâ€ and that she had to leave the premises.
The lady’s battery had enough â€œlifeâ€ to get to the theater but not quite enough to reach the wall. With our help, she would be able to get a â€œquick 20-minute charge good enough to get home.â€
The wheelchair lady was visibly upset having been â€œthrown out of a storeâ€ where she frequently shops. Much like the Yin and the Yang, â€œlifeâ€ has its balance of bad and good. Congratulations to the AMC Theater for its understanding and sensitivity to her plight. The wheelchair lady’s situation was serious â€“ it was emotional and, it should not have occurred. This person was in distress. Fortunately, we were there to help. Regrettably, timing was such that there was no opportunity to substantiate this wheelchair lady’s story. Perhaps there may have been a misunderstanding at the clothing store. Nevertheless, her situation does bring up an issue that requires exploring.
Throughout the Westside, stores and businesses are becoming more wheelchair accessible. Sidewalk ramps, audible signals, parking spaces as well as charging stations for electric or hybrid cars are increasing. But, how and where does a battery-operated wheelchair (easily) recharge other than in a person’s home?
Most electrical receptacles in buildings are at floor level and quite often out of sight. It seems that with very little cost to any establishment, an electrical receptacle or wheelchair â€œcharging stationâ€ could be set up, still in a corner but about two feet off the floor providing easy access to someone that is wheelchair bound.
From a marketing perspective, there is a good chance that stores offering easy wheelchair recharging stations may generate more business. After all, why wouldn’t a wheelchair-bound person want to shop just as much as a person that is not handicapped?
Perhaps communities could set aside areas where a wheelchair-bound person (for a nominal fee) could exchange a spent battery with a fully charged battery.
Most likely there are other possibilities that might be inexpensive, easy to provide and not requiring a huge overhead cost to implement.
In the meantime, strictly from a humanitarian perspective and for want of a little electricity, let’s all work together to find ways to assist the disabled.