Getting around Bower Place will be more difficult for people who relied on the mall’s electric scooters.
Red Deer resident Karen Gustafson said she used a scooter at the mall just a few months ago, but on Monday they were all gone.
“I was told they don’t have them anymore. They donated them to the Lending Cupboard, and would I like a wheelchair?” said Karen Gustafson, who has been using scooters at local businesses since 2017.
She said it wasn’t an electric wheelchair, but rather an uncomfortable manual wheelchair to push around that limits a person’s independence.
“I think this is a really major thing for people who have any kind of mobility issues. I can walk a little bit, but I can’t do a mall. It’s a big place,” she said about the unavailability of scooters.
“For people with disabilities, not only is it an inconvenience, it stops them from having another outlet in their lives they can negotiate by themselves.”
Bower Place said historically it has been one of the only shopping centres to offer motorized scooters to customers, but there were safety issues.
“At Bower Place, the safety of our customers, tenants and staff are our top priority and following several incidents relating to motorized scooter safety, the team has decided to permanently suspend the scooter program in order to create the safest environment possible,” Bower Place said in a statement.
“In addition, the team takes the cleanliness and sanitation of our shopping centre extremely seriously and the removal of the scooter program has allowed us to divert previously time-consuming cleaning efforts to other areas of the shopping centre.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, the scooter program was suspended for reasons related to COVID closures and cleaning protocols.
The mall said it understands there may be customers who are upset with the decision.
“At Bower Place, we take pride in being an accessible shopping centre with accessible washroom facilities and ample accessible parking spots. We hope that customers who previously used the scooter program can avail themselves of the wheelchairs we have on site if needed.”
Gustafson said she’s heard that many people who visit the mall need some kind of assistance. Instead of getting rid of the scooters, they should have got more.
“I frequent places where I can get around. Costco has scooters. I used one (Monday) at Walmart in the north end. Home Depot has them. Lowe’s has them.”
She said it’s a really sad situation to lose accessibility at a time when there’s been a focus on providing more community accessibility.