Thursday January 10, 2013
Great start to new year
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
MY new year couldn’t have started on a more positive note.
Last week, I needed to go to the bank and decided that Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur was the obvious choice because of its wheelchair-friendly facilities.
This, despite the fact that I had a horrendous experience at the bank when I went there some weeks ago.
I had expected the bank to be wheelchair-friendly, but I was in for a disappointment. There was a high step at the entrance. To make matters worse, the manually-operated doors were designed to shut the moment customers step in or leave.
Imagine struggling to get your wheelchair up the step. And when you’re halfway through, the door slams on you.
Even Andrew Martin, my best friend who had accompanied me, found it impossible to get me into the building.
Surprisingly, none of the bank staff or the security personnel thought the sight of two struggling grown men – one in a wheelchair and another doing his best to help – was reason enough to rush over and offer some assistance.
Finally, it was the odd customer or two who came to our rescue.
Once inside the bank, we found there was no special lane for wheelchairs or the elderly. And no one approached me to offer any assistance.
As far as they were concerned, I was expected to manoeuvre through the crowd and queue up like all the other customers.
I seriously wondered if the lady at the rather high reception desk would even have noticed me way down where I was, even if I was right in front of her.
And I would have needed the ability to elongate my arms like Marvel’s Mr Fantastic to give them my thumbprint because of their ridiculously high counters.
All this got me nervous and I started looking for a disabled-friendly toilet. But the only one available was several hundred metres away.
I complained to the management, and I’m glad they took it positively.
So last week, I decided to drop by the bank to see what changes had been made following my suggestions.
To my dismay, the high step was still there. I suppose the bank would need some time to replace it with a ramp.
The nightmarish door was still there. But to my pleasant surprise, when Andrew and another friend whom I had brought along, tried to lift my wheelchair up the step, the security guard flew to the door and opened it.
He was beaming from ear to ear when he greeted me with the words, “Welcome, sir!”
There was no need to even think about queuing. No sooner was I in, I found another smiling bank officer in front of me. She enquired about my banking needs and led me to her office. The transaction was over within 10 minutes.
I was thrilled that the bank had initiated changes even if they had yet to get down to the nitty-gritty of dealing with their hostile front entrance for the disabled.
My happy mood continued when I visited my regular dentist in Mid Valley. There were no hostile doors or steps to contend with. The clinic was wheelchair-friendly. The dentist, nurses and staff members were like smiling angels in white.
They did their best to make me as comfortable as possible. They showed great care when helping me out of my wheelchair and into the dental chair, and back.
Indeed, with friends and support like this, I am confident of facing many more challenges to come in 2013.