Flowers. Hundreds of pots of blooms. Chrysanthemums, everywhere. They extended from the door of the store right round the corner. They were three or four deep and, as a result, made a wide sidewalk narrow. I waited behind an elderly woman, with a walker, carefully pick her way round them. It was hard for her because she had to walk at an angle down one slope of the curb cut and then back up the other side of the cut to continue on her way. It was hard for her to manage her walker at that angle. I had less difficulty because I was in my power chair but I did have some difficulty getting through people who were standing on the cut, there was no sidewalk left to stand on, waiting to cross.
We had been going to that grocery store anyways so once I got in, I found a staff and asked to speak to a manager. He came along quite spritely and asked what was wrong. I explained to him that the flowers, albeit lovely, were quite a barrier on the sidewalk making it hard for those of us using mobility devices to pass. I asked if he wanted me to show him what I meant. He said that he didn't need to as he understood exactly what I was saying. "How much do you think we should cut them back?" he asked. I suggested just enough to leave a flat pathway around the corner. "Makes sense," he said.
Then he called out, "Hey, thanks!"
I'm not used to being thanked like that when I raise an issue, even when it's all very friendly. Joe and I continued on our way and did what we needed to do, got what we needed to get, all within about 10 minutes. We went back out the door and even though we were heading the other way, I went to take a look to see if they'd started moving the flowers.
The sidewalk was barrier free again. Flowers still were on display, it was still beautiful, but there would be easy passageway around the corner.
There are several ways that people respond to feedback about accessibility. The most common is some vague promise of change in the future plus the offer of a ... choose one, gift card, pass for the next event, a small gift. The next most common is a strong show of interest and a definite 'we'll look into that and get back to you' said in the same tone that someone say's 'let's have lunch' when they don't mean it. The least common is actual action.
(To the manager at Loblaws in the Maple Leaf Gardens - thanks for being uncommon. Thanks for realizing that customer service is about more than 'active listening' it's about 'active change.')