A Surrey woman says she plans to go to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after her mobility scooter was banned from a local recycling depot.
Philippa Powers suffers from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and uses a scooter to help get her around.
She’s always taken care of her own recycling, but on Monday says she was barred from the Surrey Central Return-It depot on 104th Avenue.
Staff pointed to a “No Bicycles” sign outside the building and told her it applied to her scooter too.
“He said, ‘I have a no bike policy,’ and I said, ‘Well clearly this isn’t a bike, it’s a mobility scooter,'” said Powers.
“I was absolutely livid. Unless it’s unsafe for me and my scooter, unless there’s something inside that would harm us, I have the same right to enter any building as anyone else.”
Powers acknowledged that her scooter is large, but said she always tries to keep it out of the way inside the depot, and be aware of who’s around her.
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She said the operator of the depot eventually came up with a compromise, which is to have her wait outside and a staff member come and take the bottles from her, and give her the deposit back.
Daesung Choi, who owns the Return-It centre, told Global News he’s been in business in the area for about five years.
He said the depot used to be overrun with homeless people and gang members.
He said binners would bring their bikes inside, causing dangerous tripping hazards and bumping children.
That prompted the bike ban, which he said has been in place for about two years, and resulted in a significant turnaround in the cleanliness of the area.
But he said Powers’ scooter causes some of the same problems when the depot is busy, and can track in mess from outside when it’s been raining.
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“She brings her scooter all in the back, it’s dirty, so my employees all have to hard work, clean,” said Choi.
“Other customers don’t like it, it is a problem, dangerous.”
He said he came up with the compromise to have Powers served outside, and said he’d apologized to her.
Choi said he believed Powers was satisfied with the solution, and that the pair had shared a hug and a smile afterward.
But Powers said being treated differently from other customers doesn’t cut it for her.
“My independence is so important to me, as it is to just about every other person who uses a wheelchair and a scooter,” she said.
“We don’t want to have to depend on other people to do for us, we want to feel that we’re pulling our fair share.”
-With files from Jill Bennett