CBS | Linda Rolston, Wikimedia Commons

Grocery Store Bans Woman With Disability For Bagging Too Slowly

Some of the toughest situations you can deal with are the ones where it seems like nobody cares about you. When we're made to feel vulnerable, a kind response from a stranger can make a surprising difference.

It's not even like we're expecting them to have the solution to all of our problems. Just the fact that they cared enough to stand with us through something hard means something to us.

So that makes it all the more unfortunate when one Canadian woman experienced only rejection in this exact kind of moment.

By the time she stepped into a No Frills grocery store in Whitecourt, Alberta, Linda Rolston had already been through a lot.

CBC | Linda Rolston

She had cancer, which meant she needed to undergo surgery to replace her voice box with a prosthesis in her throat. Unfortunately, her surgery also limited her mobility in her shoulders and arms.

This presented a problem at No Frills because this chain is known for requiring customers to pack their groceries.

Reddit | BMexx

As Rolston told CBC News, this meant she would have to "beg and plead" staff to help her pack, but she often found that they were too busy.

Eventually, this situation led her to complain to the store's owner, who promised to fix it.

However, nothing seemed different when she returned a few weeks later. So she started bagging her groceries as quickly as she could.

Reddit | sorry_wasntlistening

However, despite her best efforts, the line started to build up behind her until the owner approached and told her she shouldn't come back if she can't bring someone to pack for her.

"I was stunned," she told CBC, "I said, 'Are you telling me because I'm disabled I can't shop here?' And he said, 'Yes.' I said, 'I don't have anyone to help me and I have my prescriptions here.' He said, 'Well, you're just going to have to go somewhere else.'"

Hearing that she was explicitly being ejected because of her limited mobility led her to take the matter to the head office of the store's parent company.

Reddit | zingledorf

That organization, Loblaw Companies Limited, apologized and told her that she could continue shopping at the store. However, this was on the condition that she called ahead to see if someone was available to help her first.

She was also offered $100 on the condition that she didn't go public about her experience and didn't take action against the chain.

As far as Rolston was concerned, neither of these conditions were going to cut it.

Reddit | DenDen7107

For one thing, she saw the requirement to call ahead as amounting to needing to ask permission to go shopping.

As for that attempt at compensation, she said, "They can keep the $100. I'm going to tell anybody and continue with my human rights action."

Unfortunately, filing a complaint through Canada's human rights laws, as she's doing, seems to be the only option that has any hope of changing anything here.

Reddit | Guitrum

According to Mary Ann McColl of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, most provinces in Canada, Alberta being one of them, don't have laws requiring public and private organizations to make their properties accessible to people living with disabilities.

In those that do, which are only Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia at present, a business can face penalties of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In Alberta specifically, there's been some talk about introducing accessibility legislation to the provincial government.

YouTube | Edmonton Journal

At least, that's what Alberta's official advocate for persons with disabilities, Tony Flores, said he plans to do.

At this time, it's unclear when he plans to, as he put it, "bring that forward to the government."

For their part, Loblaw's does have a policy that's supposed to ensure "equal access" for people with disabilities.

Wikipedia Commons | Raysonho

This policy is also supposed to provide training for new staff to ensure this happens. In response to Rolston's encounter with the No Frills owner, a representative said the company is "working with the store's management to ensure staff at the store receive additional training."

However, that representative also said this policy only applies to "corporate grocery stores" and not to No Frills franchises.

And so, Rolston had to take the hard steps to tell her story, saying, "I was kind of scared for people to see me. I don't like to have my picture taken or anything, but I was so upset about this — I wanted everyone to know what they did to me."

h/t: CBC News

Filed Under: