South City Mall authorities have offered an unconditional apology to Ghosh and promised to sensitize the frontal staff so that such incidents aren’t repeated.
According to Jeeja, she was stopped by the security guard at the mall entrance around 2.30pm and rudely told that she could not go in without being accompanied by someone. “I was shocked on hearing it as I had been to the mall several times earlier, mostly alone, and never faced such behaviour,” she recounted.
Angered by the behaviour, she tried to argue her cause. But with the mask on, she realised it was difficult to get her words across as her speech was getting increasingly slurred. At this point, mall authorities intervened, apologised to her and tried to ease the situation by offering her wheelchair assistance, but she refused. A fiercely independent woman, Ghosh has travelled all over the world on her own.
“I categorically tried telling them that it’s not the wheelchair I need, I just wanted to go to the food court. By then I was exasperated and called my friends who were waiting for me upstairs. They came and after making it quite clear that we did not need their help we went to the food court,” said Ghosh.
South City Mall vice-president Manmohan Bagree admitted there had been a problem with the guard’s understanding of the situation on Friday afternoon and said he was sorry for the inconvenience that Ghosh had faced. “We have the utmost respect towards Ghosh for championing the cause of people with disabilities and stand with her in furthering their rights and making our facility more inclusive. We will sensitise our staff in a manner that they understand where they are required to step in for assistance and where they are not. Perhaps, the situation got complicated due to a communication gap. But we will try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Ghosh had in 2012 taken SpiceJet to court for refusing her to board the flight unaccompanied while travelling to an international conference on disability rights. Four years later, the matter reached Supreme Court and led to far-reaching changes in carriage norms for people with disabilities and compliance by all airlines and major airports in providing facilities to such persons. But as Ghosh discovered last year while travelling through Kolkata airport, and again on Friday at the mall, there’s still a long way to go for society to change its mindset.