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Disabled shopper’s Orange nightmare

Disabled shopper’s Orange nightmare
10th May 2012 developer

A disabled woman was tackled to the floor by a security guard after she complained about not being allowed to return her new mobile phone, only minutes after signing the contract.

The woman, who has cerebral palsy and scoliosis, but has asked not to be identified, was held by the security guard on the floor of the Orange store in the south of England.

After signing the 24-month, £52-a-month contract, she had told store staff on Tuesday morning that she couldn’t switch the Galaxy phone on, and asked for the instruction manual.

When she was told manuals were only available on the internet, she became distressed and said the phone would not be suitable for her because she had no internet connection.

The member of staff offered to go through the phone’s functions with her, but she said that – because of her impairment – she needed a manual to refer to if she forgot how the phone worked.

She asked the store to cancel and return her contract – which she said was her legal right – but the member of staff refused to hand it over or let her speak to an Orange manager on the phone.

He then called the shopping centre’s security guard when the woman – who is less than five feet tall – became increasingly distressed and tried to retrieve the contract herself from behind the counter.

She said she told the store staff that she was “mentally distressed” and “couldn’t understand why no-one was listening to me”.

Even though she warned the security guard that she had a physical impairment, he grabbed her and dragged her from behind the counter, where she was kneeling on the floor.

After a brief tussle, he held her on the floor, forcing her arm up behind her back, even though she told him it was hurting. She said she also found it difficult to breathe because her hat was partly over her face.

She was left bruised, bleeding, severely distressed and with her legs in spasm.

The store called the police, who escorted her as she was wheeled on a stretcher through the shopping centre to a waiting ambulance, and then driven to hospital.

She said she was briefly arrested and then de-arrested by a police officer.

She said: “I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I just feel completely traumatised and unsafe.

“Here I am doing my shopping and I have never been arrested. I have been on all these [disability rights] demos and I have never been arrested.”

Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, who had spoken on the phone to the woman when she was in the store, said there had been a “blatant disregard for taking what a disabled person is saying seriously”.

She said: “They knew there was another person who was aware of the situation and it didn’t stop them. I am quite shocked about that, but I am not completely surprised because this is not a new experience for disabled people.”

Newman said she wondered how many such incidents were going unreported by disabled people who lacked support in their dealings with the service industry.

She added: “It was a complete mis-selling, and more importantly a mishandling of the situation.”

A police spokeswoman said: “We have no record of her being arrested – we were called by the shop to attend and then assisted in putting her in an ambulance where she was taken to the [hospital].”

Orange has so far refused to comment.