Recently I posted a story about a woman who was refused service at a few drive through McDonald’s because of her disability. I received a few emails from folks who felt that the press this story received was overdone and that it was an isolated incident.
I suggest you scan the contents of any disability news reader. (Check out Disapedia’s news.) You’ll see stories about people with disabilities being refused service almost daily. Some involve refusal of service due to a service dog, such as a recent case where a bus company would not sell a ticket to a blind couple who had service dogs. This is still happening and I’ve personally witnessed it on a number of occasions when I’ve been out with blind friends, even at nationally known restaurants.
My other experience with this has been when I’ve traveled with other disabled people and more than one of us tries to get service at a restaurant. This has happened enough times that I see a pattern in it. On one occasion, another friend who uses a wheelchair and I went to a local diner where we were told they were “crowded” and asked us to use take out. We told them we wanted a table and we were put at a six foot long table, my friend at one end and me at the other, making conversation impossible. When I refused this arrangement, I was told we would be in the way if we sat anywhere else. I explained that we wished to be seated like other customers. The owner came over and once again asked us to get take out as the other patrons did not want to look at us because we were ‘too disabled and it upset them’. I mentioned the ADA and he said he was not going to deal with such things and he did not vote for that. So I called the police.
Touching story, eh?
It’s interesting on these occasions how calling the police can straighten out a restaurant owner’s attitude. There’s nothing like enforcing the ADA (if you have a stomach for it) in such a direct manner. It is illegal for them to refuse you service due to your disability – period. Basically, the police arrive, they talk to the manager/owner and explain the law (which you’ve already done) and you are seated and served. In my experience, the police, who have better things to do with their time, often say to the person breaking the law that this better not happen again.
It’s very sad that in 2007 we’re still dealing with this type of issue but burying our head in the sand about such things doesn’t help solve it. I hear stories from people who say they don’t go to certain places because they’re not welcome and my response is that I go where I want to go. Just like everyone else. Sometimes we all wind up having to be our own advocate.
I don’t enjoy such scenes nor do I seek them out but if I am refused service I enforce my rights.
Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan