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Wall of shame

I’ve come across a lot of things in my life which have confirmed that there are some who walk among us who should be given a first class ticket to either Dodds or the Psychiatric Hospital.

I sometimes have to wonder if people are serious or if they just want to have their “five minutes of fame” even if it means they look like a jackass.

Too many of us are still uncomfortable around those with disabilities but while our approaches may differ, we have to at least let common sense prevail because frankly anything less would be nothing short of discrimination.

Allow me to present three, though hard to believe, real life events. After reading and hearing them discussed in various forums I came to the conclusion that we are not only uncaring, but cruel with it. The first event happened in New York City at a Starbucks Coffee chain, where 12 customers have filed a claim in Federal Court saying that they discriminate against deaf people by refusing to serve them, ejecting them from the store and making fun of the way they speak.

One employee upon realising that he didn’t understand what one deaf person was saying, asked him to repeat and then laughed hysterically when he heard how he sounded. In addition to that, when he asked to speak with the manager, the employee became angry and screamed obscenities in his face. Apparently since that incident they have refused to serve deaf customers and even when one female employee who knew sign language attempted to help them she was reprimanded.

A regional vice president has since then apologised for the “inconvenience” and offered them a preloaded Starbucks gift card. Huh? I would think that in 2013 a chain which has become a household name the world over would come out and make a public statement that makes sense, and then take harsh and necessary action against those employees who caused such great embarrassment while putting steps in place to make sure this kind of behaviour and attitude are never showcased again. Sorry to say Starbucks, but your lack of serious action speaks volumes!

The second event took place in New Jersey where a deaf girl was banned from using sign language on the school bus! Apparently, officials at Stonybrook School and district officials in Branchburg, N.J., believed that signing was a safety hazard. They sent a letter to the girl’s family ordering her to stop using sign language on the school bus or risk a three-day suspension.

Her parents said that students who also rode on the bus made fun of their daughter even getting out of their seats to tease her and the others who communicate with their deaf friend using sign language.

The school board came out and stated that they were not violating anybody’s rights; they just wanted to ensure the safety of the passengers in the bus “and will continue to take appropriate steps to accomplish that goal”.

Now I may be wrong, but shouldn’t you be targeting the ones who are getting out of their seats to inflict verbal and emotionally pain on this child? I’m assuming that the risk lies in the fact that children are leaving their seats and refusing to sit back down; but to say that you will punish the individual who is communicating the only way she knows how while allowing her tormentors to go free is ludicrous. Although this took place a few years ago, I assure you that it is very much still relevant today.

Ironically, the child lost her hearing when a classmate allegedly shot a bottle rocket near her ear and her parents sued the school over the incident. I smell a rat.

The final event happened in Savannah, Georgia where an employee of the Ships of the Sea Museum denied access to an 11 year old girl in a wheelchair. Why? Her wheelchair would “get the carpets dirty”.

I could tell you that the little girl Lexi has a rare neurological condition called Kernicterus that has left her physically non-functional and requires a wheelchair but that would be pointless. All I would like to know is if the visitors to the museum floated around as opposed to walking with their nasty shoes on this God-given carpet.

The employee then went on to say that they would be allowed to use a wheelchair from the museum but they can’t bring any wheelchair from outside. That doesn’t even make sense. As a matter of fact, the museum curator then issued an apology to the family blaming the mix-up on an employee who “misunderstood the museum’s wheelchair policy.” Ridiculous!

I don’t know what the wheelchair policy is, but good God; does it even seem logical to ask someone to switch wheelchairs especially when they aren’t all specially equipped liked Lexi’s whose chair required special straps? Not only that, but to then suggest to the family that Lexi sit outside and watch a video while the rest of her family walked through the exhibit was nothing short of patronising.

We can shout to the mountain top about the rights of the disabled and I would be right there standing alongside you shouting twice as loud, but I think that in these cases people not only failed to use common sense, they treated these individuals like second class citizens.

They were insulting, rude, arrogant, uncaring, and lacking in human decency in all three cases. Some people are cruel without apology and others care not who they hurt.

We need to speak out against injustice and let our voices be heard because frankly speaking, we don’t know when we too will be on the receiving end!

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