Not to hammer away at my favorite franchise – Starbucks – yet again, but my friend “Jane” recently sent me the following email, and I asked her for permission to share both it and my reply with Deaf Echo readers. Here it is:
The following story happened to a friend of mine today and he is totally flabbergasted at what went down. I am curious as to your thoughts on it…..
‘I would treat myself to Starbucks. I went in and ordered and the only available table was the one by the door with the sticker that says, “Please offer this table to our disabled customers.” A few minutes after I sat down a young couple came in, obviously college students by the book bags and school sweats they were wearing. They ordered and then surveyed the shop and as they approached the table I noticed them signing. The couple came up to me and the young man said they would like to sit down. I said, “Pull up a chair and have a seat.” He looked at me as if I had horns coming out of my head. I then looked him in the eye and said “Please sit down.” I was not sure if he could read lips or could hear so I also gestured to the empty spaces. He said to me, “YOU don’t understand WE want the table.” I said, “I am not finished but you can have a seat.” He then went to the counter and came back with the “manager,” a kid that looked to be all of fifteen, and she says I have to get up because this is a table for disabled people and they are deaf so they get priority. I said “Are you shittin’ me?” To which she asked me to leave the store for using profanities.’
I find myself shaking my head at this one. I mean, do deaf people have a right to the disabled table in Starbucks? I mean, I don’t grab it when I go in there….I am a bit taken aback and not sure what to tell this friend. I see this as an example of “using” the disability to gain something versus a legitimate concern – and it makes me kind of twinge. So of course I thought of you and what your take on this would be.
What do you think? Two students acting badly or a legitimate right?
This was my reply to her:
“In my opinion this is an example of two deaf people behaving in an absurd way, and an example of the store owner behaving even more absurdly (by backing them up). At best the two deaf people here have some misguided belief that accessibility laws should extend to a situation that should more appropriately be applied to mobility issues (if the two deaf people were instead people in wheelchairs, I could of course understand this provided there was no more room for anyone else to sit at the table with them, and I think your friend would have too). Or if they had been blind, even (because it might be harder for a blind person to navigate to another table, but who knows, I could be wrong). But should accessibility laws form some sort of blanket that applies to deaf people facing these specific types of situations? No. A reasonable accommodation for deaf people in that situation would be, for example, the clerk (assuming he can’t sign) writing down anything he says to them during the sale. And that’s it.
I think the type of situation arises from the blanket label “disability” being applied from birth up and then any of the following being thrown into the mix: a) lack of access to language and an education that would enable a great many deaf people to actually think about these things, b) lack of access to the “hearing world” that ends up filling so many deaf people with resentment, rage, and a desire to “stick it to them,” and c) in many cases a complete collapse of a deaf individual’s self esteem and dignity (due to the weird ways in which people treat him or her because of the whole “disability” thing). Case in point in this situation: the store owner. But there are plenty of other examples. How many airport employees have insisted on wheeling deaf people from gate to gate in wheelchairs because accessibility laws, in their interpretation of them, anyway, demanded this?
So it comes full circle. Your friend was right to be shocked, and to say ‘Are you shittin’ me?’
And if I ever go to this store, I assure you, I will tell the store manager I’m deaf and demand use of that same table. And then when she moves to kick out whoever happens to be sitting there, I will loudly repeat what your friend said and take my business elsewhere.
So how about it, Deaf Echo readers? What do you think? Share your thoughts!