If you’re Deaf, you probably already know about the Steak ‘n Shake fiasco. It’s kinda old news by now.
But for my readership that isn’t Deaf, and comes here to learn more about deafness, as well as reading my various Pagan posts, I’d like to share a little bit about this incident, which has been creating a major buzz within the Deaf Blogosphere.
It involves Karen Putz, a fellow Deaf blogger from up in the Chicago area, and the mother of three deaf or hard of hearing children. Recently Karen and her youngest child decided to go through the local Steak ‘n Shake to get some milkshakes before heading over to pick up one of her other kids.
Big deal, you say.
You’re right… it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Except that Karen was denied service – all because she couldn’t use the speaker to place her order.
You can learn all about it here: http://putzworld.blogspot.com/2008/01/steak-and-shake-denies-service.html
Now maybe you are sitting there reading this and wondering
“Well, what’s the issue? Why couldn’t this mom have just parked her car and gone inside and ordered her milkshakes over the counter if she can’t use the speaker?”
Sure, she COULD do that. But why should she have to?
Maybe it was blustery cold that day and she wanted to stay in the nice warm comfort of her car. Maybe she didn’t want to deal with having to bring her son into the restaurant with her. Maybe she didn’t want to run the risk of walking in there and having someone she knows see her in those ratty old but ohhh-so-darned-comfy sweatpants she just couldn’t throw out – you know the type, the ones with the paint splotches all over them and the holes in the knees.
Or maybe she just wanted the same equal right to use the drive-through as everyone else… a right that many of you just take for granted.
We’re not asking for special favors here. We’re not requesting that you have to install some fancy-schmancy expensive electronic communications system where we can push buttons and send our order straight to the kitchen… although that would be nice.
All we are asking for here is a little common courtesy and a little extra effort. C’mon, how hard can that be?
Maybe the guy at the window thought that since Karen could speak, she was just trying to be an a$$hole and pull a silly prank… despite the fact that she repeatedly tried to explain that she couldn’t hear, even going so far as to show her hearing aids.
Newsflash for all the “Stupid Hearing People” out there:
Some deaf people can talk, and just because a person can speak and lipread well doesn’t mean that they can hear… or use a speaker to effectively place their orders at the drive-through.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all hearing people are as stupid as this Steak-n-Shake employee obviously was. I’d like to think that most of you have a little more common sense and a lot more gray cells than he does. Nevertheless, I suspect that the majority of hearing people don’t think about this sort of thing happening. When I told my hearing Pagan friend about it, she just stared at me and asked…
“You mean to tell me, this woman was denied service just because she’s DEAF?”
And the sad thing is… this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. I recall having read about a similar incident that occurred in California several years ago. That incident also involved a Deaf Mom with her young child in the car.
At that time, I could be a little (just a little, mind you!) more sympathetic to the fast food outlet… the Americans with Disabilities Act had just recently been passed, and most places were still learning about reasonable accommodations and accessibility.
It’s been nearly 18 (yup, you read that right – eighteen) years since the ADA was signed into law… and it seems some folks are still learning.
But it won’t be for the lack of effort on our part. I knew Karen wasn’t going to take this lack of accommodation sitting down… she fought back. She posted about the incident on her blog, and this sent shock waves throughout the Blogosphere (Deaf and otherwise) as fellow bloggers and vloggers jumped on the bandwagon. Both ABC News and Fox News affiliates in the Chicago area did segments about the situation.
Hell hath no fury like a Deaf Mom who can’t get her milkshakes.
To their credit, Steak ‘n Shake did issue an apology, and invited Karen to attend a meeting; where they discussed the incident, admitted to having made a mistake, and shared ways to improve service to the Deaf Community, and to all customers with disabilities. Hopefully we will see some improvements in the future.
But what makes me sad is that Karen had to experience this in the first place. All this guy had to do was simply listen to her, be sensitive to her issues with using the speaker, take her order, and make up her milkshakes.
And it’s not just the employee at Steak ‘n Shake who had a bad attitude – Karen had to deal with folks leaving interesting and even downright nasty comments (complete with “f-bombs” and “b-words”) on her blog accusing her of just planning this whole fiasco for the money, or stating that she was just seeking “special treatment” and she shouldn’t be making such a big issue out of the whole thing.
Such attitudes scare me.
They leave me wondering what this world is coming to, and why we as Deaf people should have to put up with such crap.
They leave me wondering if I will have to start showing my hearing aids also any time I want to use the drive-through… or if I’m going to get the window slammed in my face as well.
They leave me wondering if I’m going to get accused of demanding special attention if I request an interpreter for a meeting, or scolded for making a big issue out of nothing when once again I complain about the lack of captioning for on-line videos.
They leave me wondering if society has forgotten that equality is a right that should be enjoyed by all of us – regardless of race, religion, gender, lifestyle, age… or disability.
They leave me wondering if I’m ever gonna get my milkshake.