There is no denying that we live in a society which favors able-bodied people over those with disabilities. Unfortunately, it's still very much the case that when you're in a minority; your particular needs and desires are overridden by those of everyone else.
Now, while some instances of ableism stem from a lack of concern or consideration of those who have certain differences (such as a building not having any wheelchair-friendly access points), other forms of discrimination are a lot more calculated and intentionally hostile. And this particular incident in which a Taco Bell employee refused to serve a deaf customer at a drive-thru is no different.
So what exactly happened? Well, on January 2, Becky Burch posted a video showing her deaf son becoming very frustrated as he attempted to place his order at a Taco Bell in Kettering, Ohio. Essentially he was refused service.
Watch the outrageous encounter as it unfolded:
This video has since gone viral and sees a Taco Bell employee telling 25-year-old Brandon Burch that it is against their rules and regulations to serve him. This very employee can be heard threatening to call 911. It was Burch's girlfriend who recorded the footage and she was, in fact, in the car with him at the time. She, like Brandon, is deaf.
The video soon gained hundreds of views and reactions and caused a real stir online. As a result of the very understandable backlash the incident received, Taco Bell decided to release an official announcement which revealed that the employee at the center of it all had been let go. It also stated that a training session would be put in place for the staff at that specific chain location.
According to a report by Fox19, employees ignored Burch's order and continued to ridicule him.
It is clear from the video that Burch had been attempting to make an order by showing the employee a list of items from the Taco Bell menu. The employee then stated it was against their policy to serve him, repeating the words, "I can't do it, I can't do it," and shaking his head. After which the employee closed the window of the drive-thru.
And it doesn't end there - Brandon was then given a sticky note through the window that read, "We can't take orders at the window." Afterward, the employee gestured for Burch to come inside the restaurant rather than order at the drive-thru window.
When Fox19 interviewed the Burch family about the incident, his mother Becky claimed it was very painful to see what her son was forced to endure.
"It broke my heart, you know. To me, he's a person, just like anyone else," Becky stated. Aside from being unfairly ignored by staff, Burch was completely humiliated by them.
Brandon signed in American Sign Language, "Those people were making fun of me and mocking me," as his mother translated for the interview.
The report also stated that Burch and his girlfriend waited in line for about three minutes before the employee came up to the window and threatened to call the police. "We are going to call 911 if you don't move," he can be heard saying.
"I just wanted my food. That is it. I was hungry. So, there were other people, and I was just a regular customer there," Brandon signed in the interview.
What's more, there is even a sign on the path to the drive-thru which reads, "Customers with hearing or other disabilities, please pull up to [the] next open window for assistance."
Upon reading the sign, Burch felt at peace to simply proceed with his order, unfortunately, his experience completely dented his expectations of the restaurant's willingness to help those with disabilities.
Both Burch and his mother have no doubt in their minds that this constitutes an act of discrimination. It is for this reason that she felt the need to post the footage online. She wanted to bring attention to the issue and ensure that measures are taken to combat this, "It was upsetting," she told Fox19. "We just want to bring awareness to everyone, you know, to be educated. [Deaf people] are people, just like anyone else."
Although it certainly doesn't take away from what a humiliating experience it must have been for Burch, Taco Bell did respond to his concerns.
Their official statement on the issue reads:
"Taco Bell has a fundamental policy to respect all of our customers and employees, and we are committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment. The franchise owner and operator of this location have investigated this situation and the team member no longer works for their organization. All team members at this restaurant are being retrained by the franchise owner on their policies."
Burch's mother clarified, in response to the statement, that she never intended for anyone to lose their job. She was simply calling for better, more inclusive training for all Taco Bell employees.
What her son went through on what should have been a basic trip to get food, a "privilege" that those without disabilities are afforded.
There is no doubt that this was an instance of ableism wherein those with disabilities are discriminated against in favor of able-bodied people. Ableism continues to be a pervasive problem that needs to be worked on through legislation and an increase in specialized training.