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Court Says Rude Food Workers Should Be Kind to the Blind

By: Gerri L. Elder

Any decent person would agree that mocking and making fun of people who are disabled is morally wrong.

However, is it against the law for a person to laugh, stare or point at another person with a disability?

Court Rules Some Actions Are Illegal

A federal appeals court in Manhattan has ruled that it is not only in poor taste, but also perhaps in some circumstances, it is also against the law.

The Daily News reports that when Alice Camarillo, who is legally blind, has visited fast-food restaurants such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s she has been treated poorly, humiliated and even taunted by restaurant employees when she asked for help reading the menu.

Camarillo filed a lawsuit in federal court, but a judge in Albany, New York threw the case out and said that under the law, restaurant workers do not have to be polite.

Camarillo appealed the judge’s decision and a Manhattan federal appeals court overruled the lower court’s decision, giving Camarillo and her lawyer the green light to sue the fast food restaurants under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This lawsuit is thought to be the first time an individual has sued the fast food restaurants regarding the issue of whether or not their employees are properly trained to provide service to people who are blind or disabled.

Camarillo can read large print if she is able to hold it close to her face, but has difficulty reading menus boards or menus with small print.

She says that the fast food workers get annoyed when she asks for help and tend to serve other customers before rattling off a small list of food choices at her.

She claims that Burger King employees sent her to a men’s restroom when she asked where the bathroom was located, and laughed at her after she entered the wrong restroom.

Sent to the Back of the Line

At Taco Bell, Camarillo claims that she was sent to the back of the line and told to wait until all of the other customers had been served.

Albany Federal Court Judge Gary Sharpe said that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t regulate the “rudeness or insensitivity” of fast food restaurant employees and since Camarillo had never been denied service at any of the restaurants, he decided to dismiss the case.

The Appeals Court Weighs In

The appeals court judges disagreed with Sharpe.

In their decision to allow her to go forward with her case they stated that if Camarillo was unable to have access to a list of services available to her she is being denied full and equal enjoyment of the services that the restaurants offer.

The judges’ opinion was that if the restaurants did not provide large print menus that Camarillo could read on her own, they are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make sure that the menu options are fully communicated in some way to individuals who are legally blind.

Not The First Time Fast Food Workers’ Attitudes are Under Scrutiny

Unfortunately Camarillo is hardly the first person with a disability to have been humiliated by fast food workers. Another disabled woman has also alleged that she was discriminated against on two occasions at McDonald’s restaurants because she has no arms.

This mother of four was simply trying to feed her family when the workers refused to hand over the food she had already paid for because she uses her feet as most people use their hands. She is currently suing the restaurant.

Perhaps these lawsuits will have an impact on the fast food industry so that people who happen to have disabilities will begin to receive the same service as anyone else.

The workers may still be rude, but hopefully there is a lesson they can learn about the importance of not discriminating against disabled people.