The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on so many aspects of our lives, including how restaurants serve us. As a result, many restaurants in America follow CDC recommendations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections.
However, as they consider how to implement those recommendations, they must also remember the special needs of the individuals in their community.
Unfortunately, one Los Angeles, Dunkin’ Donuts failed to do this. As a result, a deaf customer, Shannon Heroux, was shocked when she was turned away when she tried to order.
Refused Service For Being Deaf
In an emotional two-part TikTok video, Shannon Heroux shares her tearful experience.
“As you guys can probably tell, I’m emotional. A little while ago, I got refused service from a Dunkin’ Donuts because I’m deaf,” she said as she wiped away tears.
“I couldn’t process it. I was confused. I couldn’t hear anything. I wear a cochlear implant, but I was not wearing it at that time. I’ve never been refused service before, and it hurts. It hurts really bad,” Heroux said tearfully.
Shannon explained that she was deaf and requested that the employee pull down their mask temporarily so she could read their lips. She reported that the employee declined but brought over the manager. Unfortunately, the manager was no help. Heroux described the manager as agitated, saying he was “going off.”
Heroux noted that the manager kept waving his hands around as she pleaded with him. In her frustration, she kept telling him she could not hear him and that lipreading was necessary.
She continued, “He refused to write anything down. He refused to pull his mask down. We’re six feet apart. There’s plexiglass to the side. I’m wearing my mask.”
Shannon cried, “What more do you want from us? We struggle so much during this pandemic. Enough is enough!”
In a heartbreaking conclusion to her viral video, Heroux describes how she could sense that the manager didn’t believe she was deaf. “He didn’t believe I was deaf because I speak so well. It’s a blessing and a curse,” she said.
Spreading Deaf Awareness
Heroux’s experience is heartbreaking. Her story conveys the message that a stigma surrounds the deaf community that must be overcome. The implications of hearing loss and how individuals are affected are often misunderstood by the general public.
“It’s very important the world understands that not every deaf person is equal. By that I mean, there’s different stages and different circumstances,” Heroux explains.
Shannon describes herself as a talented lip reader who communicates exceptionally well. She says “You’d never know I was deaf unless I tell you.” Yet, since the pandemic, she has struggled as masks eliminated her ability to lipread.
She affirms, “If there were no masks today, I could still operate this world deaf because the advantage of lipreading would be there and no one would be the wiser.”
Establishments need to recognize that some people in the community will have difficulty wearing masks. Unfortanately, this is especially true for those who can’t communicate effectively, making communication through masks incredibly challenging.
During this unprecedented time, reasonable modifications for these customers should be readily available.
According to the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), examples of these modifications include “repeating words, writing notes on a whiteboard, using voice-to-text programs on a smart phone or tablet, and using clear masks, face shields, or plexiglass instead of a cloth face mask during communications.”
Sadly, Heroux’s visit to Dunkin’ Donuts did not include any of these measures or indicated a willingness to cooperate at the time of her visit. However, in a recent TikTok video, Heroux reports Dunkin has since apologized to her and is improving its measures.