Organizations for the disabled yesterday gathered outside the head office of Taiwan McDonald’s in Taipei and demanded an apology for what they said was a case of discrimination against a customer with Down syndrome.
Staff at a McDonald’s franchise in Greater Kaohsiung asked police to remove a woman with Down syndrome from the restaurant on Friday after she allegedly “hampered business,” the organizations said.
According to the protesters, the police received a call from the restaurant saying that there was a homeless person causing a commotion, but when they arrived, police found that the alleged cause of the incident was a woman surnamed Wang, who was sitting alone in a corner. The restaurant then asked the police to escort Wang out of the building or “take her to the hospital for medical attention.”
Police said that the woman was not doing anything inappropriate, and that other customers said that she was not yelling or causing a stir as restaurant staff had claimed.
The groups demanded that Taiwan McDonald’s make CCTV footage of the incident public, offer a face-to-face apology to Wang and her family, apologize to society for discriminating against people with disabilities and guarantee zero discrimination in the future.
League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled secretary-general Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋) said that comments made by McDonald’s after the incident, claiming that the restaurant asked the police to attend “out of concern for Wang’s safety,” were extremely disappointing and discriminatory.
“It was an act of discrimination, exclusion and refusal,” Wang said. “McDonald’s said it was a misunderstanding resulting from ‘miscommunication.’”
“While the incident could have been attributed to the franchise manager’s misbehavior, what the company has said and done shows that McDonald’s itself is guilty of infringing the rights of people with disabilities,” Wang added.
According to Wang, McDonald’s had only offered an apology to Wang and her family through the media, and had merely apologized for its “unsatisfactory service.”
An apology for the restaurant’s poor service was again given yesterday by Taiwan McDonald’s public relations associate general manager Chou Yi-ning (周怡寧), a representative sent out by the head office, whose speech was met with boos.
“There was absolutely no discrimination against people with disabilities in this particular incident, and we are still investigating the case,” Chou said, adding that Taiwan McDonald’s has been a long-time partner of disability groups and offers working opportunities for people with disabilities.
Wang said that judging a person on appearances and believing that he or she may “negatively affect” others is discriminatory, adding that the groups have filed a complaint with Kaohsiung’s Social Affairs Bureau demanding action.
Article 16 of the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act (身心障礙者權益保障法) states: “Any person who operates public places or facilities/installations, shall not prevent people with disabilities from fairly using and enjoying the facilities/installations, equipment, and rights only because of their disability.”