Calls of discrimination as Fredericton woman told she can't use scooter in drive-thru
Paraplegic woman told she can't use the drive-thru at McDonald's while driving scooter
A Fredericton woman is calling foul after a fast-food restaurant said it would no longer serve her in its drive-thru when she was driving her motorized scooter.
Stephanie Whitlock said she went through the drive-thru at the Main Street McDonald's on the city's north side.
While staff served her, they informed her it would be the last time. McDonald's policy is not to provide drive-thru service to people in scooters, she was told, because of a safety concern.
Whitlock, who doesn't have use of her legs, requires a motorized scooter to get around.
She said the refusal of service is tantamount to discrimination.
"Being a paraplegic, your life is challenging enough as it is without stores saying, 'We're going to deny you service because you're in a wheelchair,'" Whitlock said.
"It's an unfair policy and under the Human Rights Act it's discrimination."
Management of the McDonald's did not return a request for comment.
Is it discrimination?
However, not everyone believes this denial of service is a case of discrimination.
Haley Flaro, the executive director of Ability New Brunswick, an advocacy group for people with mobility problems, said the rationale for the ban some restaurants have adopted is not about discrimination.
"It's not refusing service based on disability, it's actually a safety issue," Flaro said.
But Whitlock said she has gone through drive-thrus in other fast-food restaurants in the city and has been served.
"Wendy's, Burger King, Tim Hortons has no problem with the concept," said Whitlock.
"They think it's great that the disabled are getting out."
Flaro said she couldn't speak to an individual restaurant's policies, but Ability New Brunswick is aware of people who have been injured in drive-thrus while driving motorized scooters.
Scooters are considered pedestrian devices, and restaurants commonly ban people from walking through drive-thrus, she said.
"Personal mobility devices are not a motor vehicle," said Flaro. "They don't have the signal lights, people are often in lower positions, so it can be hard to hear."
Whitlock said she wouldn't need to use the drive-thru at this McDonald's if she could get into the restaurant.
But the doors are too small and awkward to get her scooter through without damaging it, she said.
Flaro said the accessibility of restaurants is a concern, and this is where there could be potential for a charge of discrimination.
"We need to do a better job of making sure that businesses, community spaces, are accessible," she said.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton