A mother from Arkansas, USA, has accused a restaurant of discriminating against her three-year-old son who was born without arms.
The young boy, William Bancroft, has adapted to life without arms. As a way to eat and feed himself he often sits on the table, using his feet to pick up food, drink and share things with others.
William was sitting on the table at a local IHOP pancake restaurant, which the family had visited for breakfast, when the general manager told them the lad could not sit on the table due to ‘health department issues’.
The manager also didn’t want the boy touching the syrup dispensers with his feet, claiming it would be a sanitary issue.
Despite William’s mother, Alexis Bancroft, telling the manager that she had taken William to the bathroom to wash his feet, the manager claimed not to have seen that.
Speaking to Newsweek, Alexis said:
I asked her what’s the difference between hands and feet?
I asked, ‘Do you ask all your customers if they’ve washed their hands before they touch the syrup dispensers fist?’
The manager eventually came back to apologise to the family, however Alexis said the damage was already done and her family ‘chose to leave for the way my child was treated’.
Everybody was staring at us and everything. They were going to give us our food, but we decided to leave because of the way he was treated. He was discriminated against for not having arms.
Other customers at the restaurant who witnessed the incident were also upset by the way William was treated, with one family choosing to leave because of it.
We go to multiple restaurants around our area, and no one has ever said anything about him. Most people are just amazed that he can even feed himself with his feet.
The manager in question apologised again to the family by sending a message on Facebook, after Alexis shared the details of what happened and her family’s experience at the restaurant. Employees also reached out to the mother, saying they were ‘completely shocked’ that the manager would do that, and ‘deeply ashamed’ of what happened.
Some people say it’s unsanitary for a kid to be seated on the table, but that’s how stuff happens in our household. My son sits on the table every single meal throughout the day.
IHOP has since released a statement regarding the issue, which said the company and its franchises ‘do not tolerate actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type’. It also promised to ‘retrain’ its staff ‘to ensure IHOP’s level of service, particularly regarding guests with disabilities, is provided to all’.
The statement added:
The franchisee at this location has been in touch with the guest to express his sincerest apologies and will continue to be in communication with her to resolve the issue.
Let’s hope the retraining teaches employees to see the difference between what’s hygienic and what’s a way of life for some people.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.