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Too Little, Too Late: Restaurant Apologizes for Asking Girl with Disability to Remove Shoes

Panera_Bread4-0It goes without saying that reading this story should make every parent feel murderous.

But I feel the need to rant. Basically, STOP THE MADNESS, America!

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. I should tell you what happened to Catherine Duke and her 2-year-old daughter, Emma, before I get all crazy up in here.

As Today.com reports, when Catherine Duke stopped at a Panera Bakery in Savannah, Georgia earlier this month with Emma and 3-year-old daughter, Ana, she was shocked when an employee took her aside and asked her to take off Emma’s shoes.

Because of a spinal abnormality Emma wears orthopedic shoes prescribed to her by her doctor and a physical therapist. According to the employee customers were complaining that the shoes were squeaking.

“I explained that she had a disability and could not remove her shoes, and there were no other shoes she could wear because they were prescribed by her doctor,” Duke told TODAY.com. “And I told her that I would be leaving if my child wasn’t welcome in her shoes. And she said, ‘Oh we don’t want to lose your business,’ but I left the restaurant crying.”

Duke then did exactly what I would do and contacted local media to tell her story, not because she wanted to smear Panera’s name but because she wanted to stand up for her daughter and other children with disabilities. The restaurant has since apologized and the Panera corporate office issued the following statement.

“As you would expect, Panera Bread does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. The last thing we would want to do is make anyone feel unwelcome. Consistent with this system-wide policy, our franchisee met personally with Mrs. Duke to directly hear and address the concerns she has raised. We understand from our franchisee that Mrs. Duke has been assured that she and her family are always welcome at Panera and her concerns have been addressed.”

Duke says she is satisfied with the restaurant chain’s response, but as for going back where she was once a regular, she isn’t yet sure.

While Duke may be fine with the apology, I’m not. It’s too little, too late, as far as I’m concerned. What is the deal with America acting like children are second-class citizens? First airlines talk about baby-free flights or pushing babies to the back of the planes, restaurants consider no kids policies, just yesterday the chef of a high-end restaurant in Chicago tweeted about not allowing babies and now word that a Panera (pretty much the opposite of high-end) feels like a child’s squeaky shoes are worth making a mom cry by discriminating against her disabled child.

What is wrong with you, America? Children are people too! We were all babies once. Yes, there is a line between a crying baby being removed quickly by diligent parents and those who let their children cry or run wild, but plenty of adults behave in equally annoying ways every day. People are people. Some are rude, some aren’t. But to punish all parents because of the negligent actions of a few or to ask a child to remove squeaky shoes because a couple of fussy diners are bothered … insanity!

As my brilliant friend Paul Murphy puts it, “I swear if I hear ONE more whining, self-involved trustafarian yuppie a-hole sniveling on about high-yield bonds and property prices and whether to go to Gstaad or Antigua for the weekend on money he or she or his or her parents essentially stole, I will not be responsible for my actions. Because I may well take their ‘high end’ and shove it with extreme alacrity where the sun refuses to shine.”

Right. Well said, sir. One person’s loud-talking cell phone call is another person’s crying baby or squeaky shoes. Point is, live and let live. Or just stay in your house all the time and avoid people.

Read more from Monica on Babble:

Image: co2footprint.us

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