When Sarah Seymour took her daughter to Smitty's on Stony Plain Road in Edmonton's west end, her intent I am sure was just to have a nice meal with her family. When her daughter Eowyn, discovered that her favourite food was not on the menu she became agitated. Eowyn is not just some rowdy child who refused to behave, or one who was not being attended by a parent, she is a child that has autism. Now I will admit that I don't know much about autism but I do know enough to realize that those that have it deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else. According to the National Mental Health Information Centre, "Autism, also called autistic disorder, appears in early childhood, usually before age 3 (National Institutes of Health, 2001). Autism prevents children and adolescents from interacting normally with other people and affects almost every aspect of their social and psychological development."
The restaurant was made aware that Eowyn is autistic, and they still demanded that she leave the premises, because a customer was refusing to pay until the child was removed. Now that this incident has been made public, the company has apologized and has pledged to raise funds for autism research. Regardless of the good deed after the fact, what is clear is that if you have a disability, you are expected to rise above and overcome. Ssssh silence yourself, don't disturb anyone, wouldn't want anyone to know that you are alive and have the same right as anyone else to take up space in our world. We certainly cannot have our space invaded by "those people" sort of mentality is disgusting. Smitys could have asked if the family needed assistance, but instead they succumbed to the common ideology that if you have a disability you do not belong in society. Reading the responses to this story made clear the pervasiveness of this belief.
"I don't care if a child is autistic or what, the child needs behaviour modification. In this case, the child should have been removed from the restaurant by a parent until the child calmed down."
"I don't deny an person with a disability to the right of fair treatment. However when other patrons are in public they have rights too. When I go to any place in public I think I have the right to peace and quiet, whether a ruckus comes from a person with or with out a disability."
"I have a right to expect peace and quite, commensurate with the location, when I am eating. You do NOT have the right to disrupt my meal - disabled or not"
"The parents need a good slap in the head,bringing this all upon their head is mostly their own fault,I totally agree with :as i see it,If a person was intoxicated they would be ejected for upsetting the other patrons and apparently when your intoxicated the law states that a person is not in their right frame of mind and so be it for this child. the parents should have phoned ahead,it was least they could have done for their child"
"Sorry... having a disability gets you some basic extended rights. But its not carte blanche to run ramshot over other people. The child lost it and was being disruptive autism or NOT the child should have been removed by ONE of the parents and taken outside. The child would have and YES they always do autistic or not calmed down. They then could have been reintroduced into the situation. The parents should have engaged in some common courtesy instead of expecting society to bend to their child's disability"
"How come it is that the whole world must "accommodate" EVERYONE ALL THE TIME?? ..If I am in a restaurant, paying for a meal, with or without company I do not want to be subjected to a wailing child. The other patron had every right to state they were not okay with the environment.
It is unfortunate that this is a "special needs" child but where does that mean that everyone has to be understanding and accept the behaviour? They don't! Perhaps the restaurant was not the best environment for this child....perhaps the parents need to plan ahead and ensure that any restaurant has the required food to avoid this? I don't know but I do know that any behaviour by any person (little or otherwise) in any environment doesn't always have to be acceptable and excused!"
"Yes! I too have rights. I have the right to eat a meal in peace and quiet. Yes! The family has the right to take their special needs child out in public. Does one group's rights supercede another person's rights? Why do I have to be the accommodating one? AND if I am not the accommodating one I get myself a label. Prejudiced, racist, etc etc No.................this has got to STOP! There must be EQUAL accommodation! Am I the only person who gets this?? or questions this????? I DO NOT NEED TO CONCEDE MY RIGHTS TO ACCOMODATE THE REST OF THE PLANET ALL THE TIME!!!"
These are just a few of the offensive commentary that can be read at CBC. The same solution to the "problem" keeps reoccurring... zero tolerance, zero understanding. I have not written a lot about disability on this blog but the death of Esmin Green made clear to me why disability is something that we all need to pay attention to. When we refuse to see people who are living with a form of disability whether it be physical, or mental as worthy of sharing our space we are constructing them as less than. It is in this disharmony of worth and value that 'othering' occurs. Our ability to project difference onto others leads to dire consequences for those that are unable to fit into a model of what society has accepted as "normal." Despite the fact that we are individuals and no true norm exists, socially what we expect is conformity to preconceived ideas of what validates personhood.
Here's my thought, so what if the environment was a little loud for your taste. If you do not like it, then you should be the one to leave period. To expect someone with a disability to be removed from your presence because you are disturbed is the height of arrogance. At some point we need to come to the understanding that all people matter, and everyone deserves the right take up space.