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home : blogs_old : ability and accountability August 20, 2014

Ability and Accountability
By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ
"[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."

-- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson

Friday, September 16, 2011

Should wheelchairs be allowed in the drive-through?

 Richard Haddad

Severely disabled and facing life alone from day to day, the only reasonable way Marquette can independently enjoy a fast food meal is to take her wheelchair through the drive-through window lane of restaurants like the Prescott Valley Burger King -- something that is officially against Burger King corporate policy. (I’ve blurred the employee’s face to protect them from corporate disciplinary action.)

What if you found yourself waiting behind a wheelchair in the drive-through lane of a fast food restaurant? Would you be angry? Would you honk? Should it be allowed?

Not long ago my wife and I were having lunch inside the Prescott Valley Burger King when we spotted a woman in a powered wheelchair going through the drive-through lane.

The employees were amused and paused from their work to glance out the windows. The question was raised as to whether this was allowed or even legal. Other cars were now pulling in behind the woman in the wheelchair as she slowly approached the window.

Law and Policy Clarified

I pause this story here for a moment to give you some background on what I later learned.

I called the Town of Prescott Valley and spoke to members of the police department. There are no laws or town ordinances against a wheelchair going through a drive-through restaurant window lane.

I then called Burger King corporate headquarters in Miami, Fla. and asked them for the official policy: Are wheelchairs allowed to use the drive-through window lane at their restaurants? I explained that this was a powered wheelchair for a severely disabled woman.

The official Burger King policy is "no." No wheelchairs are permitted to go through the drive-though window lane. Nothing should be permitted to go through that is not a vehicle, like a car, that requires a driver's license and vehicle registration to operate.

Now back to that moment of decision for the Burger King staff and managers.

There was a pause as I saw several eyes glance at what looked to be a manager or supervisor. The manager then turned and continued bagging the woman's order, which though unspoken, was a clear answer - provide the service this woman came to receive.

It may have been missed by other customers, and perhaps only observed subconsciously by some of the employees, but I believe these subtle moments of leadership are important.

Placing People Before Policy

How many of us have encountered a manager that placed policy before people?

In past careers I have been invited to facilitate workshops on the difference between management and leadership. Much has been written on this topic, but to me, it often comes down to respect and integrity. The most effective managers I have ever worked for showed great respect toward others (employees and customers alike) and were always striving to do the right thing, even when there were official policies and personalities in the way.

American scholar Warren G. Bennis once said, "Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right."

I later learned that the woman in the wheelchair is named Marquette, and she is severely disabled and on her own. She told me that the only way she can get out and enjoy a meal from a restaurant is to use the drive-through lane at restaurants near her home.

It was a beautiful day and Marquette enjoyed a simple pleasure that you or I might take for granted. But that moment wasn't spoiled because a supervisor and staff wanted to enforce the right company policy. Instead, they did what was right.

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Article comment by: Linda Galbraith

I too have disAbilies (not hadicapped!). I also use a power chair. Some r only 4mph, some r very fast. Would I use the drive thru. Depends on if the door is an automatic open or if someone will open it. Many times the answer is no. If I didn't have an accessible vehicle to accommodate my chair and I really wanted a burger meal and had to travel there with my chair, I might. Probably not unless I was really hungry and no one would help. Our wheelchairs r our round legs. We fought for and received many rights with the ADA civil rights act (ADA). It is supposed to give us ramps, curbcuts, usable reserved parking (term handicap is illegal under the ADA n may not b used). It does not give us the right to use vehicle lines anyplace. Many places ban a chair user orbwalker from drive ins for the persons safety. Some said do the right thing, some said rule is rule. In 30+ yrs being a chair user I have never had to make that kind of decision but I have always been blessed with an accessible van, even if it is decades old. Some just cannot afford or find the funding for one of these extremely expensive vehicles. So would I roll thru the drive thru? I would hope that I would never need to make that decision, that ppl would b kind enough to hold a door open for me. It just isn't a safe thing to do.

Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Article comment by: Disabled Myself

There is no way I would motor my wheelchair into a drive through! I know first hand the pain and frustration of being disabled. I would not want to be further disabled by being run over by someone not seeing me or not paying attention. It has nothing to do with the disabled person's personality, ability, or rights. It has to do with common sense and safety.

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011
Article comment by: Why are we even discussing this?

So Marquette uses the drive through. Serve her the food, move on. There is probably not an accessible door (one that automatically opens) on the building, and this is the best way for her to get fast food. Good for Marquette that she doesn't isolate herself and wants to be included in anything.

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2011
Article comment by: B W

No one has ever sued over "hot" coffee, please get the facts straight! The now famous suit was about "scalding hot" coffee. The woman was lucky she spilled it on her lap, which cause a chunk of skin to slough off, had she drank it she would have died. This suit was about an arrogant business that had over 100 complaints about the hazardous temperature of the coffee they served and yet did nothing about it! Its not about idiots, its about responsibility.

Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011
Article comment by: Reed Winfrey

What should have been a nice story about someone overcoming obstacles and not sitting at home feeling sorry for themselves, has been turned into judgment by some putting their own needs ahead of someone that requires some flexibility from others.
If the home office has specific rules about who they will serve and who they will not then the specifics should be posted or we can abide by their rules or go to the fast food place next door. When someone orders food from the little speaker by the menu board the employees can’t see their vehicle and therefore don’t have the ability to judge them by what they are driving.
The manager did the right thing and served a customer without discriminating about their mode of transportation. It is called a “drive through” isn’t it?? She was driving wasn’t she?? Seems like in Alaska they have special lanes for snow mobiles so why not serve a customer in a wheel chair? Some of the larger ski resorts also have ski-up windows for their customers. The business has the right to determine who, what, and how they will serve their customers, this manager did the right thing for the good of the business, keeping employees jobs, and the local economy.
Tolerance is a lost art that we as a society need to recover ASAP. It’s called a diverse population for a reason.

Posted: Monday, September 19, 2011
Article comment by: @ CC

CC, you miss the point of handicap spaces. It's not so a person is parked closer to the business establishment. It's so there is room to get a wheelchair to the car door. Handicapped spaces have more room on each side to accommodate the open door and a wheelchair or walker. Walk or roll a mile in their shoes. Maybe you'll have a bit more compassion.

Posted: Monday, September 19, 2011
Article comment by: peter white

Leave her be. She should not be denied access to the drive-thru.

Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Article comment by: t wino

if these businesses would accommodate the disabled-- this would not be an issue--RIGHT?
PS: right-hand drive cars should be able to go thru back-wards !

Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Article comment by: SO WHAT LET HER USE IT

Let her use it. She is not hurting anyone. She is happy Burger King made a sale what's the big deal. Burger King needs a new policy.

Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Article comment by: Just Sayin

When she gets hit, she will sue...follow the rules like everyone else is suppose too. ...by the way, how is it that every Tom, Dick and Harriett can take their mutts into establishments that serve or sell food? I have seen a rabbit on a leash being passed off as a 'service' animal?! Until people start holding these establishments responsible for only allowing service animal inside we are putting our health at risk...

Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Article comment by: side with her misses the point

My bike is my vehicle....

It's not a bout tolerance or even compassion.

It's about WHY there are certain rules.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where idiots sue over hot coffee.

If I were the fast food chain, I'd give her a phone number and let her call in her order. I'd deliver it to her at the front door.

But because of the lawyer frenzy out there no way in hell I'd let her use the drive thru.

Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Article comment by: side with her

The wheelchair is her vehicle! Who are we to say she can't use it? As for her safety, it is up to her to decide. It is not safe for quads, or motorcycles to be on the road but people still drive them. Wouldn't this world be a better place if people were more tolerant of each other? Come on people! You don't know how difficult it is until you are in their shoes. And you can be at the drop of a hat. As for the parking spots, a friend just had a stroke and cannot walk. Unfortunately my 75 year old mother has a difficult time getting him from place to place. Often times she cannot push him up hill and it is very heavy to lift his chair. Often they cannot go places because it is too hard for them. And people with 2 working legs cannot walk a few extra steps? It is so sad that some people are so selfish they cannot think beyond themselves! Handicap people would gladly trade you for thier "parking place!" How lazy can you get? They didn't choose to have this happen. You never know, you can get in an accident or have a stroke someday! If people would just put themselves in other peoples shoes what a wonderful world this would be.

Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Article comment by: What Evere

You know, we have standards in this country! I'm not talking class I'm talking ADA (the Americans With Disabilities act). If this woman could not “motor” her way to the restaurant door and open it HERSELF, the restaurant has bigger issues than a policy that does not allow one to endanger them selves in a drive through lane! If this woman were hit by a real motor vehicle (perhaps tons heavier than her scooter chair) the real motorist would be at fault. They would, at best, be sited for failure to control their vehicle. She would undoubtedly sue both the automobile driver AND the restaurant chain. Possibly even the manager on duty for malicious negligence. The real sad things are 1) civilized intelligent people can’t see the obvious problem here and 2) a judge would no doubt rule in her favor.

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: Thomas missed nothing

She is able to get to the door. She is able to be let inside.

Ostensibly, bikes can't use the drive thru because of safety. I'd say an able bodied person on a bike would be safer than her going through the drive thru.

It's not about discrimination. It's about doing the right thing for HER safety.

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: C C

If handicapped people want to be treated like everyone else, then they need to be treated like ANYONE.
That goes for handicpped parking too. If they want to be "normal" then they can find a parking space like any normal person.
Why should private business owners reserve spaces for "privileged" people? This Is AMERICA!

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: trippetta able

When me and a close friend were kids we use to ride our bikes up to and thru, ordering from the drive thru of the local tastee freeze (which has been defunct for some time now) there was never a problem, there never is until some "doubting thomas" full of lives sour grapes decides to make it one.

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: My Thought

If she is hit by a car while going through the drive through, who's going to "pay the price"?
If it is her, and only her, let her use it.
My guess is your head woudl spin how fast she would sue, so I think it's probably not very smart to let her.

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: Zig E.

Excellent quote.
I've seen plenty of motorized wheelchairs using the shoulder of the road which strikes me as way more dangerous than using the drive-thru. Seems like we just can't tolerate anything anymore.

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: rj retired

Poor Thomas. He totally missed the entire point of the column. Can't seem to recognize the difference between "doing it right" and "doing the right thing." This article was so "for him."

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: in their shoes

If it were me, I too would want to avoid curbs, ramps, doors and the feeling of dependency on others to open doors for me. Let the lady use the drive thru.

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Article comment by: Doubting Thomas

If she can motor over to the restaurant she can surely motor over to the door and have someone open it for her to enter and receive her food inside.

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