A Bristol man who suffers from a serious illness felt shaken and scared after he was denied access to a disabled toilet at McDonald’s.
Sam, 31, who has Crohn’s disease, was visiting Cardiff for an evening with her husband and friends when he walked into the Queen Street branch of McDonald’s to eat at around 4.30am on April 24. He was diagnosed with a stomach problem almost 20 years ago and during that time he had to use an ostomy bag for almost seven of those years.
Speaking about his experience, Sam said: “I noticed that the accessible toilets were boarded up, restricting access and preventing vulnerable people from being able to use them. When I politely asked the security guard to service to use the restroom – as I have my own radar key – I was told “no”.
Also see: Family anger after 12-year-old boy was ‘paddled by woman’
“I explained that I had my own key, that I had a disability and that I had to use the toilet. He replied by saying ‘You are not disabled’ and asked for my blue badge, which did not happen. It’s not possible because he was in my car. It wasn’t until I was very direct with him and grabbed my Just Can’t Wait card that he reluctantly removed the barricade and allowed to enter.
The Just Can’t Wait card issued by UK charities is recognized and supported by many retail and service organisations, allowing people access to toilets which are not normally accessible to the general public.
McDonald’s apologized to Sam for his experience and said it recognized the situation had “not been handled properly”. Sam said he was offered three £10 vouchers redeemable on the circumstances of spending at least £10 with the fast food chain.
Sam said the experience made him fearful of using public toilets in the future for fear of similar treatment. “I’m now even more worried about using an accessible toilet and as a result I’ve canceled some planned trips because I’m afraid I won’t be able to use the bathroom.
“I am now afraid to ask to use an accessible toilet, fearing it will happen again,” he explained. “I feel like I did everything I could by having my Just Can’t Wait card and my radar key on me to prevent this from happening, but none of that worked and makes me even more worried about going out in public.”
Get the best stories about the things you love most curated by us and delivered to your inbox every day. Choose what you like here
When Bristol Live approached the company about the incident, a McDonald’s spokesperson said: “First of all, we would like to once again apologize to the customer for their experience. We recognize that this incident was not handled properly and our restaurant team reiterated our expectations to the external security company in question to ensure this does not happen again.
“We pride ourselves on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our customers, and we are disappointed to have failed on this occasion.”
Sam immediately wrote to the McDonald’s customer service team after the incident to let them know how he was treated at one of their restaurants. A member of the management team replied in an email to explain to Sam that the toilets are blocked at night as they are only for take out.
“The way McDonald’s handled my complaint was shameful and disrespectful as a multinational company with such a large presence that it should have been more supportive, tolerant and sympathetic. They tried to pass off my complaint as a minor inconvenience like it didn’t matter, not appreciating how it made me feel and how upset I was,” he added.
Sam thinks the restaurant chain should have taken the time to understand what life with Crohn’s is like by taking the time to talk to him or the national charity Chron’s and Colitis UK to better understand the difficulties these illnesses have can cause.
Want our top stories with fewer ads and alerts when the biggest news drops? Download our app at iPhone or android
He also explained how he thinks McDonald’s should provide “more training and educate their staff on disability awareness to make sure this doesn’t happen again”, and also change their signage to show “not all disabilities are not visible” so that their accessible toilets are more user-friendly and accessible.
Chron’s and Colitis UK is calling on companies to sign up to pledges, showing their commitment to making the workplace more inclusive. They offer a range of free tools, resources, and training to help businesses achieve this.
“I think there’s still not enough awareness about disabilities and invisible illnesses and a lot of people instantly assume that an able-bodied person using a disabled toilet or parking space is wrong, all the time to think she may have an underlined condition that she can’t see.
“Some people just assume that to be disabled you need a wheelchair or a cane without realizing that this is not the case. Things are slowly improving with the introduction of things such as the “Not All Disabilities Are Visible” sign and other campaigns, but I think we as a nation are still a long way from being fully accepting and supportive of the disability community and it will take many years, even decades, for that to change.