A few months ago, a friend of mine who graduated from Special Education asked me where she could take her grandmother for a vacation. She didn’t exactly need to go far, but she wanted to make sure that the place she would take her grandmother was accessible to PWDs as her grandmother was already in a wheelchair. This got me thinking. Though our country is slowly making improvements and catering more and more to PWDs, we’ve still a long way to go.
Just recently, a woman who had difficulty walking (whom we assume is in a wheelchair based on her story) shares her disappointment in a coffee shop in Intramuros. Read her story below.
Paula L. writes:
“I wrote a note to Starbucks Intramuros last month requesting that they allow someone to buy coffee for me but they declined. This prompted me to contact their head office (because apparently the store didn’t have a telephone line). Starbucks Philippines denies AUTHORIZED representatives of PWDs to purchase on behalf of PWDs. I asked them why. They told me that the policy was meant to discourage abuse of PWD privileges (i.e. someone other than the PWDs benefiting from food and beverage discounts). I understood so I personally went to their store two weeks ago to get my own coffee only to discover that they did not have ramps for wheeled mobility devices! So I was not even able to go inside the store!
So anyway, I wrote Starbucks Intramuros another letter this morning telling them that I went there personally sometime back but they did not have access. I indicated my landline number and office address so they could verify my identity. When our help came back, he said that the Starbucks personnel told him that that was the first and last request that they would accommodate.
For the record, let me state here that I have difficulty walking and that that is just bad customer service. The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons promotes and ensures a barrier free society, meaning that all accommodations, services, goods, and opportunities should be accessible to all, most especially to PWDs who have limited mobility. I understand protocols but customer service should work around the premise of “customer satisfaction”. If your customer service policy prevents some sectors of the society from enjoying certain privileges guaranteed by law, then you should modify your policy to a reasonable degree that could meet the needs of that market. To be fair, when I was still based in Makati, some SB stores accommodated authorization letters so I was really surprised that there was a standing policy against it. But hey, maybe, PWDs and all those who stand in solidarity with PWD rights should boycott Starbucks and all other stores that refuse to acknowledge the Magna Carta and those that refuse to comply with Batas Pambansa Blg. 344 or the Accessibilty Law. Indeed, ramps and infrastructures are not the only things missing in our society, but consciousness and sensitivity among people. Are we expecting PWDs to adjust to our disabling environment (i.e. inaccessible physical infrastructures, unfriendly social behaviour, discrimination, etc. ) instead of us building a barrier-free world? Remember that everyone will have some form of disability in his/her lifetime. You probably will sprain an ankle, break a knee, get hit by car (God forbid), or reach old age. Not asking for special treatment, just level the playing field, so we can all enjoy the benefits of living in a society despite the disabilities. #umagangumagaeh#goodmorningvibes#PWDadvocacy”
What do you think of Paula’s experience? Ever had a similar experience?