A deaf customer buying two cans of Sprite was struck in the head after a clerk interpreted his lack of response to conversation as rudeness.
"Cody Goodnight, 30, has been deaf since before the age of 2 and uses sign language to communicate. When Goodnight tried to pay for two bottles of Sprite with a $5 bill, investigators said Ricky Young, 20, told them he thought Goodnight was being rude by not talking to him and hit him in the head with a crowbar." Via MSNBC
The article goes on to say that Goodknight is afraid to go any place alone.
Seeing this article reminded me of an incident that happened a few years ago. I asked the price of an item on a food carousel in a grocery store because it was placed at an angle I couldn't see from my wheelchair. A clerk picked up the ladle, filled it with food and put it right in my face, saying "Can't you read? I got better things to do." She then dumped the food on me. What she didn't realize is that her actions were being filmed on video in the store and that customers walking by witnessed this.
I took legal action. My aim was to get the store to do disability awareness with their employees and we worked things out. I discovered that the store had been sued by another wheelchair user for discrimination. Now it is like night and day when I go into that store - and my friends with disabilities report the same.
The clerk who injured Goodknight, if convicted, faces years in prison. And it's important to remember that, although these incidents don't happen frequently, if they do happen, it doesn't have to be as dramatic as being hit in the head with a crowbar to constitute assault.
No one should ever touch you out of anger that you don't respond to them or ask for assistance. This includes hitting you with an object, throwing something at you or putting their hands on you or your wheelchair, cane, etc. As rare as this is, in my work I've seen other incidents like this.
Our disabilities may prevent us from hearing someone, moving in certain ways or even may require asking a question . It is a lack of awareness of disability on the part of businesses and their employees that results in incidents. Many are not as extreme as this one - luckily- but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be addressed.
People with disabilities need to know how to respond. And if you're assaulted, call the police.