PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Some people with disabilities organized a day-long dine-in Saturday at a Portland Denny’s restaurant following an incident last month in which they say they were discriminated against at that same spot.
The lead organizer–who uses a wheelchair–said he received 50 meal vouchers from the Northeast Portland restaurant near the Moda Center. He gave the vouchers, with a total value of $500, to others with disabilities and invited them to have a free meal.
“I hope to get out of this today recognition. Just for our people, man. For disabled people everywhere. To let ya’ll know this happens on a regular basis everyday for us,” disabilities rights advocate Dustin Brandon said.
It all started when Brandon and some friends went to dine at the restaurant on October 20. He and another friend who was disabled said the waitress acted rude to them, even after the group moved to a spot in the back so as not to block a fire exit.
Another woman in a wheelchair was seated near them.
A waitress allegedly became frustrated with the situation.
“She’s yelling across the restaurant, ‘I don’t know what to do with these g–damn wheelchairs,'” Brandon recalled.
The woman sitting nearby opted to move from her wheelchair into a seat, he said, but she was visibly upset in doing so.
One of Brandon’s friends, Joseph Boughal, has immobility and chronic pain in his leg. He had to prop up his leg on a nearby seat while they dined. Boughal said when the food came, another Denny’s staff member asked what happened to his leg, which is in a permanent brace.
“And I was like I’m just disabled, for 10 years,” Boughal recalled. “And he was just like, ‘oh well you don’t look very disabled.’ And so I was just like ‘oh well thanks, but I am.'”
Boughal drove for five hours from southern Oregon to participate in the dine-in Saturday, in solidarity with his friends.
Brandon said he spoke with a manager on the day of the incident, but said she did not seem to take their complaints seriously. He posted an interaction she had with their table on YouTube.
The restaurant gave Brandon a formal apology and he said he is grateful for the vouchers. However, he thinks the staff should be retrained in order to be better prepared for customers in wheelchairs or those with disabilities.
Originally the event was put together as part of a crowd-funding campaign organized by Brandon. Then a manager from Denny’s stepped in after seeing the video online and offered to give vouchers for the 50 meals. The $75 raised in the crowd funding campaign was set aside to tip the waitstaff, Brandon said.
Any left over vouchers from Saturday’s event will be used on Sunday, November 10, for anyone with a disability interested in dining at the restaurant on NE Hassalo St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Brandon said.