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Man With Disability Wants Apology from Theatre Chain

By Rob Houle
Monday, January 5, 2015

A St. Catharines man who says the local theatre failed to accommodate his disability is looking for an apology.

Jason Santry said he was denied a large bag for his medium-sized popcorn prior to taking in Mark Walberg’s latest flick, The Gambler, at Landmark Cinemas at the Pen Centre Friday night. Santry, 45, made the request for a larger bag because the shaking caused by his ailment results in him losing much of the popcorn.

“I ordered a medium-sized popcorn and asked the young lad behind the counter if he could put the popcorn in a larger bag because I have cerebral palsy and the way I shake, I would have had popcorn everywhere,” the St. Catharines man said Monday.

The concession person complied with Santry’s request, which was soon revoked by a supervisor, who Santry said took the larger bag out of his hands and dumped the popcorn into the smaller bag.

“I said, whoa, whoa, whoa, I need that bag. I have cerebral palsy and it makes it easier for me not to spill.”

Santry said the supervisor told him he could not have the larger bag. He said she crumpled the bag and threw it in a garbage as she was leaving the concession counter.

“She never mentioned why I couldn’t have it,” Santry said.

Santry said he spoke twice with the theatre manager about his disability, once before the movie and again following the picture, but the manager “blew it off” and sided with the counter supervisor.

Santry said he has never had a problem with the popcorn bag request the numerous times he has gone to see a movie at the Cineplex Odeon theatres in Niagara Falls, nor has he had a problem with the request when going to a movie at the Pen Centre.

“I’m not a regular there, but I’ve never had a problem,” Santry said of Landmark’s Pen Centre cinemas.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) introduced the accessibility standard for customer service that mandates all private, not-for-profit and public-sector organizations with at least one employee are required to comply with the standard, which stipulates that businesses and organizations must carry out simple steps to provide accessible customer service, said Brigitte Marleau, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

“For example, the standard requires organizations to develop policies on how they will provide their goods or services in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities,” Marleau said in an e-mail. “The standard provides flexibility so that organizations can develop policies that reflect the unique goods and services they offer (e.g. policies that are specific to a movie theatre or concession stand).

“Under the standard, organizations must have a process in place to receive feedback on how they provide their goods or services to people with disabilities. Organizations must also say how they will respond to feedback and act on complaints received. If a person wishes to make a complaint against a business about accessibility or service they received, they are encouraged to contact the business directly, using the business’ feedback process to address their concerns. By using this feedback process, individuals and organizations are able to work together to determine solutions, as appropriate, which may include developing new accessibility policies or modifying existing ones.”

After word of Santry’s experience reached head office, Landmark Cinemas Canada posted on the local theatre’s Facebook page that it regretted the incident.

“Landmark Cinemas Canada is very sorry to hear of the experience at our St. Catharines location this past weekend,” the statement says. “We will be reaching out directly to Mr. Santry shortly to address his concerns. Landmark Cinemas works hard every day to meet the needs of all of our guests and we apologize that we seemed to miss the mark in this instance. Our theatre managers and cast members are each trained in guest service, which includes (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) training. We are reviewing this incident to avoid a similar situation in the future.”

The statement was not good enough for Santry.

“I don’t think there’s an apology in there at all,” Santry said.

The statement was posted to Facebook Sunday night. Santry said someone from LandMark contacted him at approximately 3 p.m. Monday, but because he was unable to speak with them at that time, made plans to speak with someone from the company Tuesday afternoon.

Landmark Cinemas Canada director of operations Ryan Dion said late Monday afternoon from Kitchener it took the company a while to “track down” Santry’s telephone number and was looking forward to speaking to him Tuesday “at which time we’ll hopefully be able to come to a resolution and get an understanding what happened from his perspective and hopefully shed some light on the investigation that we’ve done internally and be able to hopefully move forward.”

Dion said the incident was a “misunderstanding.”

“I want to take accountability for where we could have had a different level of service than we had,” Dion said.

Dion said it’s Landmark’s standard to accommodate a request such as that made by Santry and that it extends to all quests, not just those with a disability.


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