The restaurant chain says their franchisees won’t restrict where the man and his Hearing Ear dog sit.
RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR
Peter Stelmacovich, who is hearing impaired, says he was asked to leave his Hearing Ear dog, Flora, outside when he went to a restaurant in downtown Toronto Thursday. The restaurant chain has apologized for the incident.
By: Dylan C. Robertson News reporter, Published on Sun Apr 21 2013
The Spring Rolls restaurant chain has apologized after a franchisee asked a hearing-impaired man to leave his service dog outside. But the man involved isn’t sure how to respond after learning of a similar incident last year.
Last Thursday, Oakville resident Peter Stelmacovich went to a Spring Rolls restaurant on Queen St. W. with two friends. Stelmacovich says the restaurateur told him they would have to sit upstairs or outside because of his Hearing Ear dog, Flora. “Or, he said, I could tie my dog outside.” Stelmacovich and his friends decided to eat elsewhere.
In a statement emailed to the Star on Sunday morning and posted on Facebook, Spring Rolls apologized for the incident, saying it should never happen again. The company added it will implement disability training for individual managers.
“Sometimes either they were not aware of, or don’t know how to respectfully and properly deal with, situations like this,” reads the statement.
But Stelmacovich isn’t the only one to have a service dog barred from a Spring Rolls restaurant.Graphic design researcherMichelle Hopgood says she was refused service at the chain’s location at the Atrium on Bay last May.
Hopgood says she was told not to enter with her Special Skills service dog, which helps her navigate with her impaired mobility. When she proceeded to a table, the restaurant served Hopgood’s table, but closed down the surrounding section until the dog left.
Hopgood says she emailed the restaurant and was offered a VIP card, which she declined. She has since boycotted the chain.
“It was an incredibly demeaning and humiliating experience of which I have never experienced before,” Hopgood said.
After reading Spring Rolls’ apology, Stelmacovich was initially looking forward to working with the company to develop anti-discrimination policies.
But after hearing that Hopgood had a similar incident with little support from the chain, Stelmacovich said, “This is clearly not an isolated incident . . . This is a little bit concerning now; it sounds more like a systemic problem.”
A Spring Rolls spokesperson said he wasn’t familiar with Hopgood’s complaint and insisted that service dogs aren’t barred from the restaurant chain. He said the incident will be used as a lesson when training employees.
“Many people don’t know how to act in the exact scenarios, so they may not know how to deal with a service dog,” sales and marketing manager Jose Munoz said.
Stelmacovich now says he’s asking Spring Rolls to install signs stating that service dogs are welcome, and that all staff take sensitivity training. Otherwise, he’s considering a formal complaint to the Ontario Human Rights tribunal.
Ontario law states that it is illegal to deny services or accommodation to a person with a service dog.
With files from Graham Slaughter and San Grewal