Judy Butler, who uses a walker, says she was recently humiliated by staff at the Centre in the Square.
Peter Lee/Record staff
One Kitchener family is not likely to visit the Centre in the Square again after the inconsiderate service they feel they received while attending a school concert.
Judy Butler, who relies on a walker for mobility, said she was humiliated when staff at the centre — in what appeared to be an issue of miscommunication — repeatedly questioned her seating arrangements.
“Within the next 20 minutes, three people, ushers, said you can’t be here,” Butler described of sitting in the box seating that is designated for wheelchairs or walkers.
Butler and her family were at the centre on May 2 to watch her eight-year-old granddaughter perform in the Kodaly Choral Festival put on by the Waterloo Region District School Board.
Butler’s family arrived early and had initially found seating in the central orchestra. She was not permitted to join them because, as interim general manager of the centre Bill Nuhn explained, the doors to their seats had steps and the narrow aisle was crowded.
Nuhn clarified that the centre permits walkers into the orchestra seating area, most accessible at rows L through R which have ramps. When seated, a staff person will move a walker into the lobby to prevent hazards during an evacuation.
Butler’s daughter Kathy Pettit could not recall what specific row they were initially in claimed that the seating information was not clearly expressed at the time.
“(The usher) said well it’s our policy you can’t bring (the walker) in there, very curt.”
Once the family was sent to the box seats that were more accessible, Butler and Pettit said that the persistent questioning from ushers and suggestions to move to another box caused Butler to reiterate that she has a disability and was unable to walk elsewhere.
Despite ultimately being left in the box to enjoy the show, the events had done their damage. Butler said she was mortified because the audience in the general seating area could see her repeatedly approached by staff.
“It’s like you’ve got the plague . . . because you’re not like everybody else,” she said.
Pettit questioned the customer service training the staff receives, which Nuhn confirmed is compliant to the guidelines set by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to provide improved services to people with disabilities.
Nuhn said the over 50 staff members were trained in January and will receive reminders.
The centre’s policy regarding customers with disabilities states that training will be repeated every three years. Regarding customer service, that training must include:
- Appropriate ways to interact and communicate with people with various disabilities.
- How to interact with people who use various assistive devices.
- How to interact with people who make use of various support persons.
The policy that also outlines services available to those with disabilities was not on the centre’s website. Nuhn admitted to the error and has since published it under the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Butler and Pettit were contacted by Nuhn after making light of the problem but said that an apology was not what they were looking for. For Butler, she hopes that the centre improves their service for people with disabilities — not that she intends to benefit from it.
“We’ve decided we’ll never go back. I won’t take the chance to be humiliated again,” she said.