A hungry mother sat down at an IHOP and looked over the menu while her 3-year-old sat quietly and colored. However, she was shocked when the manager came out and told the young mother that they wouldn’t be serving her because the toddler was making them feel uneasy.
When 25-year-old Alexis Bancroft sat down with her children to eat at IHOP in Hot Springs, Arizona, she probably expected that the worst that could happen is poor service or perhaps an unsatisfactory meal. What she didn’t expect was to be kicked out of the diner because of the way her well-behaved toddler ate his food.
Although most customers don’t walk into a restaurant anticipating having the perfect experience, few do so with the presumption that they will be subjected to humiliating discrimination. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this young mother faced when she was booted from the popular breakfast chain.
Bancroft and her family entered the restaurant and were seated before an employee came by to take their order. Oddly, the young woman had her 3-year-old son William sitting on the table instead of in a chair. That’s when the manager noticed what was different about the boy.
William was born without arms. However, this debilitating disability hasn’t slowed down the active little boy. Thanks to extensive therapy, he has learned to do almost anything his peers can do by using his feet. Unfortunately, the manager apparently took issue with his method.
While waiting for their meals, Bancroft was greeted by the manager, who told her that William couldn’t sit on the table because of “health department issues.” Although the mother explained that her son’s disability obviously requires him to sit up higher, the manager finally got to the point — she was uneasy over the idea of William touching the syrup dispensers with his feet, claiming it would be “unsanitary,” according to Newsweek.
“I asked her what’s the difference between hands and feet?” Bancroft said.
Bancroft then explained that she had taken William to the bathroom just moments earlier to wash his feet. The manager stated that, while she hadn’t seen her do that, she still felt uncomfortable with the child using his feet to handle restaurant items, the New York Post reports.
“When we got there, I carried him in, took him to the bathroom and washed his feet so he could eat,” Bancroft said. “I asked her, ‘Do you ask all of your customers if they washed their hands before they touch [the syrup containers]?”
Bancroft refused to back down, pointing out that refusing to serve her son because of his disability was undeniable discrimination. Realizing that there could be big trouble in the works, the general manager quickly changed her attitude, offering an apology and telling Bancroft that she would no longer deny them service.
The manager “was the one who discriminated against my son for having a physical disability,” Bancroft said. “All he wanted was some pancakes.”
The general manager later reached out to Bancroft after the mother’s post on Facebook about the incident went viral. The woman apologized to Bancroft once again, stating that she didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. However, the young mother claims that the experience has already left an impression on her son, KARK reports.
The manager even messaged her, saying in part, “I really think this was all a misunderstanding. I would never do that to your son intentionally or otherwise. That’s not what I was trying to do.”
“Apologizing, saying it wasn’t intentional, but my son can’t get that back,” Bancroft said. “The very next day, he didn’t want to sit on the table to eat. He wanted to sit in a chair, which he can’t really do.”
Bancroft says that William was self-conscious for several days but ultimately resumed his place on the table top. Fortunately, he is a resilient child and hasn’t let the incident get to him thanks to his mother’s support.
“Other people may think it’s not a big deal, but that is my child,” Bancroft said. “I’m his advocate, and you’re not going to treat my kid like that.”
Expectedly, Bancroft’s post garnered attention nationwide. Many expressed their outrage over the way that the general manager had treated the mother and her little boy. Others made their fury known by contacting the establishment directly.
Several sources have confirmed that the manager who discriminated against little William was placed on leave. Soon after, IHOP President Darren Rebelez issued a statement, saying that the incident was handled improperly and that the actions of the manager are not reflective of the chain’s policies.
As for William and his mother, they continue to destroy myths surrounding limb loss and physical disabilities. Hopefully, his story of incredible perseverance will help others to better understand that such disabilities aren’t taboo.