Deaf Jacksonville man says he was discriminated against in drive-thru, restaurant responds


    Deaf Jacksonville man says he was discriminated against in drive-thru, restaurant responds (WICS)

    There is outrage over a customer's accusations of how a Jacksonville Dunkin’ Donuts allegedly treated a man who is deaf.

    A birthday celebration quickly went wrong, leaving Dylan Hinders frustrated and an entire community searching for answers.

    "This can be a big impact on the community," said Hinders, who was allegedly denied service in a Jacksonville Dunkin’ Donuts and interpreted by Laura Braucht.

    There are signs when entering that said, ‘Welcome to Jacksonville.’

    But not everyone feels that way.

    "We couldn't hear what they're saying, but I just feel very disappointed," said Penelope Lopez, who is Hinders’ girlfriend and interpreted by Laura Braucht.

    Hinders wanted to celebrate his son's fourth birthday with a treat.

    So, he went to the drive-thru of a Dunkin’ Donuts.

    "All I want to do is just order and get through the line. I don't think that's that hard," said Hinders, interpreted by Braucht.

    Hinders said he went to the window of the drive-thru and had his order spelled out on his phone, which is how he normally orders.

    But on Saturday, he said he had a different experience.

    "They were serving two or three customers behind me. They were taking time to serve them and people who can hear," said Hinders, interpreted by Braucht.

    Hinders said his attempts to order were slammed shut when employees and the manager-on-duty Jay Jofhi closed the drive-thru window on him, as seen in a video posted on Facebook.

    Jofhi said he tried to communicate with Hinders before asking him to come inside to help serve him better as he did not know what kind of coffee he wanted.

    However, Hinders said there was no such communication.

    "Clearly, he didn't respond with communication or gestures or anything like that. He just decided to call the police officers and he never responded to me," said Hinders, interpreted by Braucht.

    Hinders said he did not want to go inside as he had his children with him and did not feel it was fair to have him go inside as he has never had an issue with any other fast food restaurant.

    "I don't even know what is going on because I can't hear. All I wanted to do is just order and get through the line, I don't think it's that hard," said Hinders, interpreted by Braucht.

    Jofhi confirmed that the Jacksonville Police Department were called on Hinders, as he did not move from the drive-thru window. He said they continued to serve customers behind Hinders’ car until he moved.

    But Hinders and his girlfriend, Lopez, said there is no excuse for closing the window on them and hope it can be a lesson.

    "It's not threatening or physical or anything like that. We're trying to get their attention by waving our hands and for some reason they felt defensive and they needed to ignore us," said Lopez, interpreted by Braucht.

    Franchisee owner Nick Bhatt said they are in the process of reviewing security camera footage and as of now, no one has been fired.

    Bhatt said he has reached out to Hinders over LinkedIn, email and Facebook messenger to apologize but has not heard a response. Hinders said he needs some time to process everything before speaking with Bhatt.

    Employees at Bhatt’s stores will be re-trained on how to serve customers who are blind, deaf or are in the disability community in addition to seeing if anyone at the nearby Jacksonville School for the Deaf could come to teach employees.

    Bhatt was not present when the Hinders was at the store. He also denied accusations that there was a sign that said they do not serve deaf people. He said he feels terrible about what he understands to be a miscommunication.

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