Iqaluit restaurant apologizes for discriminating against woman with disability

Naiomie Hanson-Akavak, who has cerebral palsy, says she called The Snack earlier this week to place an order. She says she was disgusted and disappointed when the staff member accused her of being drunk because she slurs her words.

Naiomie Hanson-Akavak has cerebral palsy and slurs her speech; staff accused her of being drunk

Naiomie Hanson-Akavak, who has cerebral palsy, uses an online speech assist program. She says she was disgusted and disappointed when a staff member at The Snack restaurant accused her of being drunk because she slurs her words. (CBC)

An Iqaluit restaurant is apologizing after a staff member accused a woman with cerebral palsy of being drunk.

Idris Omar, the online social media and public relations representative for the restaurant, says when the incident happened 'we took every step necessary to ensure that this never happens again.' (CBC)

Naiomie Hanson-Akavak says she called The Snack restaurant earlier this week to place an order, as she often does.

She says she tried to speak as clearly as possible but she had to repeat her order four times. Then, she says she was disgusted and disappointed by what she heard. Hanson-Akavak says the staff member accused her of being drunk because she slurs her words.

"I feel discriminated against because I am a disabled person," she said, using an online speech assist device.

Hanson-Akavak took to Facebook to complain about the incident and members of the public swiftly spoke up in her defence. The Snack then offered an apology on Facebook.

"Once we realized that this did happen then that's when we took the initiative of sending an apology and asking for a meeting so we can sit down in person and have a conversation," said Idris Omar, the online social media and public relations representative for the restaurant.

"We know Naomi. We know she has a special needs that requires fully our attention. She's a loyal customer of us. And when this happened we took every step necessary to ensure that this never happens again."

Noah Papatsie, with the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society, said training is key. Papatsie said he feels sorry for what Hanson-Akavak went through. (CBC)

Omar said The Snack staff and management had an emergency meeting, including the people working that night. He said suspension or termination is possible as a result of the incident. The restaurant is also organizing special training for all staff to ensure that the restaurant is fully accessible.

"This enlightened us and informed us that we have a place that needs an improvement, which means that ensuring that anybody that has a disability that requires our service we need to make sure that we're accessible," Omar said.

Noah Papatsie, with the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society, said training is key. Papatsie said he feels sorry for what Hanson-Akavak went through. He believes more can be done to educate people about disabilities, not just in Iqaluit but across Canada.

Naiomie Hanson-Akavak says she called The Snack earlier this week to place an order, when she was accused of being drunk. (Travis Burke/CBC)

"I believe the whole staff or the company itself can have some training or education within the disability department."

Hanson-Akavak agrees that there needs to be more education around people with disabilities.

"We've been treated differently all of our lives. It's nice to be included."

She said she'll eventually go back to The Snack, but it will take some time.

With files from Eva Michael