Double Cheeseburgers and Accessibility

I was at the School of Business at George Washington University today for a meeting hosted by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together leaders from business, education, government and non-profit organizations. It was very well done, and to top it all off… free breakfast.

One of the presentations at the meeting was provided by McDonald’s. McDonald’s is actually doing a lot to make their restaurants more accessible. They are working on a consistent basis to train their managers and their front line employees. McDonald’s even trains architectural and construction firms on making structural changes for better accessibility.

As part of the presentation, a new video for McDonald’s employees was shown. It was a well done video and covered a wide range of topics from service dogs, to people with mobility issues, to people with communication problems. An underlying theme was that employees should not be afraid to ask if they can help, or what they need to do to help. In other words, do not be afraid of people with disabilities, just be willing to do whatever you can to make their experience a good one.

The only problem with the video on accessibility was that it was not captioned. The only captioning occurred when twin sisters were signing to each other. Now, there is a certain irony that a training video on accessibility is not itself accessible. It reminded me of a meeting I once went to on disability access that was held on the second floor of a building without elevators.

After the meeting, I went to speak to the United States Director of Training for McDonald’s. I complimented him on the efforts that McDonald’s was making, and that the video was very well done. I explained that training videos should be captioned all the time. I told him that a person with hearing loss sitting in a training session would probably miss half the video, and he would never know. He was very nice, apologized and said that the new DVD of this video was captioned, but he was forced to use his backup VHS tape.

I think there are two lessons here. First of all, when we see that there is no accessibility when it could be easily provided, or should be provided, then we should say something. Secondly, we need to be advocates in a way that does not burn bridges. This is especially true for the people who are leading their companies efforts to be more accessible to customers and employees.

In order to celebrate McDonald’s efforts, I went right out and had two double cheeseburgers. We do need to support those companies who are working to be accessible!