Deaf man sworn at after trying to order burgers

Barry Kay, pictured with his children, from left, Phoenix, Jayden and Natalia. Photo: upplied
Barry Kay, pictured with his children, from left, Phoenix, Jayden and Natalia. Photo: upplied
When Christchurch dad Barry Kay does the Burger King run for his family, he writes their orders in large letters on a piece of paper and hands it to the drive-through operator.

Kay, who is profoundly Deaf and can't use the drive-through intercom, has always ordered this way.

But on Friday last week the experience turned sour when the operator instead told Kay to go inside.

Kay gestured that he'd forgotten his mask and so couldn't - and then, after opening the window to tell Kay to move his car, the operator yelled and swore at him when he refused to leave the drive-through lane without his order being taken.

Kay gestured that he wanted his order and then turned his engine off - prompting cars behind to toot their horns. He could tell he was being yelled and sworn at because he lip-reads and can pick up tone of voice through body language and facial expressions.

Another staff member then came outside and asked him to move his car.

The incident, which took place at Burger King Shirley, left the Christchurch builder feeling "shocked" that someone would treat him that way.

"I'm normal just like anyone else, I just wanted to order dinner for my kids," he told The New Zealand Herald.

"Why would they treat me differently than others?"

Burger King Shirley staff have been spoken to following the incident, a spokeswoman for the fast...
Burger King Shirley staff have been spoken to following the incident, a spokeswoman for the fast food chain says. Photo: Google Streetview
Staff eventually gave in, giving Kay his order - which he then discovered was wrong and that he'd been overcharged, prompting an angry response from a staff member when he raised it, Kay said.

He decided to drop the matter and leave, but was stunned at his treatment from the popular fast food chain.

It shouldn't matter if a person was deaf or had normal hearing - all should be allowed to use the drive-through, he said.

Kay, whose three children are also Deaf - the term, with a capital D, refers to those who have been deaf all their lives, or since before they began talking, and who first communicated in sign language - was telling his story to raise awareness.

Burger King staff should be trained to adapt to Deaf customers' needs, he said. They should also learn basic New Zealand Sign Language, to make hearing impaired people feel included in society.

Burger King NZ couldn't be contacted today, but the chain's head of marketing, Andrea Spearman, told Stuff the company had contacted Kay to apologise.

Their staff member hadn't handled the situation "as we would have liked them to" and they'd followed up with Burger King Shirley, and other outlets, to make sure orders through the drive-through by members of the Deaf community could be handled safely, Spearman told Stuff.

They'd also contacted Deaf Aotearoa to talk about how to take orders safely under Covid-19 restrictions, which required drive-through windows to remain closed, she said.

Deaf Aotearoa chief executive Lachlan Keating also wasn't available to speak with the Herald today, but told Stuff earlier that Deaf people regularly struggled to order at drive-throughs before Covid-19, and the pandemic shouldn't be used as an excuse.

Kay's experience was discrimination, Keating said.

He encouraged staff to remove face masks so Deaf people can lip-read - mask removal for communication with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people was allowed under Covid rules.

Writing down orders on paper or turning around the screen were other ways to be helpful, he said.

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