by Curlan Campbell
- Kelvin Henry was denied opportunity to shop at Courts branch in Grenville
- Meeting with officials from Unicomer Courts and Grenada National Council of the Disabled was unsatisfactory
- Company refused to acknowledge discrimination
Kelvin Henry, a disabled man who is wheelchair-bound, is accusing the management of Courts Grenada of using “semantics” to try to justify denying him the opportunity to shop inside the Courts branch at Grenville, St Andrew on 30 May.
Henry took to social media to relate what transpired when he and his girlfriend visited the Courts branch in Grenville. Upon attempting to enter the store, Henry said he was told by the security guard, “You will not be able to come inside like this.” After contesting what was said by the security guard, Henry requested to speak with manager Emon Lessey, who, based on Henry’s account, stated that he would not be allowed to browse the store, “based on the Covid-19 protocols we are following.”
An engineer by profession, Henry said this experience left him baffled as to why he was denied the opportunity to shop the store since he was wearing a mask and was willing to have his hands sanitised in keeping with Covid-19 regulations. His request to see a copy of the store’s protocols was also denied.
Henry said he met with officials from Unicomer/Courts (Lessy and AnnMarie Degale – senior representative of Unicomer Courts) and Hillary Gabriel and Clifford John, representatives from the Grenada National Council of the Disabled (GNCD), on 6 July 2020 at the Grenville branch of Courts. Henry considers the outcome to be less than satisfactory.
“The management of Courts did not offer an apology. I expected them to consider that Emon Lessey, the manager of the Grenville branch, lied multiple times during the meeting about what he said to me on 30 May. The Senior Manager, AnnMarie Degale, did not acknowledge that her subordinates did anything wrong. Even when I informed her that her employees failed to sanitise individuals who walked in while I was being prevented from entering the store. She decided to use a bunch of semantics (with the words shop and browse) to justify the lack of a reason for not allowing me to conduct business at Unicomer Courts Grenville,” Henry stated.
Henry said he also felt unrepresented by the GNCD. “I most definitely do not believe that the council for the disabled made a proper representation on my behalf. The 3 members who were at the meeting questioned my right to want to shop for myself at every chance that they got. They spoke not one word about the obvious discrimination that took place. When I originally spoke to Ms Gabriel over the phone, I was under the impression that she was outraged about what happened to me. She agreed that it was without a doubt a case of discrimination and couldn’t believe what happened,” he said.
“However, while in the meeting, instead of expressing that same anger to the representatives of Courts, she failed to inform them. I was questioned, and in my opinion, ridiculed by the council. During the meeting, the treasurer of the council of the disabled even started to discuss an unrelated incident. Furthermore, he stated that, “people like Courts is who contributes to their organisation…” Once he made that statement, I realised the stance of the meeting, what it was about, and the direction it was heading. The primary reason we had to meet was to discuss discrimination and the subject of discrimination was sidelined from the beginning of the meeting. As he continued to speak, he even went as far as to state… “people like you…” and “most of the people with a disability think that we deny them…” Imagine the senior member of a disability advocacy organisation choosing to speak negatively to those whom they are supposed to be helping,” Henry said.
Henry has decided that he will not be patronising the store in the future since as he said the company refused to acknowledge their discriminatory practice. “NO, I absolutely will not be returning to another Unicomer Group – Courts branch since they failed to acknowledge the blatant discrimination that I encountered by multiple employees, nor did they issue an apology. Apologising for not having me as a customer any more is not apologising for your discrimination. From this experience, I learned that money and “greasing elbows” for self-benefit is more important than advocating for the human and civil rights of individuals who are differently-abled to the Unicomer Group – Courts and the Grenada National Council of the Disabled (GNCD).”
Henry is also convinced that people with disabilities continue to be disrespected in Grenada. “No, I do not believe that individuals with a “disability” are respected in this country. Once you are not an “able-bodied” person, most people will look down on you, and that is, in my opinion, because of a lack of awareness and education. The mindset of Grenadians needs to be changed. It has to start at home and continue in the schools and businesses across Grenada. Both children and adults need to learn about discrimination in its various forms and how to interact with differently-abled individuals. Most importantly people need to learn about respect and empathy.”
“Adults who have been accustomed to looking down on or scorning individuals who are differently-abled need to work on changing their attitudes and behaviours. Businesses need to ensure that their employees know how to work and interact with differently-abled persons. You cannot be a professional, engaging with customers and be discriminating against others. Employers should reprimand or terminate employees who fail to maintain a professional standard of customer service. Also, the authorities need to recognise discrimination as a serious crime. Last, but certainly not least, the Grenada National Council of the Disabled (GNCD) needs to uphold its mission statement and values, and fully and properly advocate for persons with disabilities,” he stated.
NOW Grenada was informed by the Grenville branch manager that the company is expected to release a statement regarding the events of 30 May 2020, and as such must refrain from making any public statements on the matter. The Grenada National Council of the Disabled has also stated that a release will be forthcoming.
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