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Blatant discrimination vs disabled

/ 01:03 AM June 07, 2011

I AM writing about a blatant act of discrimination. I have sent a similar letter to the National Council on Disability Affairs. I’m making a noise about the incident for the sake of the disabled community.

On the night of May 21, I went to Resorts World in Pasay City to meet some friends. We met at a restaurant for a few cocktails before heading to Opus Bar right next to it at around 1 a.m.: three of us going ahead to secure a table, followed by two others, then by me and another friend.

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As I approached the door, Opus’ bouncer put his hand out in front of me and told my friend that I was not allowed in. I was aghast! A short, incomprehensible exchange ensued between the bouncer and my friend—not with me, yet about me. We got nowhere with the bouncer.

Surely, this must be some mistake, I thought, a complete idiocy. So, my friend sent an SMS to an acquaintance in management in an attempt to gain for me entry into the bustling club. I backed away from the door, a little bit embarrassed, and relaxed at a table outside thinking to myself: “The management will come out, see me and realize what an oaf the bouncer had been for not letting me in.”

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A short time passed and the manager came out, looked at us and began talking to my friend about me—again incomprehensibly—but not with me. After which, my friend told me, “You’re not being let in because he’s trying to protect you and the other guests.” My head cocks vacant with disbelief trying to grasp what I’ve just been told. A stupid assumption. I’ve been in more crowded places.

I looked at the guy and asked, “How do I pose a threat? I’m just going to be sitting at a table.” He didn’t respond and just looked at me with a wide-eyed countenance.

I had dressed well. I looked good. There was no visible reason to prevent me from going into Opus and enjoying a night with friends unless what caused me to stand out from most crowds—my wheelchair—was reason enough.

So I asked directly, “Are you telling me that it is because of the wheelchair that I cannot go in?” The manager maintained his helpless gaze.

“Is it because I’m in a wheelchair,” I asked again, more slowly, trying to coerce some sort of response out of him, “that I won’t be let in?” Still no response, just his unyielding gaze that hid an awful truth. I looked at my friend who was visibly upset for me that his friend must make that decision to keep me from going inside, and I let it go, albeit defeated and a trite humiliated.

Of course, management said nothing. But it doesn’t mean that damage was not done. Opus’ management had apparently instructed its staff to bar people in wheelchairs from entering their premises. Why? Do we obstruct walkways? Do we take up too much space on a dance floor? I’ll sit away from the fire exit if I’m a hazard. It was incredible, and I could not figure out the logic. Opus occupies a space in a mall—there are no stairs, stoops or other obstacles that would have prevented me from entering the premises with assistance. There was no danger to Opus’ staff.

—JOSE CABALTERA,
[email protected]

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TAGS: bouncer, discrimination, Opus Bar, party, Resorts World
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