In these days of social media, what once could have been an overlooked complaint, can go viral in a matter of days. Such is the case an incident that happened to Mr. Chad Staples at his recent stay at the Best Western in Monahans, TX.
According to Chad, he needed some rest on a long trip, so he stopped in at the Best Western for some shuteye. His problems started when he went to leave the next day and found that the elevator was not working. That was a problem, because Staples uses a manual wheelchair and he was in a room on the third floor.
So he called the front desk and spoke to Holly Oyerbides. Below is his account of the conversation.
Staples: Hi the elevator isn’t working
Oyerbides: It’s been down for about an hour
Staples: Can you send someone up to help me down the stairs ( I said this as calmly as I could, I know Shit happens)
Oyerbides: Are you serious? (In a mocking voice)
Staples: (Explains that I am in a wheelchair)
Oyerbides: Well, what do you want me to do about it? (she said flippantly)
Staples: Are you fucking serious? I’m in a fucking wheelchair.
So after receiving no help, or even a promise of some help, Staples threw his chair and luggage down three flights of stairs, and scooted to the bottom.
Oyerbides has a different recollection of it all, in her statement to Best Western.
“I received a phone call from a guest in room 302. I answer the phone saying front desk can I help you. Chad in a mad voice states the elevator is not working. And then says I’m in a (explicative) wheelchair how am I suppose to get down. I then reply what can I do to help you. He then states are you (explicative) kidding me I’m in a wheel chair and hangs up. Then minutes later he comes down to the front desk.”
Suffice it to say, the only two people that know exactly what transpired in the conversation are Staples and Oyerbides. That said, Oyerbides was fired shortly after the incident, implying at least that there might have been a credibility problem with her story.
And of course, all this spread like wildfire on the internet. So Best Western had to do some damage control. In a way that’s good, because obviously some of their employees need a little refresher in disability etiquette.
Unfortunately the company they chose to administer this training — the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) – doesn’t exactly rack up warm fuzzies in the disability community. To say the AHLA is hated and distrusted would be an understatement at this point. And the reason is simple. The AHLA has been actively opposing the new pool and spa ADA regulations, to the point that it even incited a boycott of properties represented on the AHLA Board.
Ironically, the training course offered by AHLA is called “Enabling Independence: Service for Guests with Disabilities.”
Let’s just say that enabling is never a word I would use to describe the AHLA’s attitude. After all, they don’t want wheelchair-users to have independent access to swimming pools. They want them to have to come and ask for a key to the pool lift whenever they want to go swimming. And if the employee can find the key ,and if the lift is in working order, then and only then, will they be allowed to swim. How enabling is that?
So although I believe that Best Western tried to mitigate damages to make sure that an incident like this won’t be repeated, I believe their efforts were a swing and a miss.
Perhaps their employees will learn something in spite of their mistake.
We can only hope.