Worker slammed over “cripple” slur

A hotel worker who referred to a paralyzed former Olympian as a “cripple” should have had more training says one industry expert.

Worker slammed over “cripple” slur
Failure to train staff on disability and diversity is a disaster waiting to happen, says one leading employment lawyer, after a hotel worker was slammed for calling a paralysed former Olympian a “cripple.”

In an Instagram photo posted on Wednesday, six-time gold medallist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen wrote that she was being brought back to her room at the Gaylord Texan Resort by a hotel employee when another worker saw them and asked, "What's going on here? Escorting the cripples now?!"

The swimmer, who was paralysed two years ago in an ATV accident, later received an apology from the resort’s general manager which she happily accepted but employment lawyer Martin Sheard says incidents such as this pose a serious risk to employers.

“There is no legal responsibility to train your employees in regards to disability but there are a lot of reasons you might want to think about doing so,” he told HRM.

“If you don’t train them, it’s at your own peril because if your employee does something like that, you the employer are on the hook because they’re acting ostensibly – and probably actually – as your agent,” he continued.

“They’re wearing the uniform, they’ve got the nametag, they represent the hotel and the hotel is the one that’s going to get sued,” he added.

Shelley Hourston is a program director with Disability Alliance B.C. – she told HRM that if employees were trained to follow the general principle of “people first” then they would likely avoid causing offence.

“We are all ‘people first’ with myriad characteristics,” she explained. “A disability or chronic health condition is simply one characteristic.”

According to Hourston, examples of ‘incorrect’ language versus ‘people first’ language include:
  • Mentally retarded – use: developmental disability or intellectual disability
  • Cripple, deformed, birth defect – use: person with a disability
  • Confined to a wheelchair – use: a wheelchair user
  • Suffers from, afflicted or stricken with X – use: person living with X
  • Victim of X – use: a person living with X
  • Invalid – use: a person with a disability
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