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Hearing-impaired customer refused service at Taco Bell

Brandon Washburn, who is hearing-impaired, usually has no problem when he hits the drive-through at an area Taco Bell he frequents.

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Something was different the last time he was there with his girlfriend.

He told his mother, Becky Burch, he was refused service when he showed the employee in the window his food order. Washburn, 25, had written it out on his cellphone. He told his mother the employee handed him a note stating it was against company policy to take the food order that way.

Washburn’s girlfriend recorded the encounter using a cellphone.

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The employee threatened to call 911 if Washburn didn’t move his vehicle and ultimately did just that. 

“I was shocked,” Burch told WHIO TV’s Sean Cudahy on Thursday night. “When you see it happening to your child, I was upset. I raised him to be independent.”

Washburn wasn’t arrested and declined a police offer to go inside to get his food order. Washburn, his mother said, went to another restaurant to get food.

Thursday afternoon, officials with the corporate office of Taco Bell issued the following statement: “Taco Bell has a fundamental policy to respect all of our customers and employees, and we are committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment. The franchise owner and operator of this location has investigated the situation and the team member no longer works for their organization. All team members at this restaurant are being retrained by the franchise owner on their policies.”

“Our intention was not to have the worker fired,” Burke said, “but to raise awareness. He [her son] is not the first person with a disability to come into their restaurant.”

Washburn, asked for his response to Taco Bell’s corporate reaction about the incident, said through his mother, “I would like it to be the last time.... It just happens so much -- not just to me, but to other deaf people all over.”

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