Employment – People with Physical Disabilities NOT wanted as employees in Starbucks stores (barely welcomed as customers) Volume #5; Issue #17

What does it take to employ people with disabilities? A choice! Industries, organizations, businesses and all others must make a deliberate decision to do more than make an effort and go out and employ people with disabilities. Starbucks is not known for doing this in their stores. Now they have been awarded by a number of disability organizations for employing people with disabilities, but it should be noted that those same organizations receive large donations for funding (what that is used for remains a mystery).

What those awards and accolades fail to address is that Starbucks may have a few people with disabilities working in their corporate offices and in their factory located in Nevada (for another post – can you say segregated employment?). But it is a rare occasion that you the customer will go into a store and find a person with a visible disability working behind that counter. In fact most of the counters you find in a Starbucks store are inaccessible as is most of the store. Those counters are set way too high for someone with a mobility disability to navigate without harm (hot products burn).

There is no clear pathway of travel for persons with mobility disabilities to walk or roll around and function effectively in their stores. From the point of ordering to the point of pick up of the product there are sets of selling carrousels, small aisles and a number of other barriers in their way. Starbucks is trying to use every square foot of their store with tables and chairs for people to sit in (without getting arrested) and fellowship in their shops. There are usually no tables that are set low for people with mobility disabilities and no spacing in the aisle for the same community to move around in the store. The cash registers and credit/debit cards machines are inaccessible for people with disabilities to swipe on their own (they are set too high or the buttons on the machines are not accessible). *Note this is a problem in most retail settings.

Many Starbucks are set up in buildings that are inaccessible or they have a set of stairs as an entrance or part of the set up in the shop. A number of the bathrooms in Starbucks are also not accessible because of their set up inside another entity such as a bookstore, an office building etc. They blame the entity for not being accessible not the fact that they decided purposefully to open a store in this inaccessible space.

All of these obstacles make Starbucks stores not only inaccessible to customers with disabilities but one can deduct that if you can’t be a consumer in the business you surely can’t work in that entity. That’s just common sense. This is something that has been discussed with Starbucks by a number of disability rights organizations. This has also been Tweeted about on a few Twitter chats about employing people with disabilities. Larger companies like Starbucks have declared a serious commitment to the employment of all people with disabilities. As with all other plans it is one thing to have proposals written into a statement or a policy manual for all to review and it is an entirely different thing to establish a substantive genuine strategy plan to accomplish any set goal.

Now no one can ever know if a person behind the counter has a non-visible disability, like mental health diagnosis or Autism etc. What we want to see are people with physical disabilities behind the counter and in positions of leadership in the stores. Customers will rarely see a Starbucks Barrister who is an amputee, a wheelchair user, using a walker or cane, a person with Developmental Disability (like Down Syndrome) or a Little Person just a few visible disabilities. And yes they can and are doing this type of work at other coffee shops, restaurants and guess what there are people with physical disabilities who are entrepreneurs and actually own their coffee shops.

Starbucks has a claim to be an inclusive and human rights conscientious organization. I challenge all of you to take a long hard look at their operations and how they truly function to implement these claims. It has been interesting to watch disability rights organizations take funding from them yet not hold them accountable to one of the fundamental basics of not only our work but the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) – community integration.

 *Challenge:If you go into a Starbucks and see a worker behind the counter with a physical/visible disability (get their permission)– please take a picture of them or take a picture of the location and tag me on the post @NJDC07 for both Twitter and IG!

This boycott #StarbucksArrest is icing on the cake for many of us who have been boycotting Starbucks for years!  DO BETTER!

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Re-Post Vol. 5, Issue #16: The Evolution of My Memorial Day Celebration – 1st posted 5/2014

I don’t believe in war. I abhor violence. I aspire to have a world living in peace. I believe in Mr. John Lennon’s prose “all you need is love” to resolve all problems. But that does not stop me from honoring, respecting and honestly loving all our soldiers, veterans and their families.

I was born on an United States Air Force Base in Spain because my father was serving his country during the Vietnam War. Growing up Memorial Day was important because my grandfather made it important. He had polio as a child and was unable to serve his country in WWII. But he was proud to honor those who had done so and he made sure we understood the importance of the day. My uncle Les, his son served in the army and is a veteran. There were no Memorial Day parades in Newark when I was growing up but PBS always showed the President at Arlington National Cemetery laying the wreath on the Unknown Soldiers grave. We watched in solemn awareness. I was always amazed at all those small American flags in front of each grave.

In my young adult life, college and directly after graduation, Memorial Day became a weekend of fun. It was and is “Fleet Week” in New York City a time-honored celebration of our Navy and some Marines who were aboard ships that dock for the week. Back then there were multiple events around NYC sponsored by Fleet Bank, which is now Bank of America. My girls and I partied with some of the most exciting fun and dedicated military guys in town. I even learned how to recognize the officers from the enlisted men by their uniforms. It was the kick off weekend for the summer and a fun time in The City. The United States was in peace times. It was after the Gulf War and before 9/11.

I have friends who were in the service and fought in the Gulf War, but they all came home unharmed, at least physically. But being young and carefree their experiences did not interest me. I was of course concerned for their safety, but I had no desire to know what was going on with them personally. I was against the war being politically for peace and it angered me that my friends had to go over there and kill for their country. As the saying goes, “with age comes wisdom”. But my wisdom was earned through the tragedy of experiencing 9/11 and for most of my adult life the US has been at war.

A few years ago, sitting in a friends kitchen relaxing after dinner, I asked one of my mentors Marcie, who has since passed, how she met her husband. Marcie was in her mid 80’s and she started the story, “It was after the War”. I interrupted her and asked “Which war Marcie?” Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and looked shocked. Marcie shook her head and said “Good question my dear. It is sad that your generation will know about a multitude of wars. But in my time, when we spoke of war there was only one war, World War II, was The War.”

In deed I have known about war and combat actions all of my life. The Viet Nam war ended when I was about six, but I have no personal recollection about that war. I have seen enough combat invasions, wars and military missions, starting in 1983 with the Invasion of Grenada to the current wars we entered into after that horrific day 9/11/2001. It has been thirteen years of hearing the names of over 7,000 soldiers who have lost their lives, as well as learning about all of the civilian lives lost in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

My view about Memorial Day was transformed once again because of the aftermath of our wars to so call end terrorism. In the past 13 years it has been heart breaking to witness how war changed my society. At some point I even had fatigue, I could not listen or read about the wars the US was conducting. It was just too much. I watched many families right in my own community bury their loved ones. I also watched young children loose either one or both of their parents.

Since I moved to Washington, DC, in 2007 my Memorial Day weekends have become a ritual of honor. This historic District (DC is a District – not a city or state- more on that later) is a majestic place to be for the most serious and reflective American holiday. Now I spend at least one day of the weekend at Arlington National Cemetery. My first Memorial Day weekend here in DC was in 2008. Each year I have gone over to the back entrance of the Arlington National Cemetery by the US Marines Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima) that brings you into Sections 27 & 49 of the cemetery.

It is a quiet area known to locals. One of my mentor’s husbands a retired Naval officer gave me directions to this entrance my first year. It is a wonderful spot to enter this most somber and hallow place. It was a beautiful crisp sunny day in Arlington, VA and walking through the gates I saw for the first time with my own eyes the multitude of small American flags placed in front each individual white head stone. It was and remains a magnificent striking view that humbles and makes clear to me the ultimate sacrifice our soldiers make to protect our country.

This Memorial Day weekend I decided to do something different and go to the newly renovated Arlington National Cemetery’s Welcome Center and take a tour. It is the 150th anniversary of the cemetery and my trip there was absolutely amazing. It was on yet another beautiful May sunny day. The welcome center was full of families, people of all origins and of course many of the Rolling Thunder biker groups who come here each year and honor Memorial Day in a plethora of tributes to our fallen soldiers. I learned so much that day about the cemetery’s history, present work and future plans. It is an active cemetery conducting funeral services Monday through Saturday (except federal holidays) 27 to 30 times a week. I learned the origin of the cemetery which was land owned by George Washington Parke Custis who was the grandson of Martha Washington and adopted son of President George Washington. It was the over whelming Civil War casualties and the lack of space in DC area cemeteries that led to the creation of this land becoming a burial place for soldiers.

The Welcome center is a somber and remarkable place with wonderful pictures and historic objects of past wars and traditional military objects. There are gifts from other countries dedicated to all United States soldiers who have fought around the world. There is a memorial dedicated to the nurses who have helped take care of and who have lost their lives along side our soldiers. One of the many new things I learned about was The Freedman’s Village established in 1863 as a campground for slaves escaping Virginia and Maryland (see link below).

Another new thing I learned was about Section 5 of the Arlington National Cemetery. This is the section where dignitaries are buried. In honor of the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education I decided to pay homage to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s gravesite. Walking the cemetery grounds is not for the out of shape, it has long winding roads that go up and down hills. But there is a trolley system that will take visitors around the cemetery – although it is not accessible for my friends with mobility disabilities (something we will have to work on).

It is a nice walk from the Welcome Center to Marshall’s site and coming up the hill you can see the grey tombstone marking where he lies. Each week this year someone is setting flowers at the site so you see the beautiful bouquet from the road. It is an awe inspiring view. I went to the site, stood over his grave and could smell the wonderful fragrance from the bouquet of the flowers. I took a few pictures from different angles. Then I had a moment of silence and thanked this man, saying a prayer for his courage and work. I am a young African American woman with a great education and a fabulous dream career in part because of this most profound Supreme Court case he won in 1954.

I am blessed to live such a life and to be able to enjoy and savor living in Washington, DC. I look forward to writing more posts like this one; that I hope will let you see the Beltway in a different perspective and that will inspire you to come and visit this wonderful place.

Thank you to all of our soldiers for everything you do and know that we will always honor your work and never forget your sacrifices.

*See my pictures by clicking on this link: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A9GJDfWGJpuO6W

To learn more:

Arlington National Cemetery: open 365 days a year

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/gallery/Default.aspx?ID=1785f38f-93ac-491e-9e55-7be83d40bc17

The 150th Anniversary – Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/arlington-cemetery-commemorates-150-years-as-the-nations-military-burial-ground/2014/06/13/4be6b9ca-f0b4-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html

Freedman’s Village

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/freedman.htm

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