In the heartbreakingly emotional clip, Shannon Heroux explains how a Los Angeles Dunkin’ Donuts refused to serve her because she was unable to communicate with the staff owing to her disability.
Shannon Heroux, a deaf woman, has created an account on TikTok to raise awareness about people like herself. Recently, she opened up about a shocking incident that left her in tears. In the heartbreakingly emotional clip, Heroux explains how a Los Angeles Dunkin’ Donuts refused to serve her because she was unable to communicate with the staff owing to her disability. The now-viral video has since brought our attention to the struggles that people who are heard of hearing have to face every day, especially during the pandemic.
Heroux, who uses cochlear implant and communicates by reading lips, told TODAY that she was driving for Uber when she decided to stop at a local Dunkin' to get a drink. She entered the establishment wearing a face mask but as she approached the counter, she could not hear what the employees were saying as they were standing behind plexiglass. "When I got to the front I pulled my mask down and just let the employee know really quickly 'Hi, I'm deaf, how do we do this?' And I pulled my mask back up, and I was ready to order," she recalled during the interview.
"She waved to call over her manager ... A couple minutes go by and I try to reach over to her, like 'Hey, I have to go, can I just place my order?'" she added. At this point, the manager came over and began talking to her but Heroux could not understand anything he or the staff was saying as they were all wearing a mask. This, coupled with the plexiglass, the distance between them, and the existing ambient noise in the shop like coffee machine and music, made it impossible for her to hear what they were saying. "I keep telling him, 'I'm deaf, I can't hear you. I'm deaf, I can't hear you,'" said Heroux. "And he was still speaking to me. I can tell when people are talking because the mask moves, obviously. And I kept saying, 'I can't hear you, I need to read your lips.'"
The manager reportedly kept gesturing towards the door and "repeating the same phrase over and over," which Heroux assumed was some sort of pleasantry like "have a nice day." Feeling helpless, she turned to a customer standing behind her in line and asked him to translate. But she could not hear him through his mask. Then she found a piece of paper on the counter but could not write her order down as there was no pen in sight. "I could tell he was just repeating the same phrase and after the third time I said 'You're really not going to take my order?' And he just shook his head no," said the devastated woman.
"And my heart sank, like 'What did I do wrong?' So I exited the Dunkin' and I got in my car and it took me a minute to understand that I was just denied service," she added. Heroux said she decided to post the emotional video on Instagram and after being encouraged by her friend, she shared it on TikTok as well. "I wanted people to know that this has been happening the whole pandemic. Many times I feel lesser and it felt important that I speak up so people can understand, because it's exhausting, very exhausting," she shared. "Even without the mask, it can be tiring, because I have to stay so focused, so can you imagine how much more work I'm putting into trying to listen through a mask, to accommodate everybody else? I understand that the pandemic has stripped a lot of the deaf community of their independence, as it did for me."
Due to the pandemic, Heroux began trying to adapt quickly to associate certain phrases with the way a mask moves. Even though she put in so much effort to keep up with the time, she is still denied service now and then. But with the virality of her video, Heroux hopes that it sparks a change that would help the deaf community. As for the coffee chain, they assured TODAY, "We take matters like this very seriously," noted a Dunkin' spokesperson. "At Dunkin', we are committed to creating a welcoming environment and treating every guest with dignity and respect. We have contacted the guest to apologize, and we are actively working with her to resolve the matter."