Things That Matter

Mother Rejects Pizza Hut’s Apology After Her Special Needs Daughter Was Told to “Hurry Up” and Leave the Restaurant to Make Way for “Regular Customers”

Just when we think the world is making progress accepting people with special needs as human beings who are no different than anyone else, someone pulls off an eye-rolling stunt that makes you worry about the future of humanity. What should’ve been a fun and carefree trip for a group of students turned into an embarrassing day that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

According to a Facebook post written by concerned mother, Heather Bensch, a group of special needs children were told to “hurry up” by local Pizza Hut staff in Ripley, Tennessee before “regular people” came into the restaurant.

Image via @clickysound/Twitter

According to Bensch, her 18-year-old daughter, McKaela, was visiting the local Pizza Hut with about 20 other children from her special needs class at Halls High School. Bensch told NBC News that the school had made a reservation ahead of time explaining that this “particular group was coming by”. According to Bensch, this meant that there was no “misunderstanding” on the restaurant’s part as to who the children were. 

Although Bensch wasn’t there, a teacher who was present relayed the details to the parents. The teacher also explained that the group was forced to get their own refills, clean their own tables, and were relegated to using paper plates. 

Infuriated, Bensch took to Facebook to explain the situation and vent her frustration. 

“These kids could teach you a little something about work ethic, compassion, and humanity!!!!” she wrote in a fuming Facebook post that addressed the Pizza Hut staff directly. “Any one of them would go out of their way, even out of their own comfort zones, to help someone else, or just to make them happy. They are all the most sweetest, selfless, and special people that I know, and still expect nothing in return. For them to be treated any less, is not only unacceptable, but heartless!!!!”.

Image via Facebook/Heather Bensch

Users flooded Bensch’s Facebook post with statements of disappointment and shock over the terrible way these students were treated.  “I would love to hear their definition of a ‘regular’ customer,” said one commenter. “Shame on them for being so ignorant. What an absolute disgrace”. “These kids just wanted a special day and leave it to a group of well groomed morons to ruin it,” said another. Users also suggested boycotting the restaurant. Some called to shut it down completely.

Bensch’s post quickly went viral, racking up almost 1,000 shares and over 500 comments. 

In her Facebook post, Bensch explained that “the eye rolling and attitude began the moment that the first child and teacher walked through the door”. “Since management didn’t seem to care, nor did their employees, I think it’s time that this community remind them who keeps their doors open!” she fumed via Facebook. “You know, it’s just us ‘regular’ people, who don’t need their ‘regular’ pizza anyway!”

And Bensch wasn’t the only parent that was upset over the way the children were treated. Keith Duncan, whose stepdaughter is also a part of the special needs class, told local news station WREG that after learning about the incident, he went to the restaurant to get some answers from the management. Instead, he got no response. “They could have handled that a lot better,” he told the outlet. “Just been more professional about it. Just have a little leniency for our kids.”

Bensch’s post first caught the attention of local media before catching the attention of national outlets like NBC News and People magazine

The public outcry was swift, and soon the Lauderdale County School district felt the need to address the incident, holding a meeting with teachers and administrators in order to “get all the facts about what happened”. “I don’t want the kids to think they did anything wrong because they were just in there to have a good time, eat pizza, cut up and have a great Friday,” Superintendent Shawn Kimble told WREG.

As for Pizza Hut, their corporate office released a statement to NBC News attempting to quell the damage one of their branches caused. “Our local franchisee has been in contact with the school principal and superintendent to offer our apologies to the students and teachers and will be meeting with them this week,” a Pizza Hut spokesperson said. “Restaurant management will also be reinforcing our expectations with employees at the store to ensure that our standards of service are upheld going forward.”

Bensch rejects accusations from some commentators that the situation was being “blown out of proportion”.  

“This is not the first time that a disabled group has been treated poorly at this location,” she explained to those who were defending the actions of the employees. 

And as for Pizza Hut’s apology, it wasn’t enough  to make up for the negative experience her daughter had at their restaurant.  “The apology should’ve been given right on the spot to those that were there,” she told NBC News. “As well as initial responsibility taken for what happened.”

Florida Republicans Just Introduced Four Anti-LGBTQ Bills On The Last Day Possible And People Are Asking Why Now?

Things That Matter

Florida Republicans Just Introduced Four Anti-LGBTQ Bills On The Last Day Possible And People Are Asking Why Now?

Ben Wassenhatch / Flickr

Seven Republican lawmakers in Florida filed four anti-LGBTQ bills hours before the deadline for the upcoming legislative session this week. The bills undo many of the protections that exist for LGBTQ Florida residents. The four bills would repeal county and municipal ordinances for LGBTQ workers, legalize gay conversion therapy, and ban transgender healthcare for children, according to NBC News. 

The homophobic and transphobic legislation was introduced by representatives Anthony Sabatini, Bob Rommel, Michael Grant, and Byron Donalds, along with Senators Joe Gruters and Keith Perry. Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones, who is a member of the LGBTQ community, and other advocates are now fighting against the bills’ passing. 

Advocates respond to the bill calling it “discrimination and hate.”

“Clearly they’ve decided that discrimination and hate are central to their election-year platform despite our state’s incredible diversity,” Jones said in a statement. “Just as I’ve done since I was elected in 2012, I will continue to fight any legislation that marginalizes or threatens any Floridian’s shot at a secure, safe, and bright quality of life.”

Jones also accused Florida Republicans of, “wasting tax dollars attacking Florida’s most vulnerable communities rather than prioritizing the issues that impact everyday people’s lives.” 

Equality Florida released a statement highlighting many of the consequences such a bill would have. 

“This is the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida Legislature in recent memory,” Jon Harris Maurer, the group’s public policy director, said. “It runs the gamut from openly hostile legislation that would arrest and imprison doctors for providing medically necessary care, to legislation that would carelessly erase critical local LGBTQ protections.”

Senator Gruters defends the bill, claiming it “includes protections.”

“The bill certainly does not authorize an employer to discriminate against employees who are members of protected classes, whether protected by federal or state law or local ordinance,” Gruters told NBC News via email.  “While I do not believe the bill has any impact on local anti-discrimination ordinances, in an abundance of caution, I included language in the bill’s preamble to make clear that the preemption would not affect local anti-discrimination laws, and any court would interpret the preemption consistent with that preamble.” 

While Gruters claims it would include protections, Joe Saunders, senior political director at Equality Florida, claims that these so-called protections are merely a part of the bill’s preamble and would carry no weight should the bills become law. 

“We appreciate that Sen. Gruters put that in,” Saunders said. “It’s not policy; it’s not considered part of the bill.”

Democratic senator Lori Berman suggested the bill was nothing more than a political stunt to garner votes from homophobic and transphobic constituents. 

“I’m disappointed to see some of my colleagues proposing this regressive and discriminatory anti-LGBT agenda,” Berman wrote on Twitter. “What benefit to the public does this legislation actually serve, apart from tossing red meat to a political base in an election season?” 

Trans children are particularly vulnerable to the policies. 

“Transgender youth are some of the most at risk in our community,” Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality, told NBC News. “It is outrageous that conservative legislators would threaten their health and safety. Medical professionals, not politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of a patient. Forcing a doctor to deny best practice medical care and deny support to transgender youth can be life-threatening.”

Making it illegal for doctors to provide necessary care to trans children certainly goes against the Hippocratic oath, but if you think something so dystopian can’t happen just look at how Republicans have slowly chipped away at abortion rights – another form of necessary care that can be life-saving. 

Just yesterday South Dakora Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would also ban doctors from performing gender-affirming surgeries or treatments on children. Similar bills have been filed in Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky. 

According to the Associated Press, “The Endocrine Society, which is the leading professional organization for doctors who specialize in hormones, does not recommend gender-transition medical treatment before puberty for children who do not identify with their biological gender. For youths experiencing puberty and older adolescents, the Endocrine Society recommends that a team composed of expert medical professionals and mental health professionals manages treatment.”

Opponents of these anti-trans bills believe the laws interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and contradict the widely accepted practices of the medical community. 

“Sadly, the medical care of transgender youth has been sensationalized and politicized,” Jack Turban, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, told NBC News. “Gender-affirming medical care for transgender adolescents is endorsed by major medical organizations, including the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. It should go without saying, but providing standard medical care should not be a felony.”

9 Disabled Latinas Killing It In Fashion And Beauty

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9 Disabled Latinas Killing It In Fashion And Beauty

g0lden.bebe / Instagram

Thanks to ableist movies like “Me Before You,” “Split” and “The Shape of Water,” when most people think of disabilities they often associate it with all things depressing, scary or pitiful. Mainstream media  consistently portrays disabilities in a way that have led many of us to believe that those in the community only come with one story and one shade: ones that are depressing and white. Fortunately, the stories of the disabled community are so much diverse, they’re beautiful, fierce, many are positive and all come in the many different skin tones that contribute to Fenty Beauty’s existence.

Here are nine Disabled Latinas who are challenging beauty standards and showing the world how beautiful and diverse Disabled Latina beauty is.

1. Tamara Mena

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Happy #cincodemayo!! 🇲🇽 I’m Proud to be #Mexican!! So with that said, today is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day!! Today, a really important battle was won that led us to our Independence Day on September 16th! So it’s not Mexico’s Independence Day, today! Just for all of you who may not know!😉 But somehow this is a day that someone in the US figured out, hey let’s make a lot of money celebrating mexico, selling lots of margaritas 🍻 and tacos🌮! 🤷🏻‍♀️😄 So cheers to that! Enjoy today ☄️and be safe!!! Don’t drink and drive!!🙏 It’s not worth it! 😉 What ya think about this look? All my clothes and accessories were hand made and embroidered by indigenous people in Mexico!♥️ • OMG I forgot to tell you all the most important thing about today, TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY SECOND CAR ACCIDENT, in which I was driving! It was so bad that we dropped 50 feet, my car rolled over three times, that car is totaled…but by god’s grace and my angels watching over me,we all survived, my mom, @marthaelviap and my cousin @dayrarominna!🙏♥️ So today I don’t just celebrate, cinco de mayo, I celebrate life!! Because I’m SO so lucky to be alive so cheers to LIFE!!! • __________________ Feliz Cinco de Mayo, a los que lo celebran! Yo sé que en #Mexico no se celebra tanto como en E.U. Pero bueno cómo orgullosa Mexicana, les comparto esta foto!🇲🇽♥️ A celebrar! Pero si tomas, no manejes por favor!🙏 No vale la Pena 😉 Bendiciones! Les gusta este look? con ropa típica y accesorios hechos a mano por nuestros paisanos de #oaxaca! ♥️ • Chicos me olvidé de compartirles lo más importante de este día, HOY ES EL ANIVERSARIO DE MI SEGUNDO ACCIDENTE DE CARRO, en el cual yo estaba manejando! Fue horrible, tanto que nos caímos a un barranco y mi carro se volcó tres veces, caímos 50 pies y ese carro fue perdida total…Pero por la gracia de Dios y nuestros ángeles que nos estaban cuidando, todas sobrevivimos mi mamá, @marthaelviap y mi prima, @dayrarominna!🙏♥️ Así es que hoy no sólo celebró el “5 de Mayo” CELEBRÓ La VIDA!! Porque soy MUY afortunada en estar VIVA después de ese accidente, así es que salud por la vida!!! 🙌

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Born and raised in Leon, Mexico, Mena immigrated to the United States at 13. The bilingual motivational speaker, actress, and model advocates for disability rights by frequently sharing her experiences on Instagram. When Tamara was 19, she suffered a car accident that left her paralyzed from the mid-chest down. The accident also caused the death of her boyfriend. In the years following the incident, Tamara has worked as a public speaker and encouraged others in the community on how to thrive in the face of a derailment. She participated in the famous beauty pageant Nuestra Belleza Latina as the first woman to be in a wheelchair in the competition and is one of the first Disabled talents to work with Ipsy. These days, she continues to use her voice and style to show young Disabled Latinas that they can achieve their dreams.

2. Jillian Mercado

This Disabled Afro-Latina has been killing it on the runway and in front of the camera since her modeling career took off when she landed an ad campaign with Diesel Jeans. Born with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass, Jillian has used her voice to highlight how she and others have grown up with a severe lack of disabled representation in the fashion world. Since this New York Based Dominicana’s ad with Diesel Jeans, she has been signed with IMG models and has worked with Target and other large major brands. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the fashion world.

3. Marimar Quiroa

This Selona/Latina is killing the makeup game on Instagram and YouTube with her vibrant use of eyeshadows to create signature looks. Marimar is a 23-year-old Latina born with a facial tumor called “Cystic Hygroma.” She uses sign language to communicate with her followers on YouTube and Instagram and spreads a message to others to embrace their beauty. Growing up Marimar felt she needed to hide her face but after discovering makeup, she has embraced her features and found a passion in being a makeup artist.

4. Christina Feliz

Christina Feliz Martinez is a makeup artist and professional model based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Inspire by her Latinidad, chronic illness, and love for makeup, she uses her platform to share looks that she creates that celebrate it all. Because of her chronic illness, she has retired from modeling full time but does shoots occasionally. These days, she’s mostly focused on her work as a full-time makeup artist who highlights beauty products that can be a benefit to the chronic illness community.

5. Dru Presta

Standing at 3ft 4in, this Puerto Rican-Sicilian model born with a form of dwarfism is on a mission to change the fashion industry one photo at a time. Dru grew up in Reno, Nevada where she experiences bullying and isolation from her peers. Determined to not let the ugliness of others affect her, Presta uses her platform to show her audience that sexy can come in many sizes.

6. Annie Segarra

Annie Segarra, more commonly known online as Annie Elainey is a Disabled Peruvian-Ecuadorian Latinx with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) which is a connective tissue disorder. On YouTube, Annie creates videos that bring awareness to EDS but also speaks about the intersection of being disabled and Queer. Their platform has become a safe space for Disabled LGBTQ+ to feel seen and supported. When Annie isn’t creating videos, they’re slaying on Instagram with their #disabledandcute fashion looks. Their photos show outfits paired perfectly with their mobility aids.

7. Jessica Ruiz

Jessica Ruiz is a Puerto Rican-Irish makeup artist based in Philadelphia whose main tool in creating looks for her clients is her mouth!  Born with arthrogryposis, a condition that doesn’t allow her joints to move “normally”, she learned how to apply makeup with her mouth by holding the tools between her lips. She made makeup accessible for herself and after being rejected by a beauty school because of her disability she said “girl bye” and began a career for herself as a makeup artist. Her biggest break came when she had the opportunity to work at the Philadelphia Small Business Fashion Week where she was the lead makeup artist for the event. Jessica is making a name for herself as a disabled Latina MUA, and won’t be stopping any time soon!

8. Elsie Tellier

Living with Cystic Fibrosis (a terminal illness that affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal system), this Mexican-French Canadian uses her wheelchair to show off her love for fashion and her personality. After finding clothes that were comfortable and made her feel good while being in her chair, she began painting her wheels with pictures of galaxies and flowers to match her aesthetics. She uses her mobility aid as a fashion statement that challenges society’s absurd beauty standards. Tellier has said that her big goal is to see fashion brands make fashion accessible for those who use aids like wheelchairs, crutches, canes etc.

9. Giovanna “Gigi” Giscome

giovanawashere_/Instagram

This Afro-Latina from New York City and based in San Francisco Bay Area combines her love for fashion and modeling with her disability rights activism. Gigi has said that as she was growing up her parents taught her to love her disability but she soon noticed that that outside of her family atmosphere often revealed how uncomfortable they were with her disability. While she personally felt fine about being disabled she knew she wanted to change the mindset of others and did so with the help of fashion. Modeling and becoming a fashionista is Gigi’s way of fighting beauty standards which typically only showcase white, able models. Her fashion choices make a statement that both she and her disability are beautiful. Her photos show that she can bring it when it comes to high fashion with jaw-dropping looks.