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Store say no discrimination intended, plans re-training after cops called on deaf customer

Dylan Hinders of Jacksonville relates his encounter at Dunkin’ Donuts on a video for social media.

The owner of a Jacksonville restaurant franchise says employees will go through additional training after a man’s contention that his hearing impairment resulted in police being called because he would not leave the drive-through of the shop.

Although offering a varying account of what happened when Dylan Hinders of Jacksonville went through the drive-through of Dunkin’ Donuts on West Morton Avenue — and saying there never was any intention to discriminate against him — owner Nick Bhatt said the situation was not handled properly.

Hinders, a one-on-one assistant at the Illinois School for the Deaf, said he went through the drive-through early Saturday to buy doughnuts and coffee. Hinders, who is deaf, said he had his order typed on his phone.

He maintains things were fine at first, but then the cashier asked him to come inside the shop to finish his order.

“I have the right to use a drive-through, same as anyone else,” Hinders said. ” I am very disappointed, angry and frustrated with how the situation was handled.”

Dunkin’ Donuts representatives said employees were having trouble communicating with Hinders at the window and did ask him to come inside.

He refused, and remained in the drive-through lane. Police were called, as workers walked to the other cars in line and took their orders by hand.

Hinders took to social media after the incident, giving his account of what happened. His post and an accompanying video have been viewed thousands of times and received hundreds of comments.

Dunkin’ Donuts manager Jay Joshi, however, said Hinders’ order was incomplete on the phone and did not specify which variation of a French vanilla drink Hinders wanted. Dunkin’ Donuts offers several.

“The cashier started the order and then he wrote down on the paper, asking him which kind of coffee and he didn’t respond,” Joshi said. “We tried to communicate with him, but he refused to communicate with us.”

Joshi said he and the cashier tried several times to clarify the order before asking him to come in, but Hinders refused.

“We didn’t refuse him service,” Joshi said. “We tried, but he didn’t want to respond to our attempts.”

Police were called and, according to a report, arrived about 7:41 a.m. and spoke with Hinders but determined it was a civil matter.

“I was told I wasn’t in trouble, but there was nothing they could do about the situation, that I’d have to go through the corporate office,” Hinders said.

Hinders, meanwhile, said he did try to respond to the employees.

”I kept gesturing to try and communicate with them,” he said.

Owner Bhatt said police should not have been called. But after reviewing video footage from the store, Bhatt said it appears employees tried to communicate with Hinders.

“For some reason, they couldn’t communicate with him,” he said. “We have a lot of hearing-impaired people that visit our stores. We try to keep a pen and paper at the registers to help us communicate if we have any questions.”

Bhatt said it is not policy to ask hearing-impaired customers to come inside the store for service and service is provided whether at the drive-through or inside the store. He said all employees go through training before they begin working, but he plans to have them redo training to reinforce how to properly handle any such future situations.

Corporate spokeswoman Michelle King said the company tries to provide a welcoming environment for all customers.

“At Dunkin’ Donuts, providing a friendly and welcoming restaurant environment for all guests is a top priority,” she said in a statement. “The franchisee who owns and operates the restaurant informs us that he has attempted to contact the guest to apologize for the poor experience. Additionally, the franchisee informs us he intends to work with his employees to ensure they understand how to engage with hearing-impaired individuals at the drive-through to ensure they receive excellent customer service. Dunkin’ franchisees are required by their franchise agreement to comply with all applicable laws.”

Hinders said he will not visit the store again, but hopes employees receive more training and are more considerate to those with disabilities.

“I felt they weren’t well-trained to deal with someone who was deaf,” Hinders said.