How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?

If you ever wonder about what it’s like to be blind or visually impaired I can attest that the story below is “legion”.  Both blindness and low vision are poorly understood by the general public.  I personally have been mocked by service employees in almost every kind of setting from airports to restaurants to hotels, bus stations, you name it.  Our hats are off to Alice Camarillo.  She is fighting for everyone on the Planet of the Blind.


The following article is forwarded to you by the DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center

New York Daily News (New York, NY)
February 9, 2008

Fast food employees mocked a blind woman who needed help reading menu


Alice Camarillo, who is legally blind, says she was ridiculed when she
asked for help reading the menu at fast-food restaurants like Burger King,
McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s.  She sued.  A federal judge in Albany
threw it out, saying the law doesn’t require restaurant workers to be

Yesterday, a Manhattan federal appeals court overruled the lower court,
and Camarillo can sue the restaurants under the Americans with Disabilities
Act. "I feel good about it," Camarillo, who lives in upstate Hudson, told
the Daily News. "I’m just sorry it took so long. Quite a few things that
they did were humiliating."

The appeals court ruling means the 2005 suit – believed to be the first
of its kind – could go before a jury this year. The issue is whether the
restaurants properly train their employees to serve the blind and

Camarillo said annoyed workers served other customers before reading
her just a partial list of their offerings. Camarillo can read large print
when she holds it close, but can’t make out most menus.
During a visit to Burger King, employees "laughed and stared" and
pointed her in the direction of the men’s room when she asked for a
bathroom, she claims.

At Taco Bell, a cashier told her to wait until the rest of the
customers had ordered.

"Put simply, Camarillo cannot experience full and equal enjoyment of
defendants’ services if she is unable to access the list of the
services available to her," the appeals court said.

Last year, Albany Federal Court Judge Gary Sharpe dismissed the suit,
saying Camarillo was never denied service at the restaurants. Sharpe said
ADA laws don’t regulate "rudeness or insensitivity" of workers.

The appeals judges’ disagreed.

"While restaurants are not necessarily required to have on hand large
print menus that Camarillo would be able to read, they are required to
ensure that their menu options are effectively communicated to individuals
who, like Camarillo, are legally blind," the judges wrote.

Camarillo’s lawyer, Michael O’Neill, believes this is the first time a
blind or disabled person has made such a challenge under the ADA.
"The way Alice was treated in some of these restaurants was just
horrible,"  O’Neill said. Lawyers for the restaurants declined to comment.

For more articles across the country regarding the ADA go to  "ADA In the Headlines "


DeafMom has a story of her own.  She was recently denied service at Steak and Shake.

Wait A Second! is "Keeping track of the civil rights opinions of the United States
Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Brought to you by Bergstein
& Ullrich, LLP."

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

0 thoughts on “How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?”

  1. You might both be interested in a book entitled “Voices From the Edge” published by Oxford University Press and edited by Ruth O Brien. The book contains autobiographical narratives by people with disabilities who have experienced employment discrimination. Their stories are presented alongside brief essays that outline what areas of the ADA these stories illustrate. It’s a terrific book!


  2. These stories make my blood boil. I’m sorry you and others have had such experiences. Thanks to Camarillo and to DeafMom for standing up and for making things easier for everyone. It takes a lot of time and energy to push these issues through the courts and through corporate appeals processes. I also hope that everyone who’s filed a case under ADA realizes that they’re making a difference, even when the outcome is often unfair.


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