Shop owner denies knowing boy was unable to walk
The owner of a Mitchells Plain superette, whose staff allegedly refused access to a mother and her disabled child in a wheelchair, claims they did not know the boy was unable to walk.
In responding papers filed in the Equality Court on 17 December, shop owner Salauddin Khan claimed his staff had not know about Connor Haskin's disability, reports GroundUp.
Khan said in court papers that in a later visit to the Haskin house he 'noticed the child (Connor) being able to walk'. He included in his papers photographs of Connor taken from his mother Liezel Haskin's social media account showing him standing with his knees bent.
But Haskin, in papers filed on 20 December, refuted claims that staff were not aware of Connor's disability, saying she was a regular customer and had previously been to the store with Connor and his wheelchair. Khan questioned why he was being held to account for the incident, saying he was not in the store at the time and had been notified some time later by employee Tareq Ahmed.
'Ahmed advised that he never denied access to the premises but merely informed Haskin that the pram was not allowed in the aisles. This rule applied to all customers and he pointed to the notice on the door. He was unaware that Connor was disabled and said the pram he was in had no indication that he was a disabled child. He assumed Connor could walk with his mother in the shop,' he said.
Khan explained that his staff were told to no longer allow prams and wheelchairs into the store due to the high rate of shoplifting incidents. ' ... The spacing between the aisles does not allow for prams or wheelchairs,' he said.
Khan said the employees in the shop on the day told him that Haskin had not given them a chance to explain and described her as being 'in a frantic irrational state of mind'.
A few days after the incident, Khan and two other staff members made an unannounced visit to Haskin's home on the advice of Shahiem van Nelson, of the Human Rights Commission. Khan apologised and left a slab of chocolate for Connor before taking a photo with him.
'I gave the chocolate as a peace offering, there was no intention of bribing Haskin. We would not have taken a picture with the minor child if this was the case.'
He said should the court find the conduct to be discriminatory, 'this may affect other grocery stores with the same or similar policies where they would have to renovate to accommodate people in wheelchairs'.
In her submission, Haskin included testimonials from Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, physiotherapists and medical records of Connor's conditions. She also gave the court an assessment done by Shonaquip, which designs equipment for people with disabilities.
The matter returns to court tomorrow.
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