Whole Foods states that its "inclusive" stores treat customers with "courtesy and respect," but actions by their employees and contractors show that training is needed before they begin to include persons with disabilities.
In early 2013, two security guards at a Milwaukee Whole Foods store told me that my 26-year-old brother with autism would not be allowed back in the store unless he was on a leash. When my mother complained that evening, the assistant store manager was also disparaging of my brother. After thousands of signatures on this petition, the local store has implemented some sort of training for employees, but it seems sorely inadequate and still does not require training of any kind for security guards. (More details on our story are below in the "News" section.)
What happened to my brother is not an isolated incident.
In Dallas in 2011, a 28-year-old man with autism was arrested for trespassing while he was shopping in a Whole Foods store. Police were told to come because the man was “acting odd,” even though he stated that he had autism. Whole Foods never apologized. Several signers of this petition have also mentioned poor treatment of their family members with disabilities at Whole Foods. We do not know how many other cases go unreported.
I want to ensure that effective training reaches all employees, both here and in other cities so that everyone who works in Whole Foods is prepared to treat people with disabilities with courtesy and respect.
Whole Foods website touts their extensive staff training and highlights their values including:
Our stores are "inclusive." Everyone is welcome...
Customers are fellow human beings with feelings and emotions like our own; they are equals to be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.
I am asking the Whole Foods corporation to live up to their stated values by implementing formal, quality training for everyone who works in all their stores on how to interact with customers who have disabilities.
We -- the family, friends, and supporters of persons with disabilities -- urge Whole Foods to become a store that shares our commitment to human dignity.