The outpouring of support for a 21-year-old man with Down syndrome who was refused entry to JB Hi-Fi shows a “high tolerance for diversity”, Down Syndrome Association of Queensland says.
Home entertainment store JB Hi-Fi was forced to apologise after Brisbane man James Milne was refused entry to the Mount Ommaney store on Monday in a case of mistaken identity.
Entry was refused after a security guard mistook Mr Milne for another customer, who also had Down syndrome, who had allegedly been barred for shoplifting.
But despite James’ father, Daryl, pointing out the photo of the accused man did not look like his son, the store manager did not backtrack.
“When my dad and the manager are shown a photo of a white male who also had Down’s syndrome, my dad says it’s clearly not James, who has olive skin, and the manager replied ‘well they look the same’,” James’ sister Victoria posted to Facebook.
The family were “disgusted” by the incident, and despite contacting the store immediately for an apology it wasn’t until the next day the company said they were sorry.
“We should have done better yesterday. We are going to make sure that we learn from this and do better in the future.”
Mr Murray told ABC Radio the Mt Ommaney store manager was “personally disappointed in what happened”.
He said the company would review its policies as a result of the incident and look at offering further training to avoid a similar incident in the future.
“I prefer to think of more counselling and working through with them [rather than firing the employees],” he said, confirming the manager would keep his job.
“While this is a challenging issue for James I want to make sure that we take these lessons across all of our stores and that we do better across all of our stores… and make sure this never happens again.”
Outpouring of support shows a ‘high tolerance for diversity’
Ms Milne’s recount of the incident quickly gained support around Australia.
A social media post detailing the discrimination received nearly 120,000 likes and was shared 75,000 times within 24 hours.
Down Syndrome Association of Queensland board member Cath Watson told The New Daily although the incident was “quite disappointing”, the widespread community condemnation showed a “high tolerance for diversity”.
“We very rarely get complaints of discrimination,” she said.
“This is an example where the community has stood up and said: ‘we don’t accept this in our society’.”
Ms Watson said the Milne family were “extremely touched by the support they had received” since the initial Facebook post on Monday.
Strangers from across the country – and overseas – were outraged at the incident and contacted both the family and JB Hi-Fi to express their disgust.
“No one should be spoken to the way your brother was,” Ashley Doran wrote.
“I will stand with you and your family and fight with you … it’s absolutely appalling what has happened to your brother,” Kirsty Sharma posted.
It even attracted the ire of Opposition leader Bill Shorten.
“This is unacceptable. There is never an excuse for this kind of discrimination,” he said.
Australian band The Wiggles, one of James’ favourite bands, also contacted the family to offer their support.
“The Wiggles have many fans of all ages and with additional needs. They are a part of our community,” they said.
Further education still necessary
Despite praising the support for the Milne family, Ms Watson said the manager’s alleged comments at the time of the incident showed there was still a need to continue education on disability.
“It shows an outdated view of people with Down syndrome,” Ms Watson said.
“We certainly would be prepared to work with any business who is looking to review their policies and procedures.”
Investor confidence did not seem to be affected by the highly publicised incident, with the company’s stocks closing 1.41 per cent higher than the previous day.