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‘There was no sympathy’: Brampton Mom Says H&M Store Discriminated Against Her Son With Autism

The incident occurred at Bramalea City Centre on April 11
Adrian Cheung, CBC
Posted: Apr 26, 2018

Marva Richardson, left, says employees at a Brampton H&M store were not willing to accommodate the needs of her son Jared (right.)

A Brampton mother is calling for changes in training and an apology from the retail giant H&M after an incident in which she said an employee lacked “compassion and understanding” for her son, who lives with autism.

“People with disabilities…they are human beings. And it’s horrible to know that after this treatment, nobody contacted us,” said Marva Richardson, mother of 20-year-old Jared Service.

Richardson and her husband Harvil Service went with Jared to the H&M store at Bramlea City Centre on April 11 to buy a new suit.

Due to Jared’s disability, Richardson said she has acted as Jared’s “eyes and ears” throughout his life, and often helps him get dressed.

After picking out two suits, the family headed to the changing room and alerted the attendant that she and her husband would join Jared in the stall to help him with the suit fitting, as the attendant directed them toward a stall.

“Next thing I know, I heard ‘three persons are not allowed in the changing room at the same time, it must not happen, you must come out’ and I was wondering if it was us,” Richardson said.

Richardson’s husband left the stall to explain the situation and Jared’s disability to a new H&M employee who had entered the area an explanation Richardson said made no difference.

She said another employee told the family that if they didn’t leave as instructed, police would be called to the store.

“There was no sympathy. Even if the rules were that it wasn’t supposed to happen, he could’ve made the difference and said ‘because of the disability, I will allow it,'” she said.

After leaving, Richardson made three separate calls to customer service to report the incident, was given a case number and assurances that someone from H&M would call for an explanation.

She has yet to receive any further contact from the company.

H&M has not responded to CBC News for requests for comment in response to the claim or questions regarding their changing room policy.

Advocates call for ‘common sense’

While Richardson said she and her husband said they are deeply disappointed by actions of the employees, she believes a case like this can be a teachable moment.

“People should be educated and I think [H&M] should retrain their staff about this and even the managers too, they should be retrained to handle a situation like this.”

It’s an area that Autism Canada, an advocacy group for people and families living with autism, hopes will continue to change.

“It’s about taking a common sense approach that when someone has an accommodation and they have a different need to be met, that this is a great example of when we know we can do better,” said Laurel Gillespie, director of Autism Canada.

Gillespie added that their work has been to raise awareness of people with autism and that there is a responsibility for businesses to make changes for all of its customers.

“[Companies] need to be on top of this and I’m looking forward to see what [H&M] going to do to prevent this from happening again.”

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