Op-Ed

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IT’S EASY TO dismiss the importance of sensitivity training. Taking a class in social interaction is little more than superfluous precaution for what is basic social common sens—or is it? A recent social mishap concerning customer-manager relations at the Boston Pizza on Hunt Club Road suggests otherwise.

The manager of the pizza joint was asked to leave his position following a confrontation with the family of a boy with Down syndrome. The Boston Pizza employee rudely ordered them to either move to the back of the restaurant or vacate the place altogether.

The boy, Tyler Bolduc-Cadieux, was visiting the restaurant with six of his relatives. Some, ready to order drinks, had approached the bar; however, Tyler was seated separately with his aunt, Julie Bolduc-Cousineau, in a family-size booth in order to accommodate his Ochlophobic anxieties—fear of crowds and busy spaces.

The manager did not appreciate their self-appointed seating arrangement, explaining the two of them could not occupy a booth meant for an entire family. The manager callously kicked them out after their protests.

The ordeal left Bolduc-Cadieux completely unnerved and self-deprecated, and the rest of the family with a similar heavy heartedness. Bolduc-Cadieux’s grandma shared her worrisome concern with the Ottawa Metro, saying, “It hurt. It made me feel like he wasn’t human, like he didn’t belong in that restaurant.”

It is occurrences like these that call attention to the necessity of implementing sensitivity training in the service industry. If this manager had the appropriate training to deal with special needs clientele, perhaps this ugly incident could have been avoided.

I’m proud to be part of Canada’s mosaic culture—there’s something beautiful about a nation that embraces such diversity. Work environments should uphold that wildly accepting and open mentality, particularly in the customer service sector.

Proper sensitivity training should be mandatory for customer service agencies as a way for members of the organizations to learn how to better understand and appreciate the differences in other people.

It’s important for people like the servers and manager at Boston Pizza to be able to put themselves into other people’s shoes, to be mindful of other people’s perspectives. Sensitivity training would an effective way to deal with the needs of those like Bolduc-Cadieux  who have a disability, but also address concerns of gender and multicultural sensitivity.

While this all seems like just application of sound judgment in social situations, it’s a little more complicated than that. We’re all guilty of being narrow-minded or slightly ignorant of certain issues—sensitivity training is a way of opening the mind to t

he grand scope of all human culture.