Speaking to Newsweek, Alexis Bancroft stated that her 3-year-old son, William, eats with his feet since he was born without arms.
The family has never had an issue with it until when they visited an IHOP in Hot Springs, Arkansas, because William wanted pancakes for breakfast.
Her son took his place on the table, where he usually sits, and began coloring as he waited for his food to arrive. The general manager of the restaurant walked over to their table and stated that William couldn’t sit of the table, citing "health department issues."
According to Bancroft, the manager also said that she didn’t want William to touch the syrup dispensers with his feet because it was a sanitary issue.
"I asked her what's the difference between hands and feet?" Bancroft said.
She said that she had taken William to wash his feet, but the manager stated that she had not witnessed that.
"I asked, 'Do you ask all your customers if they've washed their hands before they touch the syrup dispensers first?'" she said.
The manager later came back and apologized, but Bancroft "chose to leave for the way my child was treated."
She said, "Everybody was staring at us and everything. They were going to give us our food, but we decided to leave because of the way he was treated. He was discriminated against for not having arms."
She expressed her shock at how William was treated, which had never happened in any of the restaurants they had ever visited: "We go to multiple restaurants around our area, and no one has ever said anything about him. Most people are just amazed that he can even feed himself with his feet."
She took to Facebook to recount the experience, and her post quickly went viral, and was shared over 2,500 times.
She said that the owner of the IHOP reached out and offered to discuss the incident over a meal at the restaurant. She declined.
She stated that she understood the manager’s concerns, but she felt they were unfounded "if tables are cleaned and sanitized as they should be," adding, “Some people say it's unsanitary for a kid to be seated on the table, but that's how stuff happens in our household. My son sits on the table every single meal throughout the day."
The manager has since been put on leave, and IHOP released a statement saying that the company and franchises "do not tolerate actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type." They vowed to ensure that the owner of the franchise would "retrain" his staff "to ensure IHOP's level of service, particularly regarding guests with disabilities, is provided to all."
"The franchisee at this location has been in touch with the guest to express his sincerest apologies and will continue to be in communication with her to resolve the issue," the statement said.