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Disability Advocate Imani Barbarin Faces Ableist Backlash for Calling Out Delivery Driver Who Wouldn't Come to Her Door

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One disability advocate’s Twitter thread about a delivery driver who refused to bring her food all the way to her door went viral over the weekend — and showed just how insidious ableism (and racism) can be.

On Jan. 6, disability advocate Imani Barbarin shared a text exchange she had with a DoorDash delivery driver who refused to bring Barbarin’s order to her apartment door. The driver parked in a fire lane and said he didn’t want to get a ticket, but Barbarin pushed back, saying he needed to actually come all the way into the building to deliver her food.

The DoorDash driver, Barbarin added, bypassed hundreds of parking spaces around her building and chose the fire lane, putting himself at risk of getting a ticket despite other available options.

Barbarin called out the driver and DoorDash for ableism as well as violating her basic right to accommodation and accessibility under the Americans With Disabilities Act, especially since she paid fees for direct delivery.

“What people are missing from this Doordash predicament is that disabled people are paying for these services because they’re accommodations often necessary for daily life, so when people refuse service, they’re refusing to do a service necessary for disabled people to function,” Barbarin tweeted. “We’re paying for accessibility and then not even getting it.”

Barbarin’s experience isn’t unique among people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Mighty community member Allie P. explained how a grocery delivery driver treated them with callousness when asked to bring their food all the way upstairs.

“I had a driver for grocery delivery (Peapod) show up late and sit outside my apartment for 20 minutes before deciding to bring up my groceries,” Allie wrote, adding:

I was bed bound and sitting there uncomfortably waiting to answer the door. I asked him to please put the bags on my counter and motioned to it. He proceeded to drop all my bags on the floor and leave wordlessly. One bag was crushed and the groceries in it were too, a box of pasta was opened… I couldn’t bend over or lift more than a pound, so it was awful.

Services like DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart and many others rely on contract workers to deliver on a tight schedule for little pay. Therefore, much of your experience relies on the personal ethics of each delivery driver. Mighty community member Mikehla D., who is a delivery driver for DoorDash, shared how this works:

There is a spot to put ‘instructions’ and I try to always abide by them! Last week, a customer put “please text when you arrive.” I did, and the customer was deaf, so they wouldn’t of heard me! I always bring food to the door to help out, and even offer to stay and wait to make sure you’re OK. I know I’m a rare breed of delivery driver, but I’m glad to make that difference in people’s lives, especially living with chronic illness myself.

While Barbarin received support from some in the disability community, she also faced a groundswell of backlash from people who called her advocacy “entitlement” or jeopardizing the delivery driver’s job over “petty” complaints. Barbarin pushed back, calling out detractors (some who are also disabled) for upholding harmful ableist views.

Approximately 25% of people in the United States live with a disability, yet instances of discrimination are found in most systems, even delivery services. This reflects a larger picture of ableist attitudes in society: People with disabilities are significantly more likely to live below the poverty line, more likely to be unemployed, face discrimination from potential employers and are two times more likely to be a victim of violent crime compared to people without disabilities.

Barbarin also received a slew of racist hate for calling out the delivery driver, which prompted her to create the hashtag #ProtectDisabledBlackWomxn in response.

“I need to feel protected,” Barbarin wrote. “I am grateful [for] the response from the disabled community in recent days. But many of the interactions I faced remind me how many disabled people are willing to throw a black woman under the bus to protect proximity to whiteness.”

The backlash to Barbarin’s online advocacy highlights that we still have a way to go before disabled people are truly included in all aspects of society.

“Demanding the service you paid for isn’t an accommodation,” Barbarin tweeted, adding:

Requiring accommodations aren’t requesting ‘special treatment.’

Inaccessibility is against the law.

The Americans With Disabilities Act needs to be enforced.

The Mighty reached out to DoorDash for comment and has yet to hear back.

What’s your experience been like getting delivery services (like DoorDash, Postmates, etc.) to bring your order right to your door?

Header image via Imani Barbarin’s Twitter

Originally published: January 13, 2020
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