Restaurant Photos without Consent … again

There’s a photo of an employee feeding a disabled woman in an Illinois IHOP which means it’s time to resurrect two favorite How Did We Get Into This Mess? rules:

  1. Don’t take pictures of disabled strangers without their consent.
  2. Don’t share the pictures you shouldn’t have taken to the internet without their consent. Their story is not your story to do with as you see fit.

Latest culprit: Keshia Dotson, who snapped a picture and is happily reaping the attention, as stories percolate around local news, always looking for an inspirational angle. I once wrote about a similar incident:

In objectifying this woman, as writer and disability activist Emily Ladau points out in a piece for the Center for Disability Rights, the stories all ignore the woman’s personal agency. “The woman is not helpless. She specifically requested assistance with eating,” Ladau writes. “She advocated for what she needed. The employee’s assistance was simply a kind acknowledgment of her request. [The comments] regarding the man are all to the effect of “bless his heart,” “what a hero,” “such a saint.”

One reporter led his piece on the Qdoba story with, “Faith in humanity, restored.” 

Real support

Then there are the legal and policy questions. Why is Qdoba not accessible to disabled patrons in the first place? No one should have to wait outside a door to be let in. And shouldn’t Kentucky provide appropriate community-based supports for this individual so a disabled woman can lead a more independent life rather than rely on the kindness of strangers?

Here I think the answers aren’t that complicated. T. here seems to be a relationship between this husband and wife and the server in question. That’s lovely. Ask for consent before posting.


I spoke to Dotson over FB messenger:

Me: did you ask their permission before taking the photo?

I did not, I honestly didn’t even think about it. I just wanted to forward it to corporate so the server would be recognized for his customer service skills, I never dreamed that it would go viral like it did.

After it went viral, did you reach out to the disabled person if they wanted people to see them being fed? Or to the server?

I have not spoken to either, no.

A lot of disabled people are criticizing you for violating this woman’s privacy. I wonder if you have any thoughts about that? Would you want such an intimate vulnerable moment shared without your consent?

No harm was meant, it was a gesture intended with the up most innocence. But I have to get back to work, thank you for your interest in the story.

Right. But those disabled people would like you to take that picture down or get consent to share it.


The picture is still up.

Once again: Do not take pictures of disabled people without consent. Do not share pictures you shouldn’t have taken on social media without consent.

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