The sister of a 21-year-old Down syndrome man expressed her disgust on social media yesterday after her brother was refused entry into a Brisbane JB Hi-Fi store.
Victoria Milne’s Facebook post, which described her brother James’ discrimination at the Mt. Ommaney store, went viral when it hit the internet yesterday; receiving more than 30, 000 likes and almost 20,000 shares by this morning.
The Jindalee woman told Quest Newspapers, her brother and father, Daryl, were stopped by a security guard at the front of the store who told James he wasn’t allowed in.
The guard produced a picture of a man he believed was James on his mobile phone and showed it to Daryl, and the manager who had been called over.
“It clearly wasn’t James, it was a lighter skinned boy with fair hair and James is half Fijian, so dark and tanned,” Ms Milne said.
“Basically the only similarities they had was that they both had Down syndrome.”
Ms. Milne said when her father queried the resemblance, the manager replied with “Well, they all look the same.”
As the situation escalated, Ms Milne said James became visibly upset so his father took him home.
When James’ mother heard about the incident she called the store requesting an apology from the manager to her son. The store manager allegedly replied that he had “the right to stop anyone he pleased from entering the store” and that “he would never, ever, ever get an apology”.
Ms. Milne described her brother in the post as “the sweetest boy who is still in love with The Wiggles and Ben 10.”
“Please, if you are also disgusted by the discrimination shown to James, share this and take a stand against bullying and ignorance,” she added at the end of her post.
Comments from others on the post reflected the same sentiments as Ms. Milne and called for the manager to apologise and to be held accountable.
Supporters have also inundated JB Hi-Fi’s Facebook page, pledging to boycott the company’s stores.
The post has also drawn the attention of Down Syndrome Society Queensland, who Ms. Milne said also contacted the store manager about the situation and received the same response.
She said the society was urging the family to take legal action to raise awareness about this type of discrimination.
“We are talking to legal aid at the request of the Down syndrome society Queensland because they don’t want this swept under the rug: it does happen and we want to bring it to light,” she said.
Ipswich councillor Paul Tully, who has set up a Change.org petition on behalf of James, was equally appalled at James’ treatment, calling the act “un-Australian and disgraceful.”
“The manager is today refusing to take calls from the public or media.It has been referred to the company’s Head Office,” he said.
“I am urging the family to take legal action against this appalling decision.”
Today JB Hi–Fi CEO Richard Murray posted an apology on the JB Hi -Fi Facebook page, adding that he wanted to make contact with James and his family.
“JB Hi-Fi apologises for any distress caused to James and his family,” he wrote.
“We take feedback from our customers very seriously. We are investigating this matter.”
Around 270 babies are born with Down syndrome each year in Australia.