A woman believes she was discriminated against because of her disabilities after security at a Canada casino would not let her in. Security guards at Cascades Casino in British Columbia refused to let a woman enter the property believing she was drunk.
However, the woman says she suffers from several disabilities and feels she was singled out. She is now claiming the casino discriminated against her and left her traumatized.
Casino staff says woman was “intoxicated” and “stumbling”
Crystal-Lee Budnik says she was trying to enjoy a night out at the BC casino. However, she says the security guards barred her from entering because they thought she was drunk.
Budnik spoke to Global News and claims this has happened to her at the Cascades Casino Langley. The most recent incident occurred on July 22. The casino guards stopped her from walking into the facility because they claimed she was “intoxicated” and “stumbling.”
The woman has a speech impediment, a learning disability, lupus and arthritis. She says they affect her ability to speak clearly and walk steadily. Budnik says each time she visited the casino, she had proper identification and explained her condition. She also claims that when she was turned away, she asked to speak to a manager. However, she was denied again.
In an interview with Global News, she says the entire ordeal hurt her.
“I felt like I was being singled out just because of the way I talk and it’s not my fault,” Budnik told Global News. “It’s actually traumatizing. I want to cry about it.”
Casino staff are not the only ones who tend to mistake Budnik’s defect for intoxication. She says police officers have also come to those false conclusions multiple times. Budnik says that’s why she carries written medical notes by physicians and psychiatrists explaining her condition. She says she hands them to people who question her sobriety despite it always being difficult for her.
“I’m embarrassed to go anywhere,” Budnik said. “Are they going to criticize me of other things as well? It’s an ongoing issue and I don’t know what I can do to stop it. I don’t want to have to carry around paperwork and show them. That will make me feel more like a sideshow act than anything.”
Cascades Casino looking into the incident
Tanya Gabara is the director of public relations for Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited, which owns and operates Cascades Casino. In a written statement, she says that the casino is looking into the incident while also saying that employee health and safety is its top priority.
Gabara says the company plans to reach out to Budnik to collect all the facts of the situation. She also says the casino will take everything they learn into consideration for future customer interactions to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Budnik says she worries about others with medical conditions who have faced similar treatment at the casino. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, casino staff and others will change their behavior and be more sensitive and accepting of people with disabilities.
Elaine Boyd, executive director of Disability Alliance BC, says other disabled individuals in the province are frequently believed to be intoxicated. She noted that discrimination can often happen with people that suffer from speech impediments, multiple sclerosis, ataxia, cerebral palsy, and other speech and muscle-related disorders.
It’s really rather unfortunate and (I’m) ashamed that this happens to a number of people with disabilities, usually due to just lack of awareness of disability in general, and empathy and appropriate training by those who are delivering service in our communities,” said Boyd.
Boyd says she wants to see improvements in the laws and regulations to provide adequate accessibility training to prevent further situations like this.