About three years ago I featured Robert Mingo of Minneapolis, Minn., whose book, “Poetry for the Soul,” helped him publicly express his struggles and joys of living with muscular dystrophy.
Mingo has a service dog and uses a motorized wheelchair.
Within the last week, in connection with the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, Mingo made national news by filing a federal lawsuit against a McDonald’s franchise owner and the global corporation. According to the lawsuit, while using his wheelchair in summer 2012, Mingo and his red-vested service dog, Max, entered a McDonald’s restaurant in North Minneapolis for breakfast. An employee there denied him service at the counter (due to Mingo’s service dog being inside) and again at the drive-through (perhaps due to Mingo’s use of a motorized wheelchair). He eventually was served.
In May 2013, Mingo and his service dog visited the same location. While Mingo waited for his meal this time, he maintained, the restaurant manager ordered him to leave, demanded documentation of Max being a service dog, and banned him from returning. Mingo promptly left.
Said 52-year-old Mingo in a telephone interview, “When leaving McDonald’s (the second time), I actually was elated because I had kept my cool. I was really, really upset. Yet I didn’t blow up and I stayed respectful. I did not act out of character and I thank God for that.”
Mingo said he also had difficulties being served at another fast-food restaurant near him, but the manager there changed his mind after Mingo calmly explained the law. Mingo said of eating out: “Most places treat me well. For example, (my local) Burger King treats me like a king. They know my dog by name and are really good to me.”
Mingo said his objective with the lawsuit was to press for new protocol and sensitivity training for McDonald’s employees, because “the next Robert Mingo might be in worse health than I am.”
Mingo, who is married, has been active in his community. Due to his contributions following the 2011 Minneapolis tornado, Mingo received an emergency preparedness award from the Minnesota State Council on Disability. As a volunteer, he helped lead a private neighborhood relief effort involving non-profits and businesses. He also is well known in his community for handing out, from his wheelchair, free bottles of water to residents on hot summer days.
For more stories of courage in disability, visit www.danieljvance.com or find them on Facebook at “Disabilities by Daniel J. Vance.” Blue Valley Sod and Palmer Bus Service made this column possible.