Toronto cat café forbids entry to teenage boy in wheelchair

Meow Cat Café in Toronto denied disabled teenager Jacob Trossman entry because he uses a wheelchair. The reason why the owner, Erica Yun, banned him is because a cat had been injured by a client in a wheelchair. It was Jacob’s birthday celebration making the banning all the more hurtful and he loves cats.

Meow Cat Café in Toronto
Meow Cat Café in Toronto. Picture in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Yun had been told by the police that she had the right to refuse any customer. If the police are right it seems to run a horse and cart through disabiity discrimination laws.

Perhaps they are correct. Disability laws are mainly concerned with being treated equally in employment. I think this is a fine point. There may be discrimination here or the café may be in breach of Toronto laws on shops making provision for disabled people. I am pretty sure such laws exist in Canada.

The café would have allowed Jacob in if he left his wheelchair outside which was clearly impossible and a rather strange offer.

Jacob suffers from a neurodegenerative disorder affecting the transmission of signals through his nerves.

Yun says her first concern is her cats. If she is forced to let in people in wheelchairs she says she’ll shut down the café. She has a responsibility to keep the cats safe she says which is obviously correct.

I wonder, though, if there was not room to compromise and find a solution. If Yun were to accompany the wheelchair as it made its way through the café and requested that Jacob remain in the same position throughout his stay that surely would prevent injury to a cat. She could then supervise his exit from the establishment. Jacob could have been placed near the entrance as well.

I sense that a solution could be have been found. This story has made the internet news. Is that good or bad for the cafe?

The cafe denies it is a case of discrimination.

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5 thoughts on “Toronto cat café forbids entry to teenage boy in wheelchair”

  1. @Irish Cornaire: All legalities aside, I think you missed the whole point behind it being a “cat” cafe: People like to visit with cats while enjoying their cafe. Getting rid of the cats would change the setting and many people may change their minds about visiting. If I needed a “kitty-fix”, I would not want to visit a non-cat cafe.

    As far as the legal side goes, M E King may have the correct view. This situation should have been handled differently from both sides of the argument. Evidently Jacob’s parents never thought about the possible injuries that can occur from a wheelchair around cats or they would have considered calling ahead. And, I would like to believe that the cafe owner would be more than willing to work with her handicapped patrons if preparations are requested days in advance. Maybe the owner should post signs around the cafe requesting advance notice to accommodate wheelchairs? Surely the owner is not a cold-hearted POS?

    I really feel sad for Jacob. I imagine he was ecstatic about visiting the cafe. What happened was a emotionally tragic experience for him. I hope he is able to forgive the cafe owner. Maybe she will allow him to return for a private visit where the cats are confined until he gets situated inside. Then they can be released as long as the wheelchair is stationary. That would prevent injury to the kitties and allow Jacob to enjoy his “kitty-fix”, as I like to say. If this goes to court, as I am sure it probably will, I hope the judge treats both sides equally and fairly.

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  2. This probably could have been avoided if the parents had called and made arrangements prior to going there. This is not just a case of equal access this is also a business owner protecting her property from possible damage. You have two sides staring each other down both with valid points.
    Disability laws are employment and public access. The idea is everyone operates on a legal playing field.
    I see on FB that there is the usual emotional outburst many of them verge on violence. Did the owner make a very bad decision yes she did. Did the parents make an equally stupid decision , yes they did in my view. If you need special accommodations calling ahead is NOT violating your rights it’s ensuring everyone including other patrons have a good time.
    Dealing with the nature of cats and the setting I’d probably make this a 18 year and older establishment. Considering the unruly behavior I seen in children on a daily basis it would be safer for the children and the cats.
    I’m going to make a wild guess this is a case of 1) the parents show up without any notice which set this all in motion and a woman who is going to put her cats first or 2) yet another scheme premeditate to start a uproar. And yes people do that all the time and have no problem using their children or loved ones to do it. The best recent public case was a bakery that refused to do a same sex wedding cake. For crying out loud just go somewhere else and leave a crappy review.
    Many branches of religion in the US openly preach against homosexuality so why go to a bunch of people you KNOW don’t want anything to do with you or your lifestyle but to start a ruckus. For the record I have passed on several contractors and businesses simply because they state in their profiles they are Christians. I take that as a cue to go somewhere else. At work people hand me their religious garbage on a regular basis and I just turn around and dump it in the bin.
    So what’s the answer here besides hate, how about mediation to fix the problem instead of a team of lawyers. I don’t know about Canada but in the US you can file a complaint FOR FREE and the state attorney general will look into it and usually resolve it.
    Reading a few legit reviews it seems the owners have more than this going against them

    Reply
    • Your first sentence is very wise. They could and should have made special arrangements. I think too, though, the owner could have tried a bit harder to make it work although she had a bad experience. I remember the cake shop saga. These are quite tricky legal issues but the practical solution is very simple as you say, go somewhere else.

      Reply
  3. This is a tough situation.😕 I would be very concerned about the cats getting injured or crushed by a wheelchair, so I can clearly understand the point of view of the cat cafe owner.

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