Coffee shop chain labeled ‘ableist,’ ‘insensitive’ over wheelchair post

Graphic illustration of the marketing post. Photo: Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock /Facebook
Graphic illustration of the marketing post. Photo: Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock /Facebook

A Malaysian coffee shop chain whose business was affected by COVID-19 has been accused of ableism after it called on people online to patronize its outlets so as to “help them walk again,” even using a graphic of a wheelchair to illustrate this. 

The Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock kopitiam, or coffee shop, has been drawing criticism by dozens of people on social media since yesterday over the now-deleted online post, which also offered discounts to those who “support local.”

“We, as a nation are slowly coming back to normality in terms of our daily life. However, complete normality will take some time and Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock needs your support to continue bringing you the very best of Malaysian food,” the caption read.

It said that customers who go to outlets in the Bangsar South district and Jaya 33 shopping mall over the weekend will receive a 20% discount on their entire bill. The original post appears to have been deleted this afternoon.

The promotional post with the wheelchair graphic. Photo: Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock
Full size promotional post with the wheelchair graphic. Photo: Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock

“The COVID outbreak has broken many of us,” the caption added. “Ali, Muthu, and Ah Hock are no exception. Help them walk again, and they will remove 20% off your entire bill this weekend for dine-in and takeaway.”

The post went up on Friday and also showed caricatures of “Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock” wearing face masks with the words “Help Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock stand on their feet again.”

Netizens were quick to point out that the post was “insensitive” and “ableist.” The chain has not responded to Coconuts KL’s request for comment via social media earlier today.

“Is the wheelchair necessary? Rather insensitive, don’t you think?” Adam Azhar wrote on the chain’s official page yesterday.

“Just fyi, admins, using disability as a punchline is NOT clever. The message of the poster, plus the word ‘broken’ is really awful and extremely ableist,” another known as Vaughn Heart wrote on the page. 

One person said that the post misled her to think that the chain would donate 20% of customer bills to the disabled, or OKU. 

“This is so MISLEADING!” Teoh Soo Peng said. “I was thinking you are going to contribute 20% from our bill to help the OKU, which will be a great thing to do. BUT IT IS NOT! Pls Ali, Muthu, Ah Hock. You can do better than this. Using a wheelchair to show how ‘broken’ you are is not ok.”

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