KFC staff face taxis’ wrath in disabled girl row

Children love the day out with Capital cabbies. Picture: Cate Gillon

Children love the day out with Capital cabbies. Picture: Cate Gillon

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THE seven-year-old at the centre of a KFC discrimination row is to be guest of honour at an annual fun day arranged by the Capital’s taxi trade.

Organisers of the Edinburgh Taxi Trade Kiddies’ Outing have asked Brooke Kirkness to join them on their ride for disabled and sick children after reading about her plight in the Evening News.

They acted after hearing how Brooke had been asked to leave the Meadowbank outlet of the chicken giant because she was “making too much noise” – despite the fact she suffers from a debilitating condition which means she struggles to communicate.

And, to show their solidarity with Brooke and her family, kind-hearted cabbies have vowed to honk their horns as they pass the Meadowbank branch of the fast-food joint on route to Yellowcraigs in East Lothian for a picnic, games and all-you-can-eat ice-cream at Lucas.

Committee secretary Keith Bell said it will be great to show her that there is “a nice side to Edinburgh as well”.

He said: “We would love for Brooke and her family to come on the day and make as much noise as she wants, to eat as much ice-cream as she likes and have a day where she can really just be herself around other people who are aware of the difficulties and intricacies of having children with special needs.

“Ironically we pass right next to the front door of the KFC in question so hopefully they won’t be complaining about the noise we make.

“We’ll probably toot the horn and give them a special wave as we go past.

“It’s a fabulous day and nice for the parents and kids to have fun in an environment where they can be what they are without people judging them.”

The Evening News revealed yesterday how Brooke, who suffers from Rett Syndrome, was having her favourite meal of popcorn chicken at the restaurant when her family were asked to leave by staff who said there had been complaints from customers.

KFC has since apologised for upsetting Brooke and her family and said staff were unaware of her disability. The rare neurological condition means Brooke, from Penicuik, cannot talk and can only communicate through shouting. She cannot feed herself and has problems with the use of her hands.

She was diagnosed two years to the day after hero dad David Kirkness, 24, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan while on tour with the 3 Rifles in 2009.

The charity trip on June 10 is run by volunteers and has close links with the TA. Hundreds of people have left messages of support on social media following our story.

Mum Steph Ellis, 24, who returned from holiday yesterday, said it was helping her overcome this “backwards step”.

She said: “This has set me back a bit as it took me ages to get over people staring and making comments when I took Brooke to the shop. I still won’t take her on my own for that reason.

“There’s been lots of nice comments but there’s been the odd ridiculous one too. Brooke will love to go on this fun day, she loves to go outside and it’ll be great to be at an event where she’s not judged.”

A spokesperson for KFC said: “We can only apologise for the upset this experience has caused Brooke and her family, however after investigating in store and studying CCTV we believe this to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. The manager did speak with the family, but apologised as soon as it was explained to her that Brooke had a disability and left them to finish their meal, and the family left the restaurant on their own accord, fifteen minutes later.

“We pride ourselves on welcoming everybody into our restaurants, and we wouldn’t want anybody to think that this wasn’t the case. We have been in touch with Brooke’s mother and grandfather to apologise for the misunderstanding or if we made them feel uncomfortable in any way, and have invited them back to the store for a meal on the house, as well as offering to make a donation to Rett UK in their name.”