A Silent Cry for Help in Hollywood

Stephen Box

From the White House to City Hall, the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was commemorated with speeches that fell on deaf ears in Hollywood as taxi cab operators refused to transport deaf tourists and a security guard choked a deaf shoplifting suspect for failing to comply with verbal instructions. We’ve come a long way but it’s apparent that some folks still haven’t gotten the message.

Media coverage of the 20th anniversary celebrations paled in comparison to the viral impact of a graphic video of an incident that involved two security guards from the Forever 21 store at Hollywood & Highland and two deaf brothers.

As one security guard wrestles one brother into a head lock, another security guard blocks the second brother who appears to be indicActive Imageating that they can’t hear.

Spectators can be heard exclaiming “You’re choking him!” and “He’s turning purple!” and “He can’t breathe!” while the second brother continues to signal and circle, kneeling at one point in a futile attempt to communicate with the security guards.

The incident was picked up in the LAWeekly, the Huffington Post, ABC, KTLA, Blogging.LA, and the DeafTVChannel while the YouTube video has received over a half million views.

The details are disputed by all sides but have resulted in the indefinite suspension of the security guard from Forever 21, the arrest of the deaf shoplifting suspect, and claims of innocence from the deaf brother of the suspect.

Hollywood & Highland Center Management accepts no responsibility for the incident but says “We do not condone the apparent use of excessive force.”

Forever 21, in a statement from the Marketing Dept., acknowledges “the security guard used excessive force, which is against our store policy.”

Hollywood & Highland has at least six layers of enforcement authority on the property, starting with the local security guards, the Business Improvement District security (Andrews International), and the Los Angeles Police Department.

In addition, the presence of the Metro Red Line Station within the complex results Metro Fare Inspectors, Metro Police, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Now would be a good time for somebody to determine who is in charge and for that organization to produce a policy on communication between law enforcement and those who can’t hear.

This would also be a good time for the LAPD and the LASD to clarify any limitations on the law enforcement authority of the many organizations that employ security forces, from local stores to the BID to the Metro.

Hollywood’s second shameful incident took place at Hollywood & Vermont’s Triangle Park taxi stand.

My wife, Enci, and I were walking past the park when I noticed three women attempting to communicate with the operator of the lead taxi, gesturing unsuccessfully to a piece of paper and finally giving up and huddling together. Then I noticed that they were signing to each other.

It turns out that they were deaf tourists and their car had been towed from Hollywood to a Metro inaccessible tow yard in Atwater Village that closed within the hour.

While Enci dusted the cobwebs off her ASL, I put out the call for help and within minutes Alfredo Hernandez of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council arrived and transported our guests to the tow yard where he negotiated for the release of their car.

Moments later Bechir Blagui of Hollywood United Neighborhood Council responded and I was reminded again that I live in the community of heroes.

The City of Los Angeles, through the LADOT, licenses and regulates approximately 2300 taxis so that passengers in taxis bearing the Seal of Los Angeles can expect to ride in an insured vehicle, inspected regularly by the LADOT and operated by a trained professional.

In fact, the LADOT website even has a Taxi Rider’s Bill of Rights although the only mention of disabilities is with regard to wheelchairs and service animals. No mention is made of the significant percentage of our community who are deaf or hearing impaired.

American Sign Language is the third most common language in the United States, surpassed only by English and Spanish. It’s estimated that the deaf and hard of hearing population in the Los Angeles area exceeds one million people.

LA’s character demands that we embrace and support people of all abilities and challenges, demonstrating our commitment to the Americans with Disabilities Act at every opportunity.

From the training and certification of security guards to law enforcement to the licensing of taxi cab operators to the operation of mass transit, it is our responsibility to remove obstacles and barriers so that everybody may enjoy access and mobility.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at          This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)


  1. September 22, 2010 at 10:19 AM | Permalink


    “Access to Justice” is a broad concept encompassing people’s effective access to the system procedure information and the locations used in the administration of justice.

    Many Deaf people who feel wronged or mistreated in some way usually turn to their country’s justices without any private/non-profit attorney representation.

    Pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities (A.D.A.), no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodation of any place of public accommodation by any private entity who owns or operates a place of public accommodation.
    This includes the office of an attorney. Attorneys must take those steps that may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals, because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services. 42 U.S.C. &12182(b)(2)(A)

    Attorneys have responsibilities to provide deaf clients with American Sign Language (A.S.L.) interpreters and other accommodations that they may need to communicate.

    A lawyer who fails to communicate effectively with a client is not meeting his or her duty or competent and zealous representation under the Canons of Ethics.

    Furthermore, attorneys have a statutory duty of provide effective communication to deaf clients under the Americans with Disabiilties Act, which went into effect on January 26, 1991,
    Title III of the A.D.A. 42 U.S.C. &12181 – 12183, provides people with disabilities the right
    to equal access to public accommodations.

    You use (AFA Urges NAD Wake Up Action!)

    You use (As an ASL-Deaf Person: What a Surreal experience!)

    You Tube (Lawyers against ADA Laws)

    NAD needs to change their approach and to start to listen to any Deaf people’s A.D.A. rights. Many Deaf people still speak out their concerns about NAD’s directions, because they want to see some postive changes at NAD right now.

    Will NAD listen to help to any Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people’s A.D.A. rights in Los Angeles, California and other states right now? COME-ON! COME-ON!

    Many Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people wants to hear your loud voice rights.

    Come-On! Go-On! Come-On! Go-On! Come-On!

  2. Steve
    January 17, 2011 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

    I read this story, and my first thought was, what does this have to do with Mr. Box and his integrity in the real world. I have been to several community events; and much to my surprise, Mr. Box snubbed me several times, and he forgot that I could read lips. He scared me, I wouldn’t vote for someone that stabs someone behind their back in the public. People say that the deaf and hard of hearing are sensitive to their environments, and it can be a good thing, we usually know what is going on around us even if we can’t hear! My perception is; Mr. Box needs to keep learning how to ride his bike. Sorry!

  3. January 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

    Wanted to become an actor in Hollywood movie for deaf in United States.Thank you!

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