'Dancing With the Stars' winner Nyle Dimarco on watching 'What Would You Do?' scenario resembling his experiences being deaf

Dimarco, who is deaf, won season 22 of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2016.

ByMark J. Parker
August 9, 2019, 8:26 AM

"Dancing With the Stars" winner Nyle DiMarco, a deaf actor, model and advocate, joins ABC News' John Quinones tonight on "What Would You Do?" for a scenario about a waiter losing his patience with a deaf customer.

This situation was inspired by an Ohio Taco Bell drive-thru employee refusing service to a deaf diner.

Although the customer typed his order on his phone for the employee to read, the employee refused to accept his order. The employee was fired and Taco Bell released a statement saying they are “committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment.”

In tonight’s "What Would You Do?" episode, we see what happens when diners witness a waiter giving a customer a hard time because he’s deaf.

Our actor JW, a deaf performer and the Artistic Director for the New York Deaf Theatre, plays the hungry customer trying to order from the frustrated waiter, played by our actor Tyler.

PHOTO: Actor Tyler in character as the impatient waiter.
Actor Tyler in character as the impatient waiter.
ABC News

Tyler approaches/friendly: Welcome! What can I get you?

(JW begins trying to ask for a menu)

Tyler: What?

(JW again tries to mouth the words and use American Sign Language)

Tyler: Look. I don’t know what you’re trying to say, but I don’t have time for this.

As soon as our annoyed waiter starts making insensitive comments, such as, “I don’t have time for charades,” diners voice their opinions.

One customer, Elin, a retired professor of communications, immediately asks the waiter to be more respectful. She sternly says, “You don’t treat people that way,” and then gets up to tell our actress Berry, who is playing the restaurant manager. A few moments later, after Berry steps away, Tyler asks Elin why she had to tell on him. Elin’s strong response: “Ok, listen. I’m a professional of communication skills. You have none! So I felt I had to say something for your rudeness.”

PHOTO: Actor JW in character requesting a table for one.
Actor JW in character requesting a table for one.
ABC News

Elin’s strength and support for our deaf actor brought a smile to Nyle DiMarco’s face. Signing to his interpreter, he said, “I love it.” He then tells Elin, “My faith in humanity has been completely restored.”

One customer, Ronna, agreed with Tyler that interpreters should accompany deaf people in public, but at the same time, “that doesn’t entitle us to be unkind to them.” She finds a piece of paper and pen for our customer and adds, “I wouldn’t go someplace unless I had a pad and pencil or I could lip read.” After handing our deaf actor her pen, she tells him, “You should be prepared for this.”

DiMarco, who was the first deaf male contestant to compete on ABC's "DWTS" when he won season 22 in 2016, is thankful that technology today gives the deaf community an easier way to communicate, so that they don’t have to carry a pad and pencil with them for the hearing community. Later with the host, Ronna mentions that the waiter’s behavior was “pretty ugly.”

After a few hours on set, DiMarco agrees to perform in the scene. Donning a baseball cap as a disguise, he sits at the table in character as the hungry deaf customer.

PHOTO: Host John Quinones and special guest Nyle DiMarco watch from behind the scenes.
Host John Quinones and special guest Nyle DiMarco watch from behind the scenes.
ABC News

Right on cue, our waiter talks to DiMarco in a demeaning way, which grabs the attention of a group of three. One of them, Lynn, stands up and says, “Get somebody else to serve him. You’re being really rude!” When she hears the waiter tell DiMarco to eat somewhere else, she grabs our actress playing the manager, tells her what’s happening, and orders food for DiMarco on his behalf.

Perhaps the most emotional reaction of the day comes from a customer named Robert. He sees what’s going on as he’s trying to enjoy lunch with his wife Patricia, and asks the waiter, “What the hell would happen if it was you and you were deaf? What would you do? What would you do if you come into a diner and you want to eat?” Not until he saw Quinones did he realize his question was worded perfectly. With tears in his eyes, he tells John that his heart just makes him this way.

Sitting with Quinones after the scenes were shot, our actor JW reminds us, “Accept other people for who they are, and learn how to communicate with everybody. The simplest body language, the simplest gestures, will go a long way and have a big impact.”

To see how other customers react, watch "What Would You Do?" tonight at 9/8c on ABC.