Thursday, March 1, 2012

ADA Experience

I had an experience at the mall today that both broke my heart a little and ticked me off a lot.  A few friends and I had taken our younger kids to a play area at a local mall (Memorial City Mall) to celebrate a sweet little friend's 2nd birthday.  I took Matthew's push toy because I didn't want to haul around his much larger walker.  

As we entered the play area, the security guard said that they didn't allow in toys. I explained that it may be a toy, but Matthew doesn't walk independently and this was serving as his walker for today and if there was a problem, I'd like to speak to the manager.  Nothing more was said and Matthew crawled around some and pushed around his toy as they all had a grand time.

About 45 minutes later, the security guard came back over and said it was against policy. I asked to speak to her manager.  The manager came over and told me the same thing, and added that they wouldn't have allowed his medical walker or a wheelchair in the area either.  

By this point, I acquiesced about the rule about the push toy (other kids might confuse it and it would seem unfair), but to not allow a medical walker or wheelchair in an area that could easily accommodate it, that just seemed wrong.  So I asked for that person's manager. I was met by the VP of the mall, and he reiterated the same thing, with his justification being that that the play area was a busy place. They do not allow walkers or wheelchairs in the play area because it gets too crowded.  

This incensed me.  It was no longer about Matthew's push toy, or even Matthew.  It was about all of the families that can't take their kids in the play area because either the parent or the child use a walker or are in a wheelchair.  It is just WRONG!

I was heart broken for the injustice of the situation.  The VP tried to appease me by giving me carousel tickets, or a food court gift card, but as I told him, what I wanted was for him to go back and figure out how to accommodate all the families with special needs.  We left it at that...for then.

And after I spoke with him, I cried.  I don't often feel like it, but I was reminded that I am the mother of a "special needs" child.  I have the obligation to speak up against injustices not only for Matthew but for all.  I will never be able to be blissfully unaware.  We now have a horse in the race.

So, I came home, and after the tears, I did a little research.  And not only is their policy WRONG, but it is illegal as well.   From the Americans with Disability Act:  "Some use walkers, canes, crutches, or braces while others use manually-operated or power wheelchairs, all of which are primarily designed for use by people with disabilities. Businesses must allow people with disabilities to use these devices in all areas where customers are allowed to go."

Somehow I'm a bit comforted in knowing that it isn't just an imagined injustice, but it is such an injustice, it is codified into law!  So, I'll be contacting the VP again to make sure he is aware of the ADA and their seemingly lack of compliance in their play area policies.  I hope this opens their eyes and that they amend their policies soon!


  1. I could not help but respond to this one. I am in a wheel chair part time and I experience this ALL THE TIME. I am saddened for those who are in it full time and NEED assistance regardless.

    When I first got my chair, but before I used it, I wondered why I hardly every saw anyone in a chair. You story is exactly the reason why. Even on the college campus, when I need to use my chair, I do not. The campus is not set up for it. I could not get to my classes on time based on where the elevators are. Most people cut me off whereas when I am limping around, they are helpful, opening doors, giving me the right of way, etc.

    I am so sorry Matthew had to experience this - even though he might not understand just yet. It makes my heart cry because it is so much important to him and other children like him to live a relatively "normal Holland" life.

    Let me know if you need any help with anything.

  2. We would definetley follow up on this, as you said it is not only poor judgment but it is unlawful.
    You may want to check out this link;

    Sheila & Bob

  3. This is unfortunate. It truly is. Maybe now that you have had time to step away, you could compose a letter to send to the owners of the mall (the corporation) and then set up an appointment with the mall manager and appropriate people and bring some suggestions.

    Let me ask, in this area do they forbid strollers?
    I do understand safety concerns but there should be accommodations. I hope that this event spurs great, positive change for your mall and that the area becomes a safe place for Matthew to play!


  4. Are you kidding me!!?? I think I would have had some choice words for those people. That is absolutely ridiculous. Yes, it is sad, but more than that it is angering. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If I ever see anyone forbidding the use of a wheel chair or a walker in a public area I will be sure to speak up. Love you.