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!