Sunday 9 August 2020

Family says they were asked to leave Disney Store because child with autism couldn't keep mask on

Public health regulations in area exempt children under 12 and individuals with disabilities from having to wear masks indoors

A woman has expressed her disappointment over her family being asked to leave a Disney Store because her six-year-old autistic daughter was not wearing a mask properly due to sensory issues. 

This week, Sarah Baillargeon, from Windsor in Ontario, Canada, visited a Disney Store in CF Masonville Place, located in London, Ontario, with her daughter Ruby so the six-year-old could pick out a toy after losing her first tooth.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Disney Store has implemented a company-wide policy requiring all customers above the age of two to wear a face covering in-store.

According to Baillargeon, who shared a video about her family’s experience on Facebook, she informed store staff when they first arrived that her daughter may not keep her mask on the entire time because she struggles having things on her face as a result of her sensory issues – a common difficulty for those on the autism spectrum, according to the National Autistic Society.

At the time, Baillargeon said the store employee said it was fine and to “try your best”.

After entering the store, Baillargeon said “it seemed that every couple steps that we walked through the store, Ruby’s mask would be under her nose or off her face” and that “a different employee came up to me every single time and said ‘She needs to be wearing a mask’”.

Baillargeon said she repeatedly explained that Ruby is on the autism spectrum and suffers from sensory issues and that she was “having a hard time” keeping the mask on as a result.

According to Baillargeon, she received differing responses each time she explained the situation, with one employee telling her: “I know people on the spectrum and they can wear masks.”

“Just because you know one person doesn’t mean you know my daughter,” Baillargeon said in the video, adding that she tried to ignore the comments because she didn’t want to “ruin the experience” for Ruby.

But, after Ruby refused at one point to put her mask back on, Baillargeon said an employee offered the six-year-old a face shield – which Baillargeon declined, reiterating her daughter’s sensory issues.

“Again I stated she has a sensory disorder, she won’t be able to keep the face shield on… so then they politely told me that I had five minutes to leave the store,” Baillargeon recalled.

According to Baillargeon, the employee’s order left her “in complete shock”.

Following the incident, Baillargeon said she reached out to Disney customer service, who informed her that facial coverings are a Disney-wide policy even for customers with disabilities.

“I do understand that, masks and keeping staff and everybody safe, however, there are medical reasons that people cannot wear them and I’m disgusted and appalled that this company [that] prides [itself] on helping people with special needs and being accommodating are not accommodating at all,” Baillargeon said.

In the area of Ontario, a mandatory indoor mask rule went into effect in July, however, it states that children under the age of 12 and individuals that have a medical condition or disability which inhibits their ability to wear a mask are exempt, according to CTV News.

On Facebook, Baillargeon’s video prompted messages of support, with commenters calling the experience “unacceptable”.

“Great message Sarah. I am so sorry you and Ruby had to go through this. I am sorry and very disappointed in how both Disney and this store handled this situation,” one person commented.

Another said: “Wow...this is devastating. I am super shocked at the response they gave you and how you were treated. This is totally 100 per cent unacceptable.”

The Independent has contacted the Disney Store for comment.

(Source: The Independent)

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