Go Play Somewhere Else

water fountain2Trying to be “normal.”  Trying to “fit in.”  Trying to do those things as a family that I did “before.”  Trying to go to the squirting fountains at Fairfax Corner.

The weather was beautiful.  There was a one-man-band playing children’s tunes.  Dozens of children were playing in the water feature, including my younger three.  Bridger was so excited that he was practically flipping out of his wheelchair each time a fountain would squirt.

Then a wannabe police officer (aka security guard) with his fancy patch and walkie-talkie came and told me that Bridger would have to leave — that wheelchairs were not allowed in the concrete area where the fountains were.

I asked him why.

He replied something about it being a health code violation because the rubber wheels of his wheelchair touch the street and then touch the water area.

I pointed to the dozen+ children wearing shoes.

He said that they were rubber shoes.

I said that they were rubber wheels.

He got a little gruff and told me, again, that Bridger would have to leave.

Perhaps I derived a little courage from having another special needs mom by my side who is the coolest person I know (and her husband who is a professional photographer and captured some priceless moments of the fun.)  My normal chicken-liver-ish self would not have pursued the matter any further, especially considering I was being watched by all of the other typical moms there.  But I continued to push him and finally explained to him that I wanted him to understand the thin ice he was walking on in what he was saying, which was that — despite ADA compliance laws — he was telling a little boy in a wheelchair that he couldn’t play there.

He replied, “yes.”

“Well then,” I said with my blood pressure rapidly rising.  “I need to go ahead and talk to your supervisor.”  He was livid at this point and called his supervisor.  He came back and reported to me that we could stay there.

When I got home, with prompting from my friend, I emailed the property manager of the incident.  Immediate reply — dripping with apologies — included a list of action items that he would follow up on — and some more apologies.

I followed up with him a week later to see if it was just lip service to an email, or if he had actually done anything.  He replied with 10 items of action that had already been taken … from disciplining the security guard to re-educating the entire property management staff on ADA compliance.  I had also attached a photo to the email so he could see the cuteness and delight of a little boy that was being excused from the play area.  He, of course, thought the picture was adorable and wanted permission to put the photo on the website because he thought it embodied what their mission was all about.

I gave him permission and warned him that a dozen of our wheelchair friends were going to descend on his water feature and test out their new handicap-friendly atmosphere … which he warmly welcomed.

Shocked that I had to go through that.  Sad that it probably won’t be the last time.  Determined to help our family live a life of inclusion in our community.

Dear security officer:  Don’t mess with the mama bear, you will get bit.

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