(Wednesday of the camping trip– at the amusement/water park)
“So, let me get this straight. Just so we are both clear on what you are saying,” I say angrily. I’m standing across from the head supervisor for the water park, and I am ticked. “You are choosing to discriminate against a person with a medical disability. What you are saying is that you will not comply with the accommodations that my daughter needs in order to participate on the rides in the way all the other children are able to.”
“No ma’am, you misunderstand, we are not discriminating against your daughter.” The supervisor sounds weary. This whole thing is because the water park doesn’t allow people to wear swim masks. Goggles and a nose plug are absolutely fine, however. Kat has to wear a swim mask because her particular “brand” of autism causes her to have many sensory sensitivities, and water touching her eyes and nose is one of them. She even wears a swim mask to shower.
“So, you will modify rules to make them equal and fair in order to allow an autistic individual to participate in your attractions just like everyone else here?”
I cut her off. “Then you are choosing to discriminate against my daughter.” I’m so mad I’m shaking. I’ve been flooded with adrenaline since the middle of the night last night, and have had a desire to run away since we entered the waterpark. Now, all that excess energy is being used up, fighting with this supervisor about their idiotic policy. “You are making a choice to discriminate against an individual with a medical condition by refusing to allow accommodations, and you are violating your company’s policy of *striving to provide equal opportunity to all of your guests by providing a variety of many options tailored to their specific needs.*”
The look on her face is priceless. She seems shocked that I am aware of the company’s written policy on guests with special needs. “Okay. Let’s just take a step back and see if we can all calm down. I want to work with you, okay? I want to help make this work.”
I can’t just automatically calm down. I’d like to, but hubby and I have been talking to managers and supervisor since we arrived, just working our way up the food chain. It’s been almost an hour. One supervisor told me that “a little water in her face really isn’t all that big a deal.” I lost it on him, telling him I hoped that one day he had a child with special needs and had to deal with idiots like himself. I cursed him with spending everyday having to fight for his child just to participate in activities *normal* kids participate in. I was livid. In retrospect, the teen was defeated on board, fueling some of that rage.
“We’ve been discussing and fighting with you people for an hour. Do you know why we are here? For a family vacation, with her cousins and grandparents, to celebrate her birthday. Instead of enjoying her day with her cousins, she is in a hiding under a chair with my mom, buried in towels, sobbing. We came here specifically because of your policy with special needs individuals.” I shake my head.
Hubby interjects, asking for the reasoning behind goggles and nose plugs being allowed but swim masks not being allowed. She can’t give him a straight answer, and seems a bit unsure herself of why this policy is in place.
In the end, we win. Kat can wear her swim mask. An hour and twenty minutes after this fight started, it’s over. Hubby shakes the manager and two supervisor’s hands. He thanks them for working with us and helping us to have an enjoyable time. He’s the diplomat in the family.
I know my mother would approve of hubby’s approach, but I can’t just go from livid and fighting for my daughter to happy and thankful. I stare at each of them with a stony look on my face. “I hope that today causes this company to rethink their policies, and to consider what it actually means to provide a variety of accommodations tailored to specific needs and what it means do truly provide equal opportunity to all your guests.” Then I turn and walk away before they can respond.
I breathe in and out as I walk back to Kat. I have to calm down. I can’t help her calm down when I am all ramped up. Hubby starts to reprimand me for being rude to people who gave us what we wanted. I shake my head at him. “Don’t,” I snap.
When we get to our chairs, I get down on my belly and crawl on the concrete under them to where Kat is. She’s still sobbing, her face is covered in tears and her eyes are bright red.
“It really sucked when the life guard blew that whistle at us and told us no swim mask, didn’t it?” I ask her.
“It did. I’m so mad!” Kat yells.
“I know, I know you are. You know what though? That lifeguard didn’t know about autism and how everyone is different, so Daddy and Mommy got to help the woman in charge of the whole park learn about autism and sensory struggles. And after we explained to her and helped her understand, she agreed, you should wear your swim mask.”
“She did?” Kat asks.
“Yes, she did,” I say.
She scrambles out from under the chairs, pulling her mask on. “Let’s go play!” She shouts at me, and off we go to experience some really cool water slides.
I’m impressed with myself that I can stand up for Kat like this. I’m proud that I can speak clearly and make good points and help to educate people who otherwise don’t understand. I’m proud that I am able to do so without swearing and screaming. I’m proud that I won’t back down when I’m fighting for my daughter until I’m out of options. I’m proud that I have that strength inside myself to do so.