At least a few children with disabilities have been turned away from the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium’s new Alaskan Adventure splash pad this summer, told their wheelchairs and walking canes weren’t allowed.
As a result, the zoo has held an emergency staff meeting to correct the situation, which is being called a miscommunication between staff members.
Last month, Nicole Steng took her son, Titus, 8, who uses a wheelchair, to the zoo along with his sisters to play in the new splash pad, which opened in June. When they reached the front of the line, an employee told Steng her son couldn’t enter.
“There’s no wheels allowed,” she remembers the young staff member telling her. The splash pad’s ground cover isn’t durable enough to handle the wheels, the staffer said.
Her son could go on the outskirts of the splash pad, Steng was told, but couldn’t play in the water with his wheelchair. She asked to speak with a supervisor but was told the same thing.
“I said, ‘You’re discriminating, that’s what you’re doing,’ ” Steng said. “ ‘You’re telling me that my handicapped child is not allowed to play in a public facility that we are paying for. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intention.’ ”I like "gets resolved" stories, esp with, as my friend who sent me this story pointed out, a phone number at the bottom in case discrimination happens again in this context.
Indeed it wasn’t, the zoo says.
Next: Is Omaha thinking about why this happened in the first place and how to make sure their zoo is accessible across the board, rather than just fixing this issue?