“If we make an exception for one, we would have to make exception for all.”
June 27, 2013 [Updated June 28, 2013 6:50am]
Ellington, CT – An exclusive country club in the suburbs of Connecticut excluded a family from becoming members because their autistic son would require a flotation vest while swimming in the pool. With recent headlines of autistic children drowning rather frequently, one would think that a flotation vest would be a fabulous idea. It seems it would be a much grander idea than outright discrimination of a person with disability and that person’s entire family.
However, when Mrs. Cristin Millen, a seventh grade Language Arts teacher in Ellington arrived at the Ellington Ridge Country Club to begin the membership process it never occurred to her that her son’s autism would exclude them from enjoying the same privileges other residents in the area enjoyed as members. She left without being given an application but was told someone would get back to her.
“I almost didn’t say anything about his autism at all because I assumed it wouldn’t possibly be an issue,” said Millen. “But when I became aware that the club had a rule banning flotation devices from the pool, I mentioned that I have a son with autism who is verbal, follows directions, and is a good swimmer. I explained that we would be in the pool with him the entire time and that the vest was really just for peace of mind as he has always worn one.”
Ellington Ridge took Mrs. Millen’s request for exception under consideration for less than 48 hours before responding with a denial of membership. Mrs. Millen was told that if an exception was made for one, an exception would have to be made for all, and that was not possible.
This country club is a private facility, which means that ordinarily the club owners and members could do whatever they please, invite whomever they choose to join, you get the idea. But under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any private club that opens its doors to the public at any time, waives that right. The Ellington Ridge Country Club offers to open its doors for banquets, weddings, business meetings, fundraisers, and birthday parties.
Wait a minute…
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine if someone like ME thought to plan my autistic daughter’s birthday party at a beautiful venue such as Ellington Ridge Country Club, put down a chunky deposit, invited ten or so other Flaptastic kiddos and their parental units? What would happen when all of us showed up at the pool with our vests and inflatable wings? Would we all be tossed to the curb?
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine, Ellington Ridge?
UPDATE: Friday, June 28, 2013 6:50am – Local media reached out to the ERCC yesterday afternoon for comment. Management quickly asserted that Mrs. Millen never filled out the application, so therefore the club was unable to review her family’s request. However, in WFSB’s on air coverage last evening, management admitted that Mrs. Millen was not given an application during the miscommunication throughout the week but that ERCC would happily accept the family’s application with waiver for the vest. In an email communication from management to Mrs. Millen last evening the same offer was made but included a timeline in which the Millen Family was advised it would take until mid-July before their application with waiver to accommodate their son’s need for a Coast Guard approved flotation vest could be approved by the Board of Directors of the Ellington Ridge Country Club.
LINK to WFSB News Coverage > CLICK HERE.
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