Special needs

Theatre denies accommodation request for person with special needs

A man with cerebral palsy was denied a simple accommodation request for a bigger popcorn bag at a movie theatre. Anchel Krishna wonders what this could mean for her daughter.

Syona_Jan14_660

Anchel’s favourite picture of Syona.

For me, going to the movies is as much about the popcorn as the flick on the screen. So, when I came across this article about a St. Catharines, Ont. man with special needs who went to the theatre and asked to have his medium-sized popcorn served in a large bag and was denied the request, I was disappointed. The man, Jason Santry, has cerebral palsy, which causes his hands to shake. Having his popcorn in a larger bag helps him avoid spilling it everywhere.

Makes sense, right?

The cinema employee accommodated his request, only to have a supervisor come by and revoke it, throwing the larger bag into the garbage.

Stop for a second. Now think about this: You have a physical challenge. You ask for an accommodation and it is provided for you. And then someone takes that accommodation away for absolutely no valid reason. How would that make you feel?

I think it would make me feel so incredibly small.

I think asking for help or accommodations that we need can be one of the most challenging skills to learn. One of the things we try to teach Syona is how to ask for help when she needs it. My biggest hope is that if Syona requires an accommodation and has the ability to ask for it, people will do what they can to help make it possible. And many people do help. Since we’ve started our journey most of the people we’ve encountered have become valued members of our team, allowing our family—and Syona—to not just survive, but find a way to thrive despite some of the challenges in our path.

But there are times when people put obstacles in our way—or become obstacles themselves.

We are usually able to resolve many of these challenges by sticking to our core values of respect, transparency, honesty and underlying faith that people are good and want to do the right thing. And when we can’t resolve an issue, we just simply do our best to work around it and find whatever silver lining we can.

When I read (and re-read) that story, I realized there was some good: The concession employee who, without a second thought, accommodated Santry’s request.

But shame on that concession supervisor who actually went out of her way to remove the accommodation, the theatre manager who didn’t address the situation and the company itself for not providing training or support for employees. How would they feel if someone treated them or someone they care about this way?

The theatre company responded, but didn’t comment on what they will do in the future to ensure employees act in a more inclusive manner.

If all of the parties involved had just shown some basic decency, no one would have felt slighted, hurt or angry. And Santry could have gone on to enjoy his theatre experience.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.

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