A Massachusetts mother who brought her developmentally disabled daughter to a musical production of “Beauty and the Beast” claims the theater kicked them out after her 5-year-old was making noises.
"They did not ask me to leave; they told me I had to leave," Samantha Torres told South Coast Today. Ushers at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence R.I., said her daughter, Nadia, was "squealing and giggling and humming" loudly, distracting audience members.
Nadia has a rare chromosome abnormality that prevents her from speaking. On June 2, Samantha took her two children and a nurse to the Disney musical where they sat at the back of the 3,100-seat theater. Nadia, who makes humming sounds to express herself when she’s happy, didn’t appear to be disrupting anyone besides the ushers, she said.
Marketing Director P.J. Prokop of the Providence Performing Arts Center said Samantha was offered another seat after audience members were "turning around; they were looking; they were also kind of gesturing." But Samantha insists she wasn’t given the chance to move to different seats.
If the noise complaints were legitimate and the theater didn’t try to accommodate them, it may be grounds for discrimination, attorney Christine Griffin, executive director of the Massachusetts Disabilities Law Center, said. Griffin pointed to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of public accommodation, exclusion, segregation and unequal treatment.
Samantha believes the incident marks an opportunity to educate others. She plans on taking up an offer with the theater to conduct sensitivity training with its ushers. "I think it’s going to have a happy ending for a lot of people," she said.
This isn’t the first incident of a disabled child being removed from a public venue. In February, restaurant franchise Golden Corral was sued over allegedly kicking out a family who has a genetic skin condition. Detroit-area franchise manager David Robinson asked Danielle Duford and her four children to leave citing the scabs on their skin. In May, the case was settled for $60,000, CBS Detroit reports.