The Walt Disney Co. will have to face a suit that claims the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, after denying entry last year into a Disney retail store in a mall in Pennsylvania to an unmasked seven-year-old boy with autism. A Pennsylvania judge earlier this week ruled that due to the boy’s health concerns, the boy’s mother’s assertions that the mask rule should have been waved was reasonable and necessary, Law360.com reports.
Earlier this year, Disney attempted to have the suit tossed, arguing that the boy’s mother failed to show necessary proof of documentation for a modification or mask exemption. Per Law360.com, “the mother’s request to waive the mask requirement poses a threat to the health of Disney’s other guests and employees.”
However, a District Court judge disagreed with Disney. The judge’s order said that Disney was not placed with an undue burden to exempt the boy from wearing a mask.
The suit alleges that the boy, due to his autism, cannot wear a mask and that his mother had decided not to force him to place one on him. In the court order, the judge also said that the boy’s mother sufficiently argued for the accommodation, owing to the fact that her son is “highly sensitive to touch, particularly on his face.”
Furthermore, the judge’s order said, several times, the boy’s mother alleged to have attempted to place a mask on the boy, however the boy would immediately rip it off because it was a very unpleasant experience for him.
Despite the fact the boy presented with no COVID-19 symptoms at the Disney retail store, and despite the fact that Pennsylvania has a medical exemption for mask wearing for those with disabilities, Disney refused to grant an exemption to the boy, the mother’s suit alleges.
According to Law360.com, the mother’s complaint states, “Plaintiff and her sons were humiliated by the defendant’s act of denying them entry to the … Disney Store, especially since it occurred in front of about a dozen other people who were still waiting in line. The boy, the complaint continues, “was especially distraught since he was unable to fully comprehend why he was not allowed to enter the Whitehall Disney Store.”
The boy’s mother is seeking a court order forcing Disney to make an exemption to its mask policy for people whose ADA-covered disability prevents them from being able to wear masks. In addition, she’s also seeking attorney fees and costs, per Law360.com, which two days ago received a statement from the mother’s attorney, William P. Mansour of Mansour Law LLC. Mansour told Law360.com, “We are very pleased with the court’s decision, which confirms what we’ve known all along: civil rights do not disappear during a pandemic.”