Maria Fajardo is grateful that her son Nicholas, known as “Nicho,” has forgotten about the incident where he was not allowed to play in an inflatable “jumper house” with other kids at a seasonal pumpkin patch park in Van Nuys on Oct. 6.
Nicho, 11, has Down Syndrome.
“He’s okay,” Fajardo said. “He was fine afterward.”
She is not.
Fajardo, a North Hollywood resident, did not accompany Nicho to the pumpkin patch that day; his babysitter, Erika Ganier, took him to the outdoor pumpkin patch and petting zoo set up on the corner of Sherman Way and Woodman Avenue. But Ganier later told Fajardo that Nicho was kicked out from the jumper house and also denied access to inflatable slides by workers, who told Ganier that “kids like him have been hurt” so they were not allowed.
The manager of the park later expressed to reporters that the family is making “a federal case” about it and that Ganier was so loud and angry she made two other little girls cry. He added that parents of kids with disabilities should call to let them know they’re coming.
Fajardo was angered first by the dismissal of her son from the jumper house. She was irked further by a phone call from the owner who, in an effort to apologize, offered to let Nicho in free if they knew in advance when he was coming, that she was told “you make arrangements for him to be here, a day ahead of time, to where it’s not busy because you now how kids are bullies and stuff.”
“I told (the owner) that was still incorrect,” Fajardo said. “He should be able to go whenever he wants. There should not be a ‘special day’ for him.”
She said since the incident was posted on social media, she has heard from parents who have a child with disabilities say the same thing happened to them last year.
Fajardo said she contacted officials with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) office in Washington, D.C., and was put in touch with a local attorney.
An ADA representative said a person cannot be refused service solely because of a disability. “That is the law,” the representative said. Persons who believe discrimination has occurred can file a complaint with ADA, which reviews all complaints on a case-by-case basis.
Fajardo said she is still “considering all options.” She has been asked not to discuss the case further, but said the attorney planned to send a letter to the pumpkin patch owner.
“There are a lot of parents with children with disabilities that have reached out to us and said they are concerned,” Fajardo said. “They’re saying what we did was great for all kids with disabilities. This had never happened to us before.
“I don’t want this to happen to any other kid. I want this to be known that kids should be able to enjoy their day without being discriminated against.”