Opinion By Kathleen Zamora, staff writer
The ignorance, discrimination and injustice done unto those with special needs is disgusting.
Just last month, 11-year old Nicholas “Nicho” Fajardo and his babysitter Erika Ganier wanted to enjoy an evening at the pumpkin patch and petting zoo on Van Nuys and Sherman Way when ignorance won the day.
Ganier was snapping pictures of Nicho enjoying his time with other children in a bounce house when workers came by and said that “kids like him” have gotten hurt, so they were not allowed in the bounce house.
Nicho faced this discrimination because he has down syndrome. Ganier explained that Nicho poses no risk to other children but the workers insisted that he leave. Ganier said that Nicho was disappointed but didn’t know how to express it; later that day she took to facebook to share their story.
Maria Fajardo, a North Hollywood resident and Nicho’s mother, was furious when she read the news, and thanked Ganier for sticking up for her son.
In an effort to apologize, the owner of the pumpkin patch left a voicemail for Fajardo, saying, “I am so, so sorry” but went on to say that special arrangements are needed. “You make arrangements for him to be, a day ahead of time,” he said. “to where it’s not busy because you know how kids are bullies and stuff.” Fajardo told the the owner, “…that was still incorrect. He should be able to go whenever he wants. There should not be a ‘special day’ for him.”
Fajardo says that since her son’s experience has been shared on social media (which has received over 2,000 shares, 1,000 likes and 54 comments) many parents of children with disabilities said the same thing had happened to them the year before.
“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.”
Since then, Fajardo has contacted officials with the Americans with Disabilities Act in Washington, D.C., and has been put in touch with a local attorney.
According to the ADA, it is illegal for a person to be refused service solely because of a disability. Any persons who feel that they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the ADA which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
This act of ignorance displayed by the workers of the Van Nuys pumpkin patch and petting zoo has opened the eyes of many to the prejudiced society we live in. Those who have experienced this kind of descrimination are encouraged to share their stories and make a difference.