A Fresno, CA, ice rink is in hot water for allegedly kicking out a teen who needs a wheelchair.
Megan McKeon just wanted to attend her best friend’s Sweet 16 party at the Gateway Ice Center in Fresno, but the celebration didn’t turn out as planned.
“Being 16 and only having one leg and in a chair, it’s not easy to fit in,” she said.
Yet when employees at the ice rink saw her on the ice in her wheelchair, they asked her to get off the ice because she posed a liability.
According to ABC 30, Megan’s mom Susan sprang into action to defend her daughter. She cited the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark civil rights law that forbids discrimination against disabled people, including denying equal access to public accommodations. Susan also showed the managers photos of her daughter on that very ice rink, wheelchair and all, in 2015, when she was invited to skate with the Fresno Monsters.
The United States is home to 1,900 indoor ice hockey rinks and another 500 outdoor rinks, and more than 10 million Americans over the age of six enjoy recreational ice skating. Under the ADA, ice rinks are considered public accommodations, and while they can impose safety rules, they can’t simply deny someone service just for being in a wheelchair.
Now, the California ice rink is facing a possible lawsuit.
“Our goal isn’t to get rich out of this,” the mother told ABC 30. “Our goal is to get equal access for all kids so that kids can feel good about themselves.”
This isn’t the first time wheelchairs have caused a stir on an ice rink. In 2001, Maryland newspaper The Gazette wrote a story about a mom who asked her local ice rink to designate a special time for disabled patrons to use the facilities, because she feared wheelchairs and caregivers posed a safety threat to her children. Instead of booting wheelchair users off the ice, the ice rink’s director called the mom’s fears “ridiculous.”
The Gazette reported at the time:
“I guarantee if she had a handicapped kid she would want them out there, too,” said Chapman, who spent 28 years working with special education students. “[Wheelchairs] absolutely do not pose a threat to other skaters… For 28 years I’ve been working with the handicapped and never had a person complain about wheelchairs on the ice.”
And in January 2007, Liz Carr, a BBC writer, wheelchair user, and self-described “crip” wrote about her own experiences using wheelchairs on ice.
“When we arrived, there were no adapted sledges, no built up skates and no standing required; there was just us, our wheels and the ice,” Carr wrote. “I expected my wheels to get stuck in the ice, spinning on the spot, going nowhere but instead, the chair glided smoothly across the ice. It was as exhilarating as it was freezing.”