Family asked to leave Disney Store after child with autism couldn't keep mask on
LONDON, ONT. -- A Windsor, Ont. family say they were told to leave the Disney Store in London's CF Masonville Place after their six-year-old daughter Ruby, who is on the autism spectrum, was improperly wearing her mask inside the store.
Neither municipal bylaws nor public health regulations in the Middlesex-London region require those with a disability or children under 12 years old to wear a mask indoors.
Sarah Baillargeon, Ruby's mother, says her daughter had lost her tooth and they had planned to visit the Disney Store to celebrate. Baillargeon says she made it clear to staff that Ruby was on the autism spectrum before entering the store.
“We were wearing masks, myself, my mom, all the kids, so we said you know, ‘She’s autistic, she has a sensory issue, she may not keep it on,’ and what the women said to us was ‘OK, just try your best.’”
Baillargeon had difficulty keeping Ruby’s mask on, since Ruby does not like things touching her face. Ruby continued to fiddle with her mask and pull it under her nose.
The family says they were asked by three different staff members for Ruby to wear her mask properly.
“A few minutes later [the manager] comes back and says she needs to put a mask on. I explain the situation again, and they say to me things like ‘I know people on the spectrum and they can wear masks,’ but I mean it's not the same thing, every person is different, especially a person who is six years old.”
Baillargeon says that staff offered to give Ruby a face shield instead of the face mask she had brought with her.
“I said, you know she can't have anything on her face, that's the problem, she won’t keep it on...At that point they told us we had five minutes and we had to leave the store.”
CTV News reached out Disney headquarters several times.
A spokesperson responded Wednesday morning saying, “We are always focused on the health and safety of our Cast Members and Guests. At all of our Disney stores we have implemented a number of enhanced measures, including a face covering requirement. During these unprecedented times we all have a shared responsibility to do our part. We regret the family was disappointed.”
The medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Dr. Chris Mackie, confirms that children under the age of 12 and those with a disability are exempt from wearing a mask indoors.
Mackie adds that stores can add to the requirements, but not if it impedes on human rights or if the issue is due to a disability.
“A good example would be if somebody has a medical condition or disability that affects their ability to wear a mask. A facility would not be able to deny them service based on not wearing a mask related to that medical or that disability issue,” says Mackie.
Baillargeon says that she has come forward with her story in order to help other parents who have children on the spectrum so that the same situation does not happen to them.
“We thought we were protected by the bylaws and it just wasn’t what we thought it was…we want to raise awareness for the kids like my daughter that can't advocate for themselves. We want to make sure they have a voice and for other parents to know that they are not alone.” she says.