Extreme Air Park – Hostility, Greed, And Autism
We in the autism community are, sadly, used to hearing about maligned special needs parents and children. It’s become an all-too-common topic in the news and blogs lately. While most of us know or are familiar with some affected persons, it’s rare (at least for me) to have a situation happen right in your own backyard.
Or down the street, in my case.
We live in British Columbia, just South of Vancouver. From what I’ve experienced in the almost four years we’ve lived here, it’s a really nice community. The people are kind, the schools are good, and children are welcomed almost everywhere. We have parks and playgrounds and activities for families on almost every corner. It’s not Utopia, but it’s a great place to raise a family.
As a child with autism, my son is welcome with all other children. He has not been excluded from anything he has wanted to do, to our knowledge. He is gaining independence, but he does need accompaniment of his SEA for school activities, and a parent or caregiver for much of everything else.
Kelly Moonie and her son Kyle live in our community. Kyle, like my son, has autism. I don’t know the Moonie family personally, but I hope their experiences here in Langley have been similar to ours. Most of them, that is.
Recently, Kelly took her son to the Extreme Air Park location here, an indoor gym of sorts featuring wall-to-wall (and up the wall) trampolines. We’ve been there ourselves, and can attest that it’s a lot of fun. For everyone. We even have a t-shirt.
Kyle was accompanied to EAP with his caregiver, who is charged with assisting him and ensuring his safety. Kellie was told she needed to pay the full price for the caregiver to enter.
Businesses that cater to children often admit a caregiver for free, or at least at a reduced price. Here in Canada, we have a program called Access 2 Entertainment, that addresses the issue directly.
From their website:
Launched in December of 2004, the Access 2 Entertainment program seeks to offer more opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in recreational activities with an attendant, without added financial burden. It is also designed to raise awareness and help businesses provide quality customer service to customers with disabilities.
It is vitally important that special needs children enjoy as much of a “normal” life as possible, and allowing caregivers to accompany them is a major part of that.
After their visit, Kellie sent an email to EAP, explaining this issue, and suggesting they change their policies. She received an email in return, assuring her there would be no such change.
Kellie answered the email, pressing them further on the issue.
The response she got was much less polite, and much more hostile.
From the CBC article telling their story:
“Our system is computerized. I am not lying to you. We know how many people are on the floor at any given time. But what would you know. C U next Tuesday,” replied (Michael Marti, on behalf of ) Extreme Air Park.
Yes, you read that right. C U next Tuesday.
With apologies for the vulgarity, C-U-N-T.
I don’t even know where to begin with this. Calling your customers names is never good business, but in the case of a special needs parent trying to enlighten you on a very important issue?
Extreme Air Park is a bouncing wonderland, almost made for autistic kids. Maybe that’s the problem. They don’t want autistics. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s definitely the message they’re sending. By inhibiting equal access, the Extreme Air Parks are making it very clear that they don’t care for special needs individuals in their establishments. And if those persons wish to patronize the place anyway, they’ll pay for the privilege.
Charging a caregiver full price when they are only there to facilitate the individual who needs them – similar to a seeing-eye dog, if you will – is just plain greedy. Special needs parents and autistics have enough struggles and obstacles in life already without ignorant businesses piling on.
Even if you do not have a special needs child, the way the company handled this is outrageous and beyond the pale. True, it may have simply been an unprofessional employee taking matters into their own hands, but when you’re speaking for an entire company, you should know better. I have no doubt that any parent attempting to communicate with EAP would have met with similar hostility and derision.
I could go on and on and rant and rave, but I won’t.
Instead, I’ll let you do it. Please.
Please take a moment to tell Extreme Air Parks how you feel about their policies, and the way they treated Kelly Moonie.
Below are the contact numbers for all of the Extreme Air Parks in Canada:
They are also on Twitter: @Extreme_AirPark
It would appear they’ve deactivated their Facebook account, but you can send them an email directly on their website.
On behalf of Kelly and Kyle, my son, the children of Langley, and special needs families everywhere, I urge you to take a stand.
But first, I’m going to go throw away that t-shirt.
Image Credit: Wendy Baskin