My name is Melissa, I’m twenty-nine. I have a daughter Raeden, who is eight years old. Raeden has asthma and Sleep Apnea. She uses a CPAP machine at night.
In November of 2013, I applied for my daughter to go to VACC Camp. VACC Camp is put on by Miami Children’s Hospital Pulmonology Department and is for Ventilated Assisted Children and their Parents. In the very application, it asks if anyone else in the family is disabled. I put that I was in a wheelchair. In December, I was contacted about my disability and for more information and told she was most likely approved.
A few weeks ago, I received notice that she was approved! But then. This week has gotten weird.
I got a phone call from a lady from the camp, talking asking questions about my disability and if I would be able to "handle" my children and so forth. I was told that he camp was a very active one, and that they wouldn’t be able to help me. My husband works long hours. I take care of my children’s doctors appointments, therapies, and my oldest is homeschooled. I can take care of my children.
I was passed on to the director, who reiterated and asked questions about my disabilities, but told me it would all be okay, and that Raeden was accepted. Then, this morning I got a phone call from another woman from camp. She told me that she was researching my disease and wanted to ask questions because "the camp is very dynamic" and they "take trips", and "go places and do activities".
She told me she would talk to the lead pulmonologist and get his opinion, but said they might need a doctors statement saying that I could accompany my child to the camp. Now remember. I’m an adult. But still, I agreed to that (although I did roll my eyes). Several minutes later, I got yet another call, to inform me that my daughter had in fact been denied for camp because I am disabled!
The woman representing the camp cited the same "reasons" I listed above, implying I wouldn't be able to help my child's participation. At this point, I yelled at her and hung up. Sure. Not my best action thus far, but dude. I’m upset! What a kick in the gut. What an awful thing to say and do. I posted on Facebook, and then I filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice on this clear act of discrimination. It’s especially ironic because the hospital site states the following:
"This hospital fully complies with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin, physical disability or veteran status."
Now because I’m a nice person, I also shot an email to the Director of the camp, to whom I had spoken already! I wrote:
Dear Mrs Florentin,
I talked to you recently on the phone about my daughter Raeden attending your camp. She was approved and I talked to you personally about it. Today I got two phone calls and after talking to a lady was told that Raeden has been denied because I’m in a wheelchair and the camp is very dynamic and does a lot of trips.
This is VERY offensive and a direct act against the ADA. Even on your website it says:
This hospital fully complies with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin, physical disability or veteran status
So the workers and volunteers for the hospital can be disabled but the parents of campers can’t? Numerous times it was said to me ‘the camp is very dynamic’ and ‘we take a lot of trips’ and ‘we do activities’. I understand this and wonder in what world a disabled mother is thought to not be able to do anything with their children? I take my children to the zoo, park, pool, mall, everywhere. I balance their doctors appointments, my own, and my oldest’s physical therapies. This is on top of my own doctors appointments and therapies. I also homeschool my eldest daughter also.
Being told my daughter doesn’t qualify for camp because of my disability? Is horrible, it’s a horrible feeling and honestly a disgusting thing to do.
I hope against all hope there has been a misstep in communication somewhere. I have contacted the US Department of Justice though with all this information as it directly goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Thank you for your time,
So Miami Children’s Hospital: You want to deny my child access to your camp after approving her, all because I’m disabled? I’m not taking this laying down. Please everyone, if you read this and think it’s a gross act of discrimination as I do, please share everywhere.
Let's not let them get away with this.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.