A 6-year-old boy's image is being used to promote diverse programs
at the Great Miami Valley YMCA, yet his Mom isn't proud of the gesture, because
she believes the organization is discriminating against her son.
According to NBC News, Denise Watts of Middletown, Ohio, has filed a federal lawsuit
against the YMCA because they will not allow her son Steven, who has Down syndrome,
to participate in the main camp programs. The federal lawsuit accuses the YMCA
of violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal
After making numerous requests for Steven to join the main
programs, she was told he was only admitted into the camp for children with
disabilities because the environment in the other programs was not safe. When she proposed
alternatives, such as adding another counselor to the group of campers or sending him for half days, they continued to reject her requests.
"Some people with disabilities are very, very medically
fragile and very disabled, and Steven doesn't respond well when he's segregated
with just individuals with disabilities," offered civil rights attorney
Richard Ganulin, who represents Watts.
According to Ganulin, the YMCA also won't allow Steven to attend
a before-school program and will only let him to attend an after-school program
for 15 minutes a day.
"The YMCA or any other program that is subject to these
laws has to make reasonable modifications to accommodate Steven's needs to
allow him to have equal access," Ganulin told NBC News. "There are
behavioral experts who assess situations like this, and they provide
recommendations for how to accommodate the needs of someone with a disability.
We asked the YMCA to do that here, but it refused."