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Mom Sues YMCA For Excluding Son With Down Syndrome

Photograph by AP

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 Rehabilitation Act.

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."

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