A Massachusetts mother is claiming discrimination after she and her disabled daughter were reportedly kicked out of a performance earlier this month when the theater said the girl was distracting other audience members with the noises she makes when she's happy.
Samantha Torres of New Bedford, Mass., thought bringing her 5-year-old daughter Nadia to a "Beauty and the Beast" performance at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island would be a fun experience. She never expected to be humiliated and asked to leave.
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Torres said Nadia suffers from a chromosomal abnormality that prevents her from speaking. During the performance on June 2, the child was reportedly "squealing and giggling and humming" along with the music
— something she does when she's happy, her mother told The Standard-Times.
Torres claims she was approached and told her entire party — including her other child and a nurse — would have to leave.
"They did not ask me to leave; they told me I had to leave," she told The Standard-Times.
But the staff of the theater is denying Torres' account, instead saying the group was asked to relocate their seats.
"[Audience members] were turning around; they were looking; they were also kind of gesturing," P.J. Prokop, marketing director for the Providence Performing Arts Center, said. "It is the theater's responsibility to try and ensure that everyone can hear and have a good time."
Attorney Christine Griffin, executive director of the Massachusetts Disabilities Law Center, said if the theater did, in fact, ask Torres to leave, it could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"I think that if there really weren't legitimate complaints [from other attendees] and they didn't really attempt to accommodate them in a better way — yeah, that would be discrimination," she told The Standard-Times.
The theater offered Torres the chance to come in and conduct sensitivity training with its staff, something she is reportedly considering. She also plans to work with local disability groups to develop a guide on how entertainment venues can better accommodate people with disabilities.
"I think it's going to have a happy ending for a lot of people," Torres said.
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