The city of Detroit was recently compelled to change its policy regarding recreation center locker rooms after being sued for discrimination by the mother of a boy with autism.
Previous policy prohibited children older than 18 months from entering the locker room designated for the opposite sex, according to the Detroit Free Press. There were no special circumstances, even in the case of a child with special needs.
The woman’s 5-year-old son needs help to change into his swimsuit. When the woman asked the Adams Butzel Recreation Center if she could take him into the women’s locker room with her, the request was denied and she was told to either bring a male relative to help the boy, allow a male staff member to assist in the men’s locker room, or to visit another rec facility.
That’s when the woman filed a complaint with the U.S Attorney’s office. She claimed that by not allowing her son to accompany her into the women’s locker room, the policy was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Parents of children with disabilities work hard to make sure that their children have the same opportunities for recreation as children without disabilities,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the Free Press. “Our office is committed to supporting these families by working with them to bring down barriers that may be in their children’s way.”
The city settled the case, and agreed to policy changes requiring that reasonable modifications be made for children with disabilities. Now, children with an adult can change in a curtained area of the locker room matching the adult’s gender, or both the child and adult can use the lifeguard locker room.
Staff at the Adams Butzel Recreation Center will receive training on the policy, as well as training on their obligation to uphold the ADA.