Ice rink wouldn’t let girl with cerebral palsy use ‘walker’ skates
WESTWOOD — A mother expecting to take her daughter on an ice skating outing with her Girl Scout Troop said the day ended in tears when the rink wouldn't let her use special "walker" skates.
Colleen Orso said her daughter had been looking forward to the trip to the Fritz Dietl Ice Rink on Wednesday, since her cerebral palsy prevents her from doing other activities like hiking. Kateri Sullivan hasn't let her condition stop her from enjoying ice skating, which her mom said she has done for four years with the help of the adaptive walker.
Orso said before she even got to the rink she got a call from the Girl Scout leader letting her know that Kateri would not be allowed to go on the ice with the walker. When she got to the rink, Orso said, she spoke on the phone to an owner who told her that Kateri could not use the walker due to insurance concerns.
The walker Kateri uses on ice and snow is basically the same as the one she uses on a daily basis, except the wheels are replaced with skis. Orso said she tried to convince the owner that there was no risk to anyone else, but she said those efforts were unsuccessful.
Eventually, Orso said, the rink agreed to let Kateri on the ice with regular skates.
"She held the wall the whole time and we held her up," she said. "She was crying the whole time."
A woman at the rink told New Jersey 101.5 the business had no comment for a story, but the facility has aggressively defended itself on social media. Replies from the rink to harsh reviews on its Facebook page call people saying bad things about it there "haters."
The rink also said in a comment "Mommy left this part out," saying it tried similar walkers in the past, though not one with skis. It said that resulted in "kid's unable to stop, crashing into the walls and into other skaters." The walkers also presented a tripping hazard as kids "did not gauge the position of the legs correctly," the comment said.
"The mother involved offered to sign a 'hold harmless' in the event that her daughter was injured, but REFUSED to accept any liability if the walker caused any injury to anyone else. (odd)," the post said.
For her part, Orso said no waiver was ever offered for her to sign, and she did not refuse to sign any waivers had they been offered.
The facility used the term "haters" again when saying that the owner of the rink has a disabled son.
"So if you haters wish to think that there is some sort of animosity towards people who are disabled, think again!" the post said.
Orso said she has been blocked from posting on the rink's Facebook page, but said she hopes Kateri's story will help other children to have access to facilities even if they need special accommodations.
"It's sad that this is how society has to be," she told New Jersey 101.5. "My daughter just wanted to ice skate."
More From New Jersey 101.5