No Disabled Accommodations

WSVN — A South Florida girl had waited months to see her favorite group, One Direction, perform at Sun Life Stadium, but her treatment before the performance angered and saddened her family. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Three things to know about Erika Rubio. One: her room screams out, she is a big One Direction fan.

“Is their music any good?”

Erika Rubio: “Yes, it’s very good.”

Two: She loves her sister.

Erika Rubio: “Because she is nice to me and takes care of me when my mom can’t.”

Three: Erika was born with cerebral palsy.

Nancy Macias: “Her right leg folds in when she walks. There is a certain length that she can walk without getting agitated or her back hurting or what not.”

And all three things combined brought Erika and Nancy to Help Me Howard after they went with a friend to a One Direction concert at Sun Life Stadium.

Nancy Macias: “Prior to the concert, I purchased VIP parking so her walk to the entrance wouldn’t be that far.”

They went to Gate G where Nancy had been told Erika could come inside and sit. A girl with a broken leg was let in. Nancy asked if her sister could come in and sit, an employee said “Let me ask my boss.”

Nancy Macias: “I looked at the manager when the other person told her and she literally looked at me, at me. They smiled, like insulting, and turned around and walked away.”

Nancy says she told the employee her sister has a disability and can’t stand for long. She did not tell them what her disability was because…

Nancy Macias: “We have taught her, and she has learned herself, that she doesn’t have to labeled in any way.”

In fact, Erika’s family has watched her try to grow up as normal as possible, despite doctors predictions she would never be able to move without a walker.

Nancy Macias: “There are so many things they said she couldn’t do as a kid when she was born and she has overcome everything.”

But the simple fact about cerebral palsy, Erika can’t stand for long, so she sat outside the room on the sidewalk.

Erika Rubio: “I didn’t mind standing outside a bit but also sitting on the ground isn’t that comfortable either.”

Nancy was fuming, then an employee who had seen Erika walk up, opened the door and offered to let her sit on a chair. Nancy says the supervisor was not happy.

Nancy Macias: “She screamed, ‘It’s only for handicapped.’ Something like that.”

About that time the gates opened. These pictures show Erika put the incident behind her but Nancy didn’t.

Nancy Macias: “I just wanted to be heard. I wanted to be heard because this is not OK. It’s not OK for Erika and it’s not OK for someone else.”

Well Howard, Erika was born with cerebral palsy but has been raised as normal as possible. So does she have to explain what her disability is to get special accommodations?

Howard Finkelstein: “You never have to reveal your disability or medical diagnosis. Just that you have a disability and why you need the accommodation. Nancy appears to have to done that for her sister, so Erika should have been given a chair to sit in.”

I contacted John Kontopuls, the President of Elite Services who handles guest relations for Sun Life Stadium. He told me they spoke to the staff at Gate G that worked that day and, no one recalls “refusing a request by an adult on behalf of a disabled minor to enter and sit.”

He said they spoke to the manager and she insists that, “At no time did she refuse to assist anyone with a disability. That if Ms. Macias would have told our staff that her sister was disabled, we would have immediately assisted and accommodated her. As we have thousands of other disabled patrons over the years.”

Nancy Macias: “And it was all because Erika doesn’t look like a kid that has a disability.”

Nancy says she didn’t tell them Erika had cerebral palsy but was disabled. The elite employees say she didn’t. A he said, she said, but there is no dispute over one thing, The One Direction concert.

Nancy Macias: “She made us cry of how happy she got. It made me so happy that One Direction brought so much joy to her that day.”

Patrick Fraser: “And hopefully that’s the memory they will have from that day. Now, if you have a problem at an event like Nancy did, ask to speak to their ADA coordinator. If they don’t have one, ask to speak to a supervisor. If they won’t accommodate you, ask to speak to their boss. In other words, don’t give up till you find someone who knows the rights of disabled people.

Feel like you are going in the wrong direction? Want to get in concert with someone? Contact us. Hopefully when we are done, you will be singing a different tune.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN