Hale Center Theatre Orem Apologizes After Woman With Down Syndrome Asked To Leave Over Mask
OREM, Utah – When Natalie Sellers and her family made their annual trip to see “A Christmas Carol” at Hale Center Theater Orem Monday night, they all wore masks – all except Lydia, the family’s 20-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome.
“All of us were wearing masks because we knew about the mask mandate, but not Lydia, because she’s not able to wear one,” Sellers said. “She’s cognitively like a 3-year-old.”
Staff at the theater told the family they could put a mask or shield on Lydia, or they would have to leave.
Both sides then agreed the family could rearrange the seating, but that changed at intermission.
“He said, ‘Well if she’s wasn’t going to wear a mask, we shouldn’t have brought her.’ I said, ‘Really, you’re going to kick out a girl with Down syndrome because she’s not going to wear a mask? She doesn’t understand.’ And he said, ‘Yes. You need to leave.’”
Sellers was embarrassed and mad.
“This is not about masks,” she said. “It’s not an anti-mask campaign. All of us were wearing masks but Lydia. It’s about disabilities.”
Tuesday night, Cody Swenson, executive director of Hale Center Theatre Orem, said they made a mistake.
“I’ll admit we were not aware of the exemptions the mask mandate provides,” Swenson said. “We should have made an exception for this young lady. We regret that there was an issue with it.”
Swenson said it was an honest mistake that won’t happen again.
“We’re still learning and this was something that we were not aware of. And, I would hope other businesses would learn something too because we certainly want to accommodate everyone, especially those with disabilities,” he said.
Sellers said she accepted the apology and hopes others learn not only the policies surrounding masks and the disabled, but she hopes to see greater compassion and understanding.
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