Josh and his attendant planned to spend Saturday at the Manitoba Children's Museum, an activity he's enjoyed for years. But for the first time in his life, the 21-year-old with severe cerebral palsy was turned away.

The museum's policy is clear: adults 18 and older are not allowed inside unless they are accompanying a child.

Emily and brother

Emily Janzen, brother Josh, and her husband Jeff Janzen running the 2014 Manitoba Marathon. (Submitted)

"I guess he looked older this time than he has in recent months," said Emily Janzen, Josh's older sister.

"I know they're aimed for [zero to nine-year-olds], but in our minds, Josh is playing at an [age] zero to nine level," she said.

The museum offered Josh and his attendant a supervised tour of the museum and supervised access to one exhibit, but the two decided to take their business elsewhere. They left the museum to do one of Josh's favourite activities: play arcade games at a movie theatre.

Age policy protects children: museum 

The museum's strict age policy is in place "to protect safety and security of the children that we serve," said Erin McIntyre, director of education and exhibits with the Manitoba Children's Museum.

"We are primarily designed for children," she said.

Janzen understands the policy, she said, but argues there should be some discretion for adults like her brother who pose little risk to children.

"He's unable to control his muscles in his arms and legs. [The cerebral palsy] affects his speech, so he's not able to speak or eat. It's difficult to understand him and for him to learn," said Janzen.

"He needs to be accompanied by an adult.… It seems to make sense to make an exception for someone like that," she said.

The museum's adult nights aren't suitable because alcohol is served and Josh plays like a child, she said.

Adults-only Children's Museum nights

The Manitoba Children's Museum does offer adult-only nights; however, the events serve alcohol and would not be appropriate for her brother, who plays at a child's level, said Janzen. (Curtis Shonoski)

McIntyre insists any discretion in policy could put children in danger, even though for three years Josh was permitted to enter the museum as an adult.

"For a policy to be effective, we have to chose something that's not subjective, not at the discretion of whoever is working the front desk that day," she said.

The museum does not ask for age identification, but may explore the idea, McIntyre added.

Many of Josh's family and friends, including his attendant, have found the situation frustrating, said Janzen.

It's difficult to find safe and engaging activities for Josh to do in Winnipeg like the interactive exhibits at the Children's Museum, she said.

McIntyre admits the situation is "heartbreaking" but stands by the museum's age limit. She said Josh's experience reveals a gap in programming for adults with disabilities in Winnipeg.

Corrections

  • Josh is quadra spastic, not quadriplegic, as the story originally stated. Incorrect information was initially given to the CBC.
    Jan 28, 2016 2:13 PM CT