Windsor

Windsor child with autism asked to leave London Disney store over mask-wearing policy

Windsor resident Sarah Baillargeon and her six-year-old daughter Ruby, who has autism, were asked to leave a Disney store in London after the young fan was unable to wear her mask. 

'We regret the family was disappointed,' a Disney spokesperson said

Sarah Baillargeon said they are still Disney fans after the experience, but she would like to receive an apology. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Windsor resident Sarah Baillargeon and her six-year-old daughter Ruby, who has autism, were asked to leave a Disney store in London after the young fan had difficulty wearing her mask. 

Under London's mandatory face covering bylaw, children under 12 and "persons with an underlying medical condition or disability" are exempt from wearing a mask indoors. 

On Monday, Baillargeon said she took Ruby to the store, one of her few outings since the pandemic, to buy a toy with the money she received from the tooth fairy. But Baillargeon said Ruby struggles to wear a mask because of sensory challenges. 

"We'd been practicing at home, so she's been pretty good with it but not for long periods of time," she said. 

According to Baillargeon, four staff members said her daughter had to wear a mask, but every time they readjusted it, Ruby eventually pulled it off. 

"[A staff member said] 'oh I know people with autism and they can wear a mask, so she needs to be wearing a mask,'" Baillargeon said.  "What they don't understand is she's six years old, even at that age in general...it's hard to wear, [but] for her it's a whole other issue." 

Eventually, Baillargeon said a staff member told her she had five minutes to purchase her items and leave the store — a comment that left her "shocked." 

"I'm pretty disappointed," she said. "We've been to Disney in the past and they've always been really accepting of kids who have special needs."  

Ruby during her outing at the Disney store. Ruby has sensory issues that cause her to struggle with wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time. (Submitted by Sarah Baillargeon)

In an email to CBC News, a Disney spokesperson said, "We are always focused on the health and safety of our cast members and guests. At all of our Disney stores we have implemented a number of enhanced measures, including a face covering requirement. 

During these unprecedented times we all have a shared responsibility to do our part. We regret the family was disappointed."

People need to educate themselves, says Baillargeon 

While Baillargeon said she understands every store has its own policies, she hoped the store would have been more understanding. 

"I understand keeping everybody safe and that's a priority for me as well, it is unfortunate that it wasn't even an apology for the experience that we had." 

She said she hopes moments like this educate people on the challenges some kids face. 

"I just want them to know to be compassionate to these kids," Baillargeon added. 

Since her family loves Disney, Baillargeon said they will eventually share in the magic again, but for now, she's not planning a trip back to the store anytime soon. 

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