Lawsuit alleges Guptill's Arena discriminated against teen in wheelchair |

Lawsuit alleges Guptill's Arena discriminated against teen in wheelchair

Emily Burkhard
Created: August 11, 2020 06:18 PM

LATHAM - A Schenectady family is suing Guptill’s Roller Skating Arena. They said the arena discriminated against their 17-year-old daughter because she uses a wheelchair.

The complaint said the incident took place on March 15, 2019. That’s when Ricale Walker said she asked a Guptill‘s employee if her daughter, Leahna, could use her wheelchair on the rink.

Walker claims she was told there would be no issue. She paid the admission fee, rented skates and began skating with her daughter and the rest of their family.

Walker said shortly after that a Guptill‘s employee told her Leahna’s wheelchair was not allowed on the main rink, as opposed to danger to other skaters. They told her Leahna’s wheelchair would only be allowed on the kiddie rinks.

Walker asked the employee how the wheelchair was posing a danger to other skaters. She said the employee likened the wheelchair to a skateboard or other devices not affixed to the skaters themselves. Leahna and her mother then tried to access the dancefloor, but couldn't because there was no ramp.

In April 2019, the Walkers filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. The complaint alleged Leahna faced discrimination at Guptill’s Arena and the facility has structural barriers that prevented people with wheelchairs from accessing all areas. The complaint also alleged employees refused to help the Walkers overcome those barriers.

In May 2020, the attorney for Guptill‘s responded to the complaint. He said there are signs clearly stating anyone without skates will not be allowed on the main rink as it slows down skater speeds and could pose safety risks.

The defense alleged that Walker did not pay rink admission for Leahna or for either of them to access the dance floor. He also said Walker was still wearing her skates in the dance floor area, which is against arena policy. He pointed out that the dancefloor also has two levels, one of which doesn't require a ramp.

The complaint asks Guptills to change their policies regarding wheelchair access on the rink and dancefloor, something other rinks have voluntarily done. The defense said allowing wheelchairs on the main rank would be a "fundamental alteration" of the sport and therefore makes it exempt from the regulations established in the ADA.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.

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