NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (TheBlaze/AP) — A woman says she and her 5-year-old developmentally disabled daughter were thrown out of a theater during a "Beauty and the Beast" performance because the girl was making giggling and humming "happy noises."
Samantha Torres, of New Bedford, said her daughter, Nadia, suffers from a chromosome abnormality and can't speak. Nadia was squealing, giggling and humming along with the Disney musical at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island on June 2 when the entire party, including Torres' other child and a nurse, were told to leave, she said.
"They did not ask me to leave. They told me I had to leave," Torres told The Standard-Times.
Theater marketing director P.J. Prokop denied that.
He said the girl was distracting other theater-goers and the group was offered different seats. Audience members "were turning around; they were looking; they were also kind of gesturing," Prokop said.
"It is the theater's responsibility to try and ensure that everyone can hear and have a good time," he said.
Torres said she was never offered the chance to relocate. The group was already sitting near the rear of the 3,100-seat theater and the only people bothered by Nadia were the ushers, she said.
Attorney Christine Griffin, executive director of the Massachusetts Disabilities Law Center, said the theater may not have handled the situation well.
"I think that if there really weren't legitimate complaints (from other attendees) and they didn't really attempt to accommodate them in a better way — yeah, that would be discrimination," she said.
Torres plans to take up the theater on an offer to conduct sensitivity training for ushers.
She is also working with the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council to develop a guide on how entertainment venues can prepare for people with disabilities.
"I think it's going to have a happy ending for a lot of people," she said.