A furious mum claims her daughter was denied a riding lesson because her autism was ‘damaging’.
Cassie Lee, from Mold, Flintshire, said her 14-year-old daughter Maddie was turned away due to her extra needs.
The ‘heartbroken’ mother-of-three said a member of staff at Sychdyn Riding School asked ‘how bad’ Maddie’s autism was before refusing to allow the booking.
Cassie said the incident is a painful reminder of how people with disabilities are “not always treated the same”, Live reports from North Wales.
Sychdyn Riding School told North Wales Live it was necessary to access Maddie’s disability due to insurance issues to keep staff and customers safe.
A spokesperson for the school, based near Mold, added: “We have to consider everyone’s safety, there is a protocol we have to follow, and if people have different needs, we have to. take into account, we do not want to put anyone in danger.
“We haven’t encountered this in all these years. We don’t discriminate, we just obey the law.”
However, Cassie claims it was ‘direct discrimination’ and showed a ‘lack of empathy for people with special needs’.
She added: “I’m heartbroken, if I’m being honest. I’m hurt because I had to watch my little girl upset because she couldn’t go, just because she has autism.
“Nowadays people say people with autism are accepted, but we face challenges every day and no one sees that side of things.
“It’s really upsetting that people forget about her because everyone who knows Maddie loves her and knows how awesome she is, people on the street say ‘hiya’ to her before me because she’s so popular .”
Maddie’s autism means she communicates and expresses her emotions differently than others.
But Cassie said that’s no reason for her daughter to miss things other kids can do.
Cassie said the riding school agreed to take the booking when Maddie’s father, Danny Brockley, called on March 23.
But things changed when they learned about Maddie’s autism, Cassie claims.
She said: “Maddie’s dad called first and spoke to someone and everything was fine, but when he mentioned she had autism they said they couldn’t do it.
“They said it shouldn’t be a problem until he explained that Maddie has autism and she might be excited seeing the horses, then they said she couldn’t come.
“Maddie stimulates, which means she flaps her arms and makes noise when excited, but that’s how she reacts and she shouldn’t be treated any differently than anyone else.”
The mum-of-three added: “What upset me the most was how dismissive they were, it’s like hearing the word autism and making up their minds.
“They kept asking ‘how bad is it? How bad is his autism? “, But that’s okay, autism isn’t something serious, it’s just different.
“I just want my little girl to be able to do what she loves.”
The devastated mother added that she wouldn’t have allowed her daughter to ride if it wasn’t safe.
But Sychdyn Riding School said it needed different insurance to work with Maddie safely and recommended the Clwyd Special Riding Centre, which specializes in riding for people with additional needs.
A spokesperson said: “We’re just trying to stick to the rules we’ve been given, and there are places available that are specially made for people with different needs.”
On explaining the insurance, she said: “They came back afterwards and explained the insurance to me, but what hurt me was the way they approached it, because it was like being told no because of his autism.
“Nowadays, people born with disabilities are still not treated the same and are not able to do the same things as others.”
She added: “We spoke to other parents with ASD and considered others, but ended up going to a riding school in Flintshire, which doesn’t specialize in disabilities. I’m glad I found a school that understands her.”
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Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said they should have made “reasonable adjustments” to ensure Maddie could ride.
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at leading equality charity DR UK, claimed responsibility for the riding school’s actions: “The Equality Act makes it clear that reasonable accommodation should be made for people with disabilities .
“Laws have been in place for more than 25 years to allow people with disabilities to participate in ordinary activities with people without disabilities.
“It would appear that Maddie has no additional needs that require more than a little time to adapt to the presence of horses.
“All the riding school had to do was have a positive attitude and let her ride.”