mask debate

Chicago Couple Says 4-Year-Old Son Denied Entry at Museum Over Mask Policy

While the state of Illinois' mask mandate was lifted months ago, some businesses are still requiring masks

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Chicago couple is speaking out after they say their young son who has a disability was not allowed inside a local children’s museum because he could not wear a mask.

Annette Kaspar and her husband are in the process of adopting a 4-year old with special needs, who is nonverbal autistic and has sensory processing disorder.

The Kaspars thought a trip to the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, and its sensory areas, would be good for their son.

They recently bought a pass, but never got in the front door.

“I called to ask them what the mask policy...and they stated that it was mandatory,” Kaspar said. “There is no mask mandate – so I just don’t understand it."

"I explained to them that my son. He does not wear a mask due to his disability. They then told me to try to put one on him," the mother said. "I explained that I cannot and that would lead to a meltdown. They told me that we would not be allowed in. I explained that I have a doctor’s note, and it is a medical condition."

Kaspar said the museum told her to consider its Adaptive Play Time instead. However, it only takes place once a month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Annette explained that time is very restrictive and doesn’t work for her family.

Much of the museum would be off limits and the cafeteria closed during that time.

“I am just trying to advocate for my son and other families too, who have this issue who don’t go out - don’t know what to do,” Kaspar said.

Attorney Sarah Toney with the Toney Law Firm says some businesses can prohibit you from entering unless you wear a mask.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health has recognized that school and businesses can do a mask mandate at their own discretion,” Toney said. “Every business can create its own polices to do what they believe is needed to keep people safe, but it may not be a one size fits all for every individual trying to enter.”

The DuPage Children’s Museum sent NBC 5 the following statement regarding its mask policy:

"DuPage Children’s Museum absolutely recognizes the needs of children with sensory issues or autism, and we are sensitive to their needs as we navigate the challenges of COVID-19. DCM also has a responsibility to keep our staff and guests safe during a time when the majority of our audience isn't able to be vaccinated.

DCM Mask Requirement Remains Active: The health and safety of DCM guests, members, staff, and volunteers are DCM’s paramount priority. All guests ages 2 years and older are required to wear a cloth or disposable medical mask over their nose and mouth while in the Museum. This policy applies to everyone in the building regardless of vaccination status. Compliance is critical to providing a safe environment for children not yet eligible for vaccination. 

We encourage any family with a child who is unable to wear a mask due to medical or sensory issues to join us for Adaptive Play Time during which the museum provides a modified environment for play and learning for children and their caregivers. This program is intended for families with disabilities, on the autism spectrum, and/or with sensory processing disorders. During Adaptive Play Time, an exception can be made for a child with a medical or sensory issue that prevents them from wearing a mask. We also make modifications to our exhibits to reduce noise levels and the brightness of some lights among other adaptations to promote inclusive play. 

Limited attendance during Adaptive Play allows for greater social distancing and a community respectful of neurodivergent needs."

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