Museum of Science and Industry

Family Says Young Son With Rare Condition Denied Entry to Chicago Museum for Not Wearing Mask

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A Chicago family says their 3-year-old son was denied entry to the Museum of Science and Industry because he wasn’t wearing a mask, and now the family is asking Illinois officials to remind the public that medical exemptions exist for the requirement to wear facial coverings in indoor spaces.

Father Brian Smith says that he wanted to bring his son Ralli to the museum on Saturday to see a massive model train exhibit at the facility.

“We love train books, and Santa might be bringing us some fun stuff like that,” Brian said.

When they arrived at the museum, Brian says that they were denied entry because his son wasn’t wearing a facial covering.

“They say ‘I’m sorry.’ They say ‘you can’t come in,’” he said.

Rallis was born with a genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis complex. The boy’s father says that the rare condition causes his son not to want to wear or keep on a mask in any situation, and he says that although he explained his son’s condition to museum staff, they were still denied entry.

“I was super angry,” he said. “The implication is that my son is a threat to patrons, and that is not true.”

Under provisions of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order requiring all individuals 2 years of age and older to wear masks indoors, individuals with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from safely wearing masks cannot be forced to do so.

The Americans With Disabilities Act says that if a person with a disability is not able to wear a mask, businesses and other entities must consider reasonable modifications to their mask policy.

In a statement, the museum said that it is able to make those types of accommodations, but that arrangements must be made in advance.

“We apologize for the Smith’s experience,” officials said. “We can make special accommodations for guests who are unable to wear a mask, but cannot make same-day arrangements. We ask that visitors reach out to us a week before their visit.”

Now, Brian says that he’s hoping his story will lead to more discussion of how to properly handle medical conditions that prevent individuals from safely wearing masks, and he is urging the governor to make those exemptions clear to the public.

“It is up to the governor to step up to enforce his guidance,” he said. “It needs to happen immediately.”

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