Disabled Boy Turned Away From Yerba Buena Center Ice Rink

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – The parents of a disabled San Francisco boy said they were turned away from the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center on Saturday because their son uses a wheelchair.

Zane Robinson, 10, has a chromosomal abnormality that has left him deaf and developmentally disabled. He and his parents and four other friends were already skating when an attendant told his mother they had to stop.

“We didn’t even make one rotation before some guy came up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry I’m going to have to ask you to get off the ice, ma’am,'” said Kelli Robinson, Zane’s mother.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry … what did I do?’ And he said, ‘no, it’s it’s the wheelchair,’ ” Robinson said.

The Robinsons said they attended an event just last month at the very same ice rink and had so much fun they vowed to return.

But on the return visit at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Robinson said the attendant and two managers told them they just couldn’t skate because it wasn’t safe. The Robinsons argued that it was illegal and immoral, but they say the managers repeatedly insisted they were just following corporate policy.

“They were stripping our dignity away, treating us – especially Zane – as less than human,” said Dan Robinson, Zane’s father.

“They weren’t even apologetic,” said Kelli Robinson. “I kept trying to appeal to their sensibilities as humans. This is wrong.”

Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center General Manager Paige Scott told CBS 5 that she is also upset the family was kicked out. She said the Center hosts skating events for disabled people and even teaches special-needs skating classes, so the employees should have known better.

Scott said turning Zane away is, in fact, contrary to corporate policy.

“We are doing a full investigation of everything and I want to reassure the family that this will not happen again,” Scott said. “This was an isolated incident of employees who are uninformed.”

In an email, Scott apologized to the Robinson family and invited them back to skate any time.

The Robinsons said they want to see some serious disciplinary action on the part of the employees who turned them away, but will likely accept the invitation to return because Zane enjoys the activity so much.

“He loves to skate and actually, there are very few things that we can do with him that are physical and social,” Mrs. Robinson said.

Asked if anyone will be fired, Scott said she could not discuss disciplinary procedures because it is an internal human relations matter. She said employees will be undergoing sensitivity training.

“This is my house,” Scott said, as she began to tear up away from CBS 5’s camera. “This should not have happened.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Tafik Khoury

    CHA-CHING… Call the lawyers, Call the ACLU..!

  • jockeygirl

    The problem being the wheel-chair,is on the ice rink. Where the skate rink would be liable for an injuries to other skaters and Zane would be hurt from a
    flipped over wheel-chair. It sounds like someone got chewed out from the first time you were out on the ice.
    By the way, I skated for many years, and I’ve witnessed
    lots of children and adults getting hurt by running into other skaters. If an out of control skater,barrelled into Zane,his Mom,and flipping the wheelchair. this boy
    might be really injured.
    There are other activities besides skateing. Like family water therapy, spending time by the beach/parks. Equine Therapy,camping, movie time,hikeing,singing,just laying on blankets looking at the night stars.

    • Dave Witte

      There are risks of injury in every activity that one chooses. I agree that everyone needs to exhibit skill and control to participate in a group activity like skating. Those that are out of control pose a risk to everyone, not just the child in a wheelchair, and they should be asked to leave the ice. It’s no different than the ski ski slopes where one must demonstrate skill and judgment to participate..

    • Big G

      So why don’t you try doing those things. Who made you the ultimate king who knows everything!! I have skated for years & you must be one of those who held on to the rails. You make skating sound like they are going to be on the interstate going the wrong way. Way to look out for mankind nerd!!!

      • Peace

        Big G…That’s funny. More like Little D

  • Gilda Vincent

    If people are skating so aggressively that they pose a threat to a child in a wheelchair, then they should be asked to leave, not the child. Asking him to leave is like asking the store owner to close up shop in order to prevent robberies.

    • Janel Romero

      I was at the rink the night of this situation, and it was a veryyyyy busy night on the ice, due to the presence o many young children. And I was also possibly at the event that him and his family had attended earlier that month, which in fact was a private event specifically for people with disabilities. People who are skating aggressively have in the past been asked to leave. The fact that this family was asked to leave was for the safety of others, as well ad their child. The fact that this family is making such a large issue about it, when later that night I saw them cheerfully walking around the Yerba buena gardens area just seems like they have nothing else to do but cause unnecessary problems for the lives of many workers who were trying to keep people safe.

      • Renata Cecil

        Hi Jamel,
        Thank you for such a great post as well as an eyewitness account of that night. If you are interested please read my post.

      • Michelle Roberts

        Janel you must not have anyone in your family who is disabled…we go through all kinds of unimaginable situations, and have to deal with them moment by moment. It is a testament to this family’s resolve that they were able to have a good time after this incident, not a reason to say they are out of line for being upset but not looking it. Believe me, if I went around angry after every incident involving my daughter, everyone around me would be miserable all the time. I applaud them for being able to “get over it” for a little while that night and have a good time as a family in the midst of what is definitely a bad situation…I probably would have acted in the “acceptable” manner that you are describing and let everyone know how angry I was. But then people would be talking about what a bad person I was too, so really there is no way to please everyone.

      • Aline

        I am so offended by your judgment of the family saying that they were “cheerfully walking around the Yerba buena gardens area” after the incident. What would you have expected them to do?? Cause a huge scene, yelling obscenities, cry, or maybe fight with the employees like some parents have done at little league baseball games? They did what any classy good parent would do, especially in front of their child, which is move on, for the time being, not letting it ruin their day. Can you just try to imagine how they must have felt inside?? And also, has something ever happened to you and after time passed, you felt differently about it? Sometimes people need time to let things sink in. I am choosing not to pass judgment on you, for you may have been having a bad day or week when you wrote this. But I will say that I’m offended and that if we all refrain from judgment on others when we have not walked in their shoes…have some compassion. in peace

    • Kelli Robinson

      If someone is skating unsafely, then that person should be asked to leave – It’s very unlikely that the type of accident you describe would occur if everyone was skating in the same direction and following the rules, but yes, everyone takes a risk doing every sport, and we were willing to take that risk – there were signs all over the rink that said “Skate at your own Risk.” We were willing to take on the same responsibility as everyone else in the rink.

      And no, no one was chewed out for us being on the ice the first time and no big injuries or accidents occurred either –

      • Warm Smiles

        I must say that this story really bothers me. In that Zane should be able to interact in the same manner as other kids his age no matter what his condition……PEOPLE this situation is more common than you think in S.F. . Joy and happiness are fleeting moments for both the parents of a disabled child and the child himself/herself . So one can only expect these parents to act the way they did. Zane enjoyed being on the ice, that excitement reverberated through the parents seeing there son happy. No one should take that away. I have seen the joy and excitement ice skating can bring to a child in a wheelchair at this same rink. The employees even used to skate along side the wheelchair to make the experience more enjoyable and safe for everyone…”What happened Yerba Buena? to this type of customer accommodation this type of compassion?

        Whats going on in this city? Warm Smiles

  • jossanfran

    does the wheel chair leave gouges in the ice for others to get snagged up and fall on? if not, then the wheel chair should be allowed, if the rink’s insurance doesn’t cover a wheel chair on the ice, then the rink needs to read up on the Americans with Disabilities act and cover their business.

  • Kasey Conner

    Sounds like the ice rink isn’t clear on their skating policies for disabled persons. Don’t punish those who asked the family to leave the ice but those who wrote or didn’t write the policies for disabled perons being on the ice during a public skating session. I have been skating for years and I have never seen wheelchairs on the ice with a public skating crowd. At my rink it’s not allowed. I’m all for the family having a great time skating but that’s wasn’t the time and place.

    • Grace

      Well, if that’s how you feel, then people named Kasey should not be allowed to do blank, or blank, or blank. It’s just not the time or the place for people with that name to do blank. How does it feel?? You should be ashamed. Your comment saddens me that you say things like you do., really truly saddens my heart. People with and with out disabilities have the same desires and dreams. PERIOD.

  • Kelli Robinson

    I appreciate all of your comments – thank you for your interest – and no, the chair does not leave any grooves or cuts in the ice –

    • Lil Wahine

      You are a disgrace to all parents with disabled children. How dare you even put your kid in harm. The ice is not a playground. You are putting Zane’s life and other in danger and that night you went was for the public. You are certaintly the poster child for sure happy parents.

    • silvana

      Hi Kelli,
      I was wondering If I could interview you on this specific situation and the hardships that your little boy has to go through. I am an art student planning on covering a story on inspirational young people. Please email me at syldlezama@gmail.com. Thank you.

  • jerome A

    you handled the situation very well. if that happened to me and my family i could’ve gone psycho on them !
    God bless you and your family ma’am.

  • Mike

    First, as another poster mentioned, the wheelchair on the ice is a hazard. This is a public session, the skaters will largely be horrible at best and the wheelchair could lead to injury for both the child mentioned here and other skaters. The rink can be held liable for allowing such a hazard onto the ice. They dont even let cameras or backpacks on the ice. This isnt discrimination, the rink and its employees have the right to be cautious. The idea that the father wants disciplinary action and was threatening legal action to employees is pathetic. How sue happy can you be? Being sad is a lot better than being hurt on the ice, get over it. At the very worst this is a ‘get in for free next time’ offense. Grow up parents.
    Yerba Buena is a great rink to skate at and it is unfortunate that people have to second guess every little action they make just because someone might get their feelings hurt by a perfectly reasonable request.
    “Stripping us of our dignity….treating us as less than human” are you serious? The melodrama just made me throw up a little. You brought a metal contraption with wheels into an ice rink full (and this rink is ALWAYS packed) of people who can barely stand up on the ice. You should have social services checking out your parenting philosophy instead of threatening employees just trying to keep people from getting hurt by your stupidity.

    • rythmNsk8ing22

      I think the problem most people are having with this is the fact that the employees said one thing about the rules and the GM said another. Just sounds like everyone needs to be on the same page policy wise. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding, but not earth-shattering, sue everybody, persecution. I bet the dad’s great grandfather owned slaves, maybe Ill sue him because he might have owned my great grandfather.
      And I happen to know that there was no ‘pleading with supervisor after supervisor’ but that the parents were threatening the employees and yelling loud enough for everyone there to hear. Poor journalism, you should get both sides of a story and the comments from uninvolved witnesses.
      It is clear this was not an attempt to discriminate, the employees may have just been mistaken about the rules. No one woke up that morning hoping they could find a disabled kid to kick off the ice that day. Just a misunderstanding, and one that is easily understandable from a liability point of view.

    • Michael

      Well, there you have it, some people in the world are nice and then there’s the A**HOLES. YOU are the latter. I’m sure it must be snowing where you live right now because your heart is ice cold. Have a nice day and hopefully you never get in a car accident causing you to use a wheelchair the rest of your life. If that ever happens, then write again.

  • http://blin90.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/disabled-boy-turned-away-from-yerba-buena-center-ice-rink/ Disabled Boy Turned Away From Yerba Buena Center Ice Rink « Ben's Weblog

    […] here. Explore posts in the same categories: […]

  • Renata Cecil

    First of all the Robinson family attened a private event on December 18th this event was the Holiday Ice Skating Party for Support For Families with Disabilities which is held every year at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center. This event wasn’t obviously wasnt open to the public and I’m sure that arrangemnets are made in advance so that there is enough staff would be there to accomdate the disbled and their families and again I’m going to stress that this was a PRIVATE EVENT.
    On January 8th when the Robinson family came back to the ice rink it wasn’t a private event it was durning public which is a total different situation.
    I am a parent to two disabled adults now let alone I work with the disabled and I don’t assume anything and to me the proper protcol would have been to contact the rink ahead time to ask about their accomodations for a child in a wheelchair durning a public session.
    I know for a fact that this rink gets very busy durning the weekends and the rink had over 200 people there that night and this is far from being a discrimination you were asked or told to leave was for the safety of others and above all Zane.
    For you and your husband to want discliplinary action and threatening legal action to the employees is very patheic.
    And IF employees were mistaken about the rules they shouldn’t be held accountible that why that falls with management not them.
    Why did your husband find it so necessary to post everything on Facebook?

  • Ramona

    HELLO!!! The young boy is disables and should NOT be on ice skates. Sounds like his demented family has some sort of agenda. They probably thought they would get him on skates and then let him get hurt and then sue. I think the ice rink should countersue the robinsons for false accusations. What a joke

  • Jacks

    I cannot believe that these people thought it was okay to just let their disabled child on the ice in his wheelchair! You are irresponsible parents and you should be sued for slander and child endangerment. You clearly do not care about your sons safety or anyone elses.

  • Ice Skater

    Sounds like the Robinsons woke up one morning and said, I want to sue someone today. Poor Ice rink. They did the responsible thing by asking them to remove the wheelchair from the rink. It is clearly a danger to everyone on the ice.

  • cory murphy

    Is the father, Dan Robinson, the same Dan Robinson listed on the California Bar website as a practicing attorney? Why has there been no mention of this?

    • Renata Cecil

      Hi Cory,
      Obviously I am missing something here and if you would kindly fill in the missing pieces it would be most greatly appreciated – In answer to your question Yes he is the same Dan Robinson however why should there be any mention of who he is let alone his occupation?

      • cory murphy

        No, unfortunately, it appears that I am missing something here. While I fully support exposing businesses with ongoing discriminatory practices who refuse to acknowledge or revise their policies, that’s NOT what happened in this case, even by the family’s own account. A mistake was made by some rink employees, for which the rink offered an immediate public apology. It sounds like the rink also made efforts to invite them back.

        So, if the Robinsons were seeking accountability, and the rink ‘manned up’ right away, (even before the above article was written), I think it’s fair to ask why the situation has not been reported to be amicably resolved yet. My best guess: lawyer involvement. If you read the above postings, my speculation on that issue was not unique.

        I would also add this, as a skater who has a wheelchair-bound sister: I was impressed to learn that the YB rink went out of its way to host events for special skaters. Not all rinks do. The only thing that would make this unfortunate story even more unfortunate would be allowing one mistake, on one occasion, to detract from all of the good work done by the YB rink for special skaters.

  • silvana

    Hi Kelli,
    I was wondering If I could interview you on this specific situation and the hardships that your little boy has to go through. I am an art student planning on covering a story on inspirational young people. Please email me at syldlezama@gmail.com. Thank you.

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