A Calgary family is asking a nearby ski resort to reconsider its policies after a support worker for their autistic son was denied a complimentary ticket.
For years, David Meisner and his family bought season passes for Nakiska Ski Area, usually receiving discounted or complimentary tickets for support staff. But the family said this year their request was denied.
“David is an adventurer. He loves all outdoor pursuits. He snowmobiles, he dirt bikes, he quads, he hikes, he curls,” said Janice Meisner, David’s sister. “When he’s up on the hill, (the support staff) ensures his safety. Just out of hope we did buy the support staff a season pass, but unfortunately we were told last week that after review, we would not get complimentary passes and only receive about 25 per cent to 30 per cent discount on a lift pass for his support staff.”
Most ski hills partner with non-profit organizations to provide lessons and support staff for people with disabilities.
Rocky Mountain Adaptive and Canadian Adaptive Snowsports (CADS) are two organizations that provide these services.
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Other attractions, such as the Calgary Zoo and Calaway Park, are involved in programs that provide free tickets for support staff.
“CADS itself offers discounts at different ski hills. So for support people we usually try to have someone contact us so that we can arrange for a volunteer to go out with that individual but that all depends on the number of volunteers we have and their availability,” said Janice Bushfield of CADS.
Meisner’s family, however, has always hired their own support staff to meet his specific needs.
The family posted their concerns on Facebook, which gained some attention online. On Monday, the family said Resorts of the Canadian Rockies approved complementary lift tickets for David’s support staff.
“With prices rising right now, it’s completely unrealistic for someone who is receiving government supports to live. He does have a part-time job but that doesn’t supplement the needs this would have. From a financial standpoint, it’s unrealistic for him to cover the season pass for himself but also for his support staff, who he needs,” Janice said.
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“(Nikiska) is also reviewing their broader policy on cognitive disabilities and recognizing the supports their needs on the hill … This really speaks to the broader issue that a lot of people with disabilities face. That they have to plead their case and provide the reasons they need this support.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies said, “We try our best to work with the non-profit organizations to support all who would like to participate and we are now aware that some do not fit into the pre-set up programs.”
The company is now working on a case-by-case basis and asks anyone who needs accommodations to contact the staff. But Janice said there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
“People with disabilities have to focus on what’s wrong with them to get the things that (able-bodied people) get naturally … A lot of gains have been made a lot of awareness has been grown but we still have so far to go,” she said.
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