When I was a kid, Santa Claus was above the law. Actually, I shouldn’t say that because there was no law for him to be above when it came to wheelchair access. All the department store Santas I remember encountering were perched on thrones like kings.
But I wouldn’t describe my childhood as Santa-deprived, because I was pushy. Because I was small enough to believe in Santa, I was also small enough to be lifted out of my wheelchair by an elf or whomever and carried up to where King Santa held court. Nevertheless, it sends a helluva sobering message to a disabled kid when even Santa Claus makes you jump through hoops to talk to him.
That was long before there was an Americans With Disabilities Act. I bet Santa can’t get away with that kind of stuff anymore. I don’t think there is a (Santa) Clause in the ADA exempting him from its mandates. I don’t believe he’s grandfathered out (though his lawyers may insist he is if push came to shove.) So if there aren’t code-compliant ramps leading up to Santa’s throne, he’s opening himself up to an embarrassing discrimination lawsuit.
I don’t think there is a (Santa) Clause in the ADA exempting him from its mandates.
I haven’t found any actual instances of a Santa Claus being sued under Title III of the ADA, which requires access to public accommodations. If the ADA had been around when I was kid, my mother would probably have been just the one to do it. After all, the whole sitting on Santa’s lap routine is an important part of childhood and depriving my mom’s kid of that rite would have stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Then again, maybe she wouldn’t have sued. She might have concluded that dragging me through the mud of suing Santa Claus would be a hard way for me to learn he doesn’t exist.
But these days, a lot of stores and shopping complexes have what they call sensory-friendly Santa sessions for kids on the autism spectrum. Families make appointments for kids to see Santa so the kids don’t have to restlessly wait in line. These sessions are held during off-hours when fewer shoppers are bustling around and the lights and sound can be more easily adjusted to cut down on stimuli. A sensory-friendly Santa is even making an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
There are also Santa Clauses and/or elves who are fluent in American Sign Language. I must admit I haven’t thought about Santa Claus access from this angle before. It must be rough when parents try to explain to their deaf kids why Santa Claus can’t talk to them. It’s probably easier to just convert the whole family to Judaism.
I don’t know how much the possibility of ADA litigation has had to do with all this growing Santa access, but whatever. At least some disabled kids in the present and future won’t have to deal with being shunned by Santa. It’s one less thing they’ll have to get pushy about.