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Attorney discusses Tuesday's alleged incident at Artpark involving woman with a disability

Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-29 11:16:02-04

Penny Dietz's trip to Artpark on Tuesday is an experience she said she won't soon forget. “It was awful. It was so humiliating. It made us angry. It just...it shouldn't have happened,” she said.

Dietz uses a wheelchair and needs a backpack to carry things like medication and other medical needs. She said Artpark security said she'd have to put them into a clear plastic bag or she wouldn't be allowed in to the venue. “Because of being in a wheelchair, I can't get up and use the restroom like everyone else can. So, when I need to go to the bathroom, I need those supplies kept in my backpack where people can't see them.”

Patrick McNelis is a Buffalo based attorney who specializes in disability cases. He isn't affiliated with Dietz. But, we asked him to review her story. He believes her rights were violated. “Taking the backpack away or denying her entry or kicking her out because of the backpack issue seems to cross the line of what would be required in this situation,” he said.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, McNelis said Artpark should have been more accommodating since Dietz has a disability. “Places of public accommodation and government entities have an affirmative obligation to maybe take a step that you wouldn't have to take in other circumstances.”

That's why McNelis recommended Dietz file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. A D.O.J. investigation could lead to changes in Artpark policy. Dietz said that's exactly what she’d like to see happen in her case. “I've never been thrown out of any place at all. And for this to happen, it was ridiculous,” Dietz said. 

A spokeswoman for Artpark said it is awaiting a comment from the security company before it comments any further.