A 15-year-old girl with autism was kicked from her flight after failing to comply with the rules of the airline by not wearing a face mask.
Jennifer Tharpe and Tim Cleary were about to fly from Oregon to California after boarding a Southwest Airlines plane in Portland together with their family.
While the family was already on the plane, things started getting messy after the staff confronted the couple’s 15-year-old daughter Mya for not wearing a face mask.
As KNTV reported, Mya, who has autism and sensory sensitivity, has trouble wearing a face mask for more than a few minutes. “She was really upset, crying, she was so excited for the ride and for the trip,” the teen’s father told the outlet.
While the parents tried to explain their daughter’s disabilities to the staff, the latter refused to let Mya fly without a face mask due to company rules.
According to Southwest Airlines, children below the age of two years are exempt from wearing face masks. However, there is no rule that exempts passengers with disabilities from wearing face coverings.
“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings,” the company’s website reads.
“In other words, because of public health guidance recognizing the important role of face coverings in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, Southwest will temporarily refuse to transport any passenger who is unable to wear a mask even if the Customer has a verifiable medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.”
As it appears, this rule contradicts the CDC guidance which suggests that “wearing masks may be difficult for some people with sensory, cognitive, or behavioral issues” and that “if they are unable to wear a mask properly or cannot tolerate a mask, they should not wear one, and adaptations and alternatives should be considered.”
Following a talk with the staff, Mya and her mom were forced to leave the aircraft whereas Tim and the rest of the family went on to fly to San Jose.
As the upset mother told KNTV, her family was not trying to protest mask-wearing but merely to get Mya exempt from wearing one due to her disabilities.
“My daughter cannot wear the mask, and I think there should be, and I thought that there were exceptions for people who can’t comply with that,” Tharpe told the publication.
“We were looking forward to this, but everything went wrong. I just assumed it would be no different from when she’s gone into a grocery store or a doctor’s appointment.”
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