Like most kids, 5-year-old Simon has boundless energy.
And like all kids, he’s unique.
His mom Julie Switala said her mission is to ensure what makes him special isn’t overshadowed by any challenges he may face.
“He does have autism. He has epilepsy. He has a feeding tube. He’s non-verbal. He has a very long list of medical diagnoses,” said Switala.
Switala said Simon’s favorite place is Galaxy Golf and Games in Hilliard.
“It’s Simon’s literal happy place. On his iPad we have a page of pictures and it says “I want to” and there are pictures. And 1 of the pictures is Galaxy Games and Golf and he will hit that when he wants to go,” she said.
Switala said Simon’s never worn socks in Galaxy’s play gym on countless visits before because his Autism heightens sensitivity to some clothing, like socks. She also said he’s a fall risk.
“There’s no reason my son can’t enjoy a play gym with his typically developing peers. He is safer in a barefoot. A bare CLEAN foot than he is in a shoe or a sock,” said Switala.
But on a visit Friday, Switala said one of two company owners told her Simon had to put on socks.
“And she insisted that it was a health code violation. It was her rule. And we would have to leave,” she said.
Switala said that violates the American With Disabilities Act
“The federal law supersedes even any kind of local establishment’s guideline,” she said.
That owner is Denise Meyer’s sister. Meyer is the other owner.
“I think emotions just got the best of everyone involved,” said Meyer.
Meyer’s an educator and said 1 of her own kids has special needs.
“It hurts my heart. My own child I’ve had to advocate for many, many, many, many years for and I don’t want any other parent to feel that their child is being excluded. Ever,” she said.
NBC 4 asked Meyer if Simon would be allowed back to the play gym in bare feet.
“I want a chance to talk about it,” said Meyer.
Meyer also said no laws, federal or otherwise were broken during the exchange between Switala and her sister.
“We are gonna be ADA compliant. And that’s first and foremost. Obviously. But we want to make sure he’s happy bringing him here whether we’re ADA compliant or not. And in this case we are,” said Switala.
“I think that today has been a very emotional day and I would really need to sit and think about what is best for Simon and other kids like Simon before I could say what’s next,” said Switala.
NBC4 spoke with several ADA lawyers. All said they couldn’t say with certainty whether any of this violates ADA and that there’s a lot of gray area. Meyer hopes to speak with Switala by phone soon and see if they can come up with a solution to get Simon back to the place he loves.