In May, Matt Brown and Hannah Reese’s son Colton was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that prevents many of his muscles from moving. The young family had not gone out to dinner since the diagnosis, but they recently took a vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
On Aug. 4, the family decided to pack up Colton’s specially equipped stroller and pay a visit to Nicola Pizza, but an employee allegedly denied them seating due to a no-stroller policy.
Brown admitted to Delaware Online that his son’s stroller, which allows him to lay flat and contains the medical equipment that allows him to breathe, is bulky. “It looks like a moving hospital bed, basically,” Brown said.
Still, Brown and Reese believe the denial of service was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law which prohibits businesses from discriminating against people on the basis of disability.
Colton’s great-grandmother, Susan Hamadock, wrote about the issue on Nicola Pizza’s Facebook page. She also believes the restaurant violated the ADA, calling the denial of service “cruel and unjustified.”
Brown later called the restaurant to complain about the treatment of his family. He claims Nick Caggiano Jr., vice president of the restaurant company, apologized but laughed when Brown mentioned the ADA.
“(Caggiano) said he was part right and part wrong,” Brown said. “I was so worked up I didn’t want to argue with him ... He laughed about the ADA, as if he thought I wasn’t educated or something.”
Caggiano said neither he nor the manager were aware of the situation, adding he regrets that the family was turned away. “I’m putting all this on me, but we had the 17-year-old (hostess) make the decision. Nobody asked for the manager,” Caggiano said. “I would have understood. I would have definitely let that person in here.”
Caggiano said his restaurant is disability-friendly and that he personally cuts up pizza for a disabled patron who comes in regularly.
“What’s hurting me the worst is the perception we’re getting that we’re not friendly to handicapped people and we discriminate against the handicapped. That is so far-fetched it’s not even worth talking about,” Caggiano said. “I know what it’s like to have someone close to you who can’t walk. I’ve dealt with it my whole life.”
Despite Caggiano's claims, Hamadock was disappointed in how the restaurant treated Colton. “Rehoboth is supposed to be a town where all are welcome; But, obviously not this young family struggling with a life threatening condition of their 6 month old,” she wrote.