Parents fume after autistic son kicked out of Costco for not wearing a mask

The parents of a disabled man have spoken out after a store manager asked them to remove their son from the shop, saying they were made to feel “like we’ve got leprosy”.

Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 7:00 am

On Thursday afternoon, Derek Christie, 48, and Donna Christie, 53, travelled to bargain retailer Costco in East Lothian to pick up a new television for their son Blair, 21.

The trip was considered an essential journey under government guidelines and due to Blair’s complex behavioural issues, they say it was not an option to make this trip without him.

Upon arrival, Mr and Mrs Christie both donned masks but Blair, who becomes deeply distressed when forced to wear a mask and is exempt from wearing one, did not.

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Blair Christie, 21, with mum Donna Christie, 53.

“He’s ripped masks off in the past and also struck Donna and pulled her mask from her face as he can’t process the information without seeing her face.” said Mr Christie.

While shopping, the family of three were stopped by a member of staff and asked where Blair’s mask was.

The father explained that his son, who is non-verbal, autistic and has profound learning disabilities was not required to wear one.

A manager was called over and told the couple that Costco operates a strict no mask no entry policy and Blair was asked to leave.

Mr Christie challenged the decision as he believed it was discriminatory to refuse his son entry to the shop due to his disability.

He said: “To me it’s the same as saying to a wheelchair user ‘you can’t come in here with that, can’t you just walk in?’”

The manager insisted that as Costco is a private company they were well within their right to do this but after more discussion agreed to let Blair enter the shop.

When paying for the new television Mr Christie was asked by another member of staff where his son's mask was.

He explained again that his son was disabled and had been told by a manager that he could come into the store without one.

“I explained that we’ve already gone through this with a manager but she calls for a supervisor.” said the father.

“By now we are feeling like we’ve got leprosy and aren’t welcome in the store. The look she gave us both was nothing short of disgust. I’ve never felt so unwelcome in any setting ever in my life.”

Following a further discussion, the family was finally able to make their purchases, but the situation has left them upset and angry.

Mr Christie said: “The way we were treated was inhumane. It’s the 21st century and we are supposed to live in a civil society yet here is Costco openly treating people with disabilities with contempt.

“The law is clear. If you are exempt you don’t have to wear a mask and you don’t have to explain why either.

“I understand that sadly some use this to get away with not wearing a mask when there is no reason not to.

“However this does not give retailers the right to assume everyone is a chancer and refuse entry.

“I’ll not be back and I’ll be writing to them to ask for a refund of my membership. Blair is not a 2nd class citizen.”

Costco was approached for comment but have yet to respond.

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