I'm sorry to hear about this situation.
From what you've told me, you have a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA requires that child care providers not discriminate against persons with disabilities on the basis of disability, that is, that they provide children and parents with disabilities with an equal opportunity to participate in the child care center's programs and services. Specifically:
Centers cannot exclude children with disabilities from their programs unless their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program.
Centers have to make reasonable modifications to their policies and practices to integrate children, parents, and guardians with disabilities into their programs unless doing so would constitute a fundamental alteration.
Centers must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services needed for effective communication with children or adults with disabilities, when doing so would not constitute an undue burden.
Centers must generally make their facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. Existing facilities are subject to the readily achievable standard for barrier removal, while newly constructed facilities and any altered portions of existing facilities must be fully accessible.
Child care centers cannot just assume that a child's disabilities are too severe for the child to be integrated successfully into the center's child care program. The center must make an individualized assessment about whether it can meet the particular needs of the child without fundamentally altering its program. In making this assessment, the caregiver must not react to unfounded preconceptions or stereotypes about what children with disabilities can or cannot do, or how much assistance they may require. Instead, the caregiver should talk to the parents or guardians and any other professionals (such as educators or health care professionals) who work with the child in other contexts. Providers are often surprised at how simple it is to include children with disabilities in their mainstream programs.
Child care centers that are accepting new children are not required to accept children who would pose a direct threat or whose presence or necessary care would fundamentally alter the nature of the child care program. Title
III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by places of public accommodation. A person may file a Title III complaint with the Department of Justice
or file a lawsuit in federal court
. The complainant does not have to file a complaint before suing in court. In circumstances in which the court believes it would be just, an attorney may be appointed for the complainant. The Department of Justice may also file suit on behalf of the complainants if the defendant has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or if the case raises an issue of general public importance.
The traditional remedy in a private Title III lawsuit is injunctive relief. Injunctive relief may include an order to make a facility accessible, to provide auxiliary aids or services, modify an existing policy or practice, or whatever else the court feels would be appropriate to enable to full use and enjoyment of a place of public accommodation for people with disabilities.
The court may also choose to award attorneys’ fees at its discretion. This discretion is limited and ordinarily a prevailing plaintiff should recover attorney fees unless special circumstances would make such an award unjust. The rationale is that if successful plaintiffs were forced to bear their own attorneys cost, few parties would be able to afford to advance the public interest using only court-ordered injunctions. Prevailing defendants may be entitled to attorneys fees if the lawsuit was frivolous, unreasonable, or brought in bad faith.
In Title III cases brought by the Department of Justice, the court may award injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and other relief that the court believes is appropriate, like attorneys’ fees and court cost. In cases that are to vindicate the public interest, the Department of Justice may also seek civil penalties of up to $50,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.
The lack of money damages in private lawsuits may seem like a disincentive to a potential plaintiff, but there may be analogous state discrimination laws that do provide damages. A plaintiff may also combine other remedies available under state law with the ADA.
For example, suppose a wheelchair user is physically injured from going down a steep ramp that does not meet ADA guidelines. In this scenario, a plaintiff may be able to receive compensatory damages under state personal injury
and negligence laws using the lack of ADA compliance as evidence against the defendant.
Like Title II, Title III is also silent with respect to statutes of limitations. Federal courts will use the most analogous statute of limitation under state law. Therefore, the statute of limitation may be different in every state and a potential litigant should check with an attorney to determine the applicable time limitation.
In conclusion, yes you have a case. However, the question is whether you would benefit from bringing it. It is unlikely that the state statutes provide for a very large penalty. However, to assess this properly, I need to know what state you are in. Please let me know.