Posted by: debstake | August 28, 2008

Carlisle PA YMCA – Are they guilty of Discrimination? What are Your thoughts?

Hello all,

Last Tuesday the 20th of August, I along with my son and his BT (behavioral technician or TSS) went to the Carlisle YMCA for some recreational swimming. Well it seems there are issues with JR going into the ladies changing room with me since he is aging. Of which I completely understand. What I don’t understand is how anyone can consider a bathroom a “family changing room.” Below is my letter to the director of the Carlisle Y terminating our membership. I wanted to make this issue public to the local autism community in case you contribute money via United Way or have a membership with the Y in the event that this offends you as much as it does me.



To: Marcia Drozdowski

Executive Director YMCA

Carlisle PA 17013


Ms. Drozdowski,

            My family and I are terminating our membership with the Carlisle YMCA. I believe you have a right to know why. Initially it was lack of use and cost. However, after the events of 20AUG08 there is another reason to add to this list, discrimination.

            On the 20th my son, his TSS and myself came to swim (around noon) during the recreational swim time. As it turns out while we were getting ready to leave a gentleman (slim build, 5’8″ reddish short hair) informed me that I can  no longer take my son into the ladies changing room, due to the uncomfortable nature of the situation. Of which I do understand, however the “family changing room” that the YMCA has is a bathroom pure and simple and no amount of superficial surface modification to a bathroom is going to turn it magically into a family changing room. Furthermore, it is insulting to think that modifying a bathroom would somehow make it ok. It doesn’t.

            Now, I will admit I should have sent my son in the men’s changing room with his male TSS, however typically when we do come to the Y it is usually my son and I and frankly I didn’t even think to ask his TSS if he would take him into the men’s changing room. My son cannot go into a boys changing room alone as he has autism and he is non-verbal. Being non-verbal makes him an easy mark for any pervert who may have a membership to the Y.

            In my opinion what the YMCA, under your direction is practicing is nothing short of discrimination. According to one definition of discrimination is: “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.” Your condoning; even encouraging, of the policy of the YMCA falls under the “category” (a disability; i.e. autism) of discrimination.

            Enclosed with this letter is the form required by the YMCA to terminate our membership. In addition I am enclosing an article that was in Saturday, August 23rd‘s Sentinel is a piece on autism and discrimination.

            As a parent of a child who has autism, I have been dealing with this sort of thing since he was first diagnosed at the age of 3. Frankly, I am tired of it and refuse to abide by societies narrow-minded attitudes when it comes to the autistic community. Our children are unique and intelligent (and no, most are not mentally impaired) individuals, however they have issues that make it difficult for them to process sensations the way you and I do. Everything comes into their brains at one time and they have difficulties separating sight from sound, from touch, from smell.

            I will be informing, via my on-line group, the on-line group of the Harrisburg chapter of the Autism Society of America and my blog that families in the area who have a child with autism may want to reconsider their financial contributions and their memberships to the Y as well.


So is this discrimination or am I being overly sensitive to the situation? If you care to express your opinion to the Carlisle YMCA please go here. Also the excutive director’s e-mail address is included in the tags below.



  1. How very sad that community based program as well known as the YMCA could be so narrow-minded. I signed up my 3 boys for the first time in their summer camp beginning this week. Since I initially signed them up, my 6 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. They initially told me that it would be no problem, I would just have to come in prior to discuss with them. Last week, I was told by them that they would be unable to accommodate my son, but that “my other two” can come. Flat out, he’s not allowed to attend. Even after informing them that the JDRF would send a Diabetic Educator out to train their entire staff, free of charge and it would take 1 1/2 hours total. The Y said no, he’s not welcome.

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  3. Dear Deb; I agree with you. We were members of the Carlisle YMCA for several years. We had a small son & daughter. Our friends also had small children & we would frequently goswimming together. Since my husband was unable to attend, due to work, we took our sons to the girls changing rooms.My husband & son had witnessed on 2 occasions fights in the boys showers. I had not intention of letting my small son go in there alone. I asked Marcia several tiems for a family changing room or to make one of the changing rooms a family room. I was told that the senior citizens provide most of the membership money, after other funding. The senior citizens wanted their own dressing rooms, hence the age difference of 18 to go into the women’s dressing room. The Y management was not going to upset these important members because of the needs of children. Our memberships are not all equal, the Y is a business & looks where the money comes in. Perhaps if more families joined & demanded a family changing room for their money the Y would reconsider. We also left the Y.

  4. I am not surprised in the least R. This isn’t the only “christian” organization that is guilty of discrimination. It’s very evident that religion truly is man made and why God never raised the issue in the bible. He understood then that anything man attempts to improve on he will never get close to what God can and does do.

  5. As a grandmother rasiing my 1 year old granson . we have parent child swim lessons togther so we use the family changing area weekly ( this says plainly on door for under 16 ) I know so many people have no problem but i find myself quite uncomfortable with the little boys running around when women are channging . I understand times change but i don’t belive it is right for a 4-5 yr old to see his mom or grandma in the raw . not to mention strange women naked. but i also know that if i want to attend public places i have to adapt or choose not to come.

    I also understand having a child ,friends and family with special needs children. and as a home care worker for 30 yrs. their are special things that need to be done. such as having a male companion . If this is what needs to be done for the benifit of your child then do it. after all it should be about him not you. If he needed a wheelchair or lift you would have that. After all he has a male tss for this reason..

    If you do have a problem there are better ways to handle it then to make a big drama out of it. Never once did i hear you try to sit down and talk to someone about a possible sullotion. You said you were menber for some time. so im sure you were aware of the rights and responsibltys to all.

    Make this about your son not you…Be part of the sullotion not the problem..make it better in the futcher for your son and all others with any special needs..

  6. Being a home health provider for 30 years you should know how rare it is to find males in the industry. The TSS field is no different. As to the discomfort of the other ladies, well there weren’t any present. A fact you obviously missed when reading my entry. The point of the matter is the fact that the “Y” had no family changing room to begin with. Another fact, that you also missed is that this sort of discrimination is how this so called christian organization does their daily business. It’s called SOP. And it’s discriminatory. And I hope someone sues the pants off this organization on the national level!!!

    And oh by the way, not accepting this is how I am making it better for my son and anyone else who has a disability. And yes we were members of the Y for some time. This was never an issue before this occurrence.

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