GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — Ability Advocates, a local center for adults with disabilities, filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division alleging the owner of a local bowling alley discriminated against some members of its organization.
I think the owner kind of said that they were freaks… That we were freaks.Jacob Duran, Ability Advocates member
KREX obtained the discrimination complaint filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division alleging the owner of the bowling alley, Tony Azzam told Ability Advocates staff, “You just need to control the freaks.”
“Our experience there was very discriminatory there because it [the comment] was aimed toward people with autism,” said Sydney Johnston the owner of Ability Advocates and the person who filed the discrimination complaint. Johnston told KREX the alleged derogatory comment was directed at two of Ability Advocate’s clients, one of whom was laughing. Johnston specified it was a Joker laugh because the client diagnosed on the autism spectrum is a movie buff. The discrimination complaint alleges the client was excited about bowling and was laughing when the owner, Azzam, asked Ability Advocates staff to control them.
Johnston told KREX she didn’t oblige the request because that laughter is their way of stemming, “Stemming is something people on the autism spectrum do for a variety of reasons it’s usually repetitive movements. It can have vocalizations or words associated with it… Stemming is a technique that allows them to help manage that overstimulation.”
The investigation of the incident by the Colorado Civil Rights Division is currently ongoing.
KREX reached out to Freeway Bowl owner Tony Azzam and his lawyer sent us the following statement via email:
“We are aware of an investigation and that Mr. Azzam provided his written position statement to an investigator with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The matter is still under investigation and not in litigation at this point.”
KREX will keep following this story.