A North Texas resort is apologizing to an Olympic champion.
Amy Van Dyken is a six-time Olympic gold medal swimmer who was paralyzed two years ago in an ATV accident.
She was in town this week for a motivational speaking engagement. She stayed at the Gaylord Texas Resort in Grapevine.
On Wednesday, she says, she was being escorted back to her room when hotel security referred to her as a “cripple.”
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In a post on Instagram, Van Dyken said the remark left her “shaking,” commenting, ”We need to make that as bad as other slurs.”
The resort has since apologized.
The incident is igniting the discussion about a difficult situation many say they deal with every day.
Charlotte Stewart has lived with rheumatoid arthritis almost her entire life.
“I’ve been out with friends or family where restaurant staff don’t address me just because I may be sitting in my scooter," Stewart said. "They’ll ask well, ‘What does she want for lunch,’ like just because I’m sitting in a scooter I can’t talk."
Stewart is the director of REACH, an independent living advocacy organization.
“We want to be respected and considered as a person first rather than the disability that we may have,” she said.
She says changing the public perception goes beyond what you see. It's what you hear, too.
“'Because she's sitting in a chair, she's not crippled. She's out there participating, She's in town for whatever reason just like anybody else traveling and why you would refer to her as crippled just because she sits in a wheelchair' is just ridiculous in my opinion,” Stewart said.
A spokesperson for the Gaylord Texan Resort issued a statement Thursday:
"We sincerely apologize for this incident, as it does not at all represent our company culture or our other employees here. We are handling the situation and have also spoken with Ms. Van Dyken personally to share our deepest apologies with her.”
To Stewart, apologizing is a good first step, but she says the biggest takeaway may be a teachable moment.
“It’s so important, again, to emphasize that we are people first, that these devices and aids that we use give us the ability to participate in life just like anybody else,” she said.