Carowinds sued by disabled family for denying access to rides

Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 10:45 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A lawsuit was filed Wednesday alleging Carowinds amusement park discriminated against a family by refusing to allow them to ride a number of rides because of a person’s disability. A Clover man, his son and his daughter all have lower leg amputations because of a medical condition. The lawsuit claims the family members were denied access to rides "not because of legitimate safety requirements" but because of "speculation, stereotypes, and generalizations" about their ability to safely ride them.

Read more from The Charlotte Observer.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017 10:47 AM
Jeff's avatar

What bothers me about these lawsuits is that they always allege ill intent, that the park is trying to stick it to disabled people. I realize that we have a fairly toxic culture at the moment, but people aren't assholes to this extent. And how does one not in the industry assess what a "legitimate safety requirement" is? Most people are not experts in human factors.


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Thursday, December 7, 2017 11:44 AM

I think that the fact that many accidents have been caused because the disabled person did not fit the restraints would say otherwise. In my opinion, the park should get a latitude to deny or allow access to ride. This whole ADA thing is a nightmare for the wellbeing of guests and for the efficiency and capabilities of parks. Guests need to remember that they're guests, and enjoying rides is a privilege, and not a right.

Basically, when you design a restraint, you consider many factors that allow the guest to experience a safe and enjoyable ride. You are not only using the bar, and the OTSR, but you are also heavily using the person's own body, the seat, and he floor as useful tools to keep the person in. Pretty much, you can be as minimalist as you need to be with the restraints if you can rely on a normal sized person in a seated position if you can rely on the seat being there and the floor being there. From there, all that you need is a lapbar, and you can have inches of slack, and that person could not escape if they wanted to. And from there, you can assume that they're perfectly restrained and will be comfortable through most elements.

Once you start taking people's legs off, or allowing people that abnormally small, and abnormally large, that planning goes out the window, and you start risking people's lives and well being.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017 1:25 PM

I understand making "fair and reasonable" accommodations, but at what point does common sense kick in? Speaking as an able-bodied person, if I took a situation that I would say that I have "average knowledge" of, such as a construction site, I might think that I have enough common sense and understanding of what looks safe or unsafe, but in reality, I truly don't. There are things in a construction site (and you can use your own example of things that look safe to the average person) that are dangerous to the uneducated. Riding amusement park rides is no different. There are things that look safe and might make "common sense" to the average person, but doesn't necessarily mean that the average person knows what is really safe.

History has shown that amputees and guests of varying physical disabilities have been injured or killed when riding rides that were not designed for this. To try to design a ride restraint that would fit ALL people on the earth would be impossible and at some point someone needs to draw the line and just say "sorry, but no".

So, let me ask the attorneys out there, is there any sort of waiver that could be drafted for these type of people that would waive all claims against the park and ride manufacturers if they rode when the ride restraint wasn't designed for them?


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Thursday, December 7, 2017 4:46 PM

SVLFever said:

I understand making "fair and reasonable" accommodations, but at what point does common sense kick in? Speaking as an able-bodied person, if I took a situation that I would say that I have "average knowledge" of, such as a construction site, I might think that I have enough common sense and understanding of what looks safe or unsafe, but in reality, I truly don't. There are things in a construction site (and you can use your own example of things that look safe to the average person) that are dangerous to the uneducated. Riding amusement park rides is no different. There are things that look safe and might make "common sense" to the average person, but doesn't necessarily mean that the average person knows what is really safe.

History has shown that amputees and guests of varying physical disabilities have been injured or killed when riding rides that were not designed for this. To try to design a ride restraint that would fit ALL people on the earth would be impossible and at some point someone needs to draw the line and just say "sorry, but no".

So, let me ask the attorneys out there, is there any sort of waiver that could be drafted for these type of people that would waive all claims against the park and ride manufacturers if they rode when the ride restraint wasn't designed for them?

Absolutely not. Waivers mean very little when an accident or a death is involved. I always chuckle a little when I have to sign one or I see somebody sign one. I'll even playfully say to the low wage employee handing it to me, "Well, we'll see about that if it comes to it."

The problem with those documents is that there is no legal and reasonable expectation that a regular person is going to take the document seriously. Most people don't even read every line, and the courts know this. And, to enter into a fair contract, the assumption would have to be that there was no fault on the park's part. And, I would say, the person signing it would need a lawyer to look it over before they signed it if it were to actually have some teeth in court.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017 5:04 PM

The article states they had season passes so I would wonder when making the decision to purchase them were they led to believe that they would be getting a certain level of value out of them that was later denied? Obviously they can't do everything safely but were they led to believe they were able to before the park had their money? Or did they make the purchase and then look into what they could ride? The article doesn't really make this clear.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017 7:40 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

If that were the issue, they'd be asking for a refund, not a payout.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Thursday, December 7, 2017 7:41 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
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Thursday, December 7, 2017 10:02 PM

The article mentions that they were trying to get on Rip Roarin' Rapids among 12 rides total. Rip Roarin' Rapids is not a gentle ride. I would think one could potentially be tossed out of it if one was not properly secured. If they were trying to get on that, what else were they trying to get on? It says the new form they gave them dropped their rides from 30 to 10, so apparently they were definitely trying to get on high thrill rides.

It's unfortunate, but some things cannot be designed for everyone. They have to be designed for the majority of people. Thrill rides fall into that category. The ADA should grant access to the park in general, but not every ride can be designed to meet its purpose (thrills) and accommodate everyone.

One HUGE problem with Cedar Fair parks, and especially most of the former Paramount parks is the lack of gentle rides. Under Taft, KECO, and mostly under Paramount, Carowinds lost the railroad, cable skyway, jalopies, speedway, monorail and sternwheeler. The majority of rides that could have accommodated people with physical disabilities safely are gone..

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Friday, December 8, 2017 1:47 AM
LostKause's avatar

I totally understand why people without limbs can't get on some rides, but I still have to ask, when is technology going to catch up? I have one of those funny futuristic visions of a ride restraint that can adapt easily to any body type, with or without limbs, with or without disabilities.

Maybe expense is a factor.

I wish I could explain what I see in my mind.


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Friday, December 8, 2017 6:48 AM

Not sure if I'm visualizing the same thing, but I had thought about a body harness similar to a parachute that attached to anchors like a car seat to LATCH points. I suspect a lot of current coasters would require significant modifications to add enough strength in the right areas for it to work, but could be integrated into new designs.

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Friday, December 8, 2017 7:22 AM

Ken P said:

Not sure if I'm visualizing the same thing, but I had thought about a body harness similar to a parachute that attached to anchors like a car seat to LATCH points. I suspect a lot of current coasters would require significant modifications to add enough strength in the right areas for it to work, but could be integrated into new designs.

This raises a couple of concerns :

1.Would this type of restraint be required on all rides.

Sounds funny,but look at the rides that now have seat belts.

2.On roller coasters and similar rides, would this type of restraint be available on every seat ?

If not,are you providing "equal access" ?

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Friday, December 8, 2017 9:36 AM
D_vo's avatar

It's not a terrible idea really, but as was pointed out, every feature that you add on costs money, and at the end of the day, coasters are designed for 98% (this is an estimation, not a fact) of the population. It's unfortunate, but we have to be able to accept it. I'm 6'6", and I've encountered numerous rides that I'm too tall to ride based on maximum height restrictions. I recently learned that I'll never be able to ride Superman at SFNE because of this exact reason. I'm not happy about it, but I'm sure there's a reason for it, so I'm accepting that I'll likely never experience that ride.

The one thing I could say is that maybe coasters could start having 1 row be an "ADA" row, similar to the "big boy" seats on B&M's nowadays, where the seats in that row are compatible with a special harness of some sort to better secure an amputee. However, even with that, where do you draw the line? Securing someone with only one leg is a lot different than securing a person with no limbs at all. It gets to be very difficult, and unfortunately I don't know if there's a good solution.


I call Cedar Point my home park even though I live in the Chicago Suburbs.

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Friday, December 8, 2017 12:51 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Not only is it about money, but the more complicated something is, the more parts that can fail or malfunction, the longer it’ll take to get people strapped in, making lines longer, and it just goes on from there. Technology is nice. Until you’re living in a Black Mirror episode.


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Friday, December 8, 2017 2:18 PM

All of those thoughts about implementation were going thru my head as I posted it, but I didn't want to turn it into a 2 page post.

i would only see something like this being for amputees on rides where the lack of that specific limb would impair the regular restraint system.

If a park is willing to ruin capacity for VR, having someone with a limb amputation step aside to make sure their harness is secure before boarding a ride wouldn't be that much of a stretch. I was thinking the guest would have the harness on, then board the train and have the "LATCH" equivalents attached.

I could see concerns about who is properly trained to make sure the harness is being properly worn before the individual boards, but once on the train, it should be designed along the lines of just extra seatbelts to check.

A key factor would be for the park to have a consistent harness design that would connect to the attachment points on all the rides it might be needed on, so the person in need of the harness could receive it and be fitted at a guest services location, with some kind of deposit required, and then the guest could keep that harness with them or leave it on while they enjoy a day at the park.

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Friday, December 8, 2017 2:44 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

So you want a bunch of competing companies to spend money to come up with a restraint system that benefits likely less than 1% of their clientele for every ride in every park? It’s not going to happen. It’s not preactical. And depending on the implementation, it’s also likely that many if not most rides couldn’t be retrofitted for something like that without reengineering the ride.

I gotta be Spock on this. The needs of the many and all that.

And that’s assuming something could be designed to safely restrain every instance. Which is highly unlikely. And costly. For a luxury item.


cebeavers.tumblr.com

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Friday, December 8, 2017 2:48 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

D_vo said:

The one thing I could say is that maybe coasters could start having 1 row be an "ADA" row, similar to the "big boy" seats on B&M's...

Yeah but all they had to do on a B&M big boy seat was add an additional latch and move the placement, and those latches are redundant restraints anywho. I get what you’re saying but it’s really kind of very different to a suggested all ADA row. Which could still tack on a bunch of wait times.

Side note, I never thought I’d see enthusiasts arguing for a more restrictive restraint on a coaster website...

Last edited by Tekwardo, Friday, December 8, 2017 2:48 PM

cebeavers.tumblr.com

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Friday, December 8, 2017 7:32 PM

Someone told me once that the B&M big boy seats also only have to hit the first ratchet detent, along with the double/relocated belts.


But then again, what do I know?

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Friday, December 8, 2017 11:54 PM

Some B&M coasters have a special harness that allows people missing a limb to ride. It has a multi point harness that attaches to something on the back of the train. I rode Nitro 3 or 4 years ago when an employee was testing it.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has it available for their B&M coasters as well:

https://buschgardensva.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/making-coasters-accessible/

Here is an article and a video with how it works at Mako:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/os-amputees-handi...story.html

Last edited by YoshiFan, Friday, December 8, 2017 11:56 PM
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Saturday, December 9, 2017 12:13 PM

Thanks YoshiFan. That is exactly the kind of thing I was envisioning. Looks like it isn't that much extra effort to secure to the train.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017 1:58 PM

They have it at Cedar Point on GateKeeper and Valravn. The restraint takes around 5 minutes to secure, so it kind of kills people trapped in the vest restraints.

Last edited by Go Intamin, Saturday, December 9, 2017 1:58 PM

Hey, let's ride (random Intamin coaster). What? It's broken down? I totally didn't expect that.

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