Disney turns away visitors on Segways

Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2004 8:03 AM | Contributed by Gemini

Disney's policy not to allow Segways in their parks has caused a stir. The policy has angered some Segway owners with disabilities and surprised others since the Disney parks have a reputation for accommodating the disabled.

Read more from AP via CNN.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004 8:19 AM
This is a no brainer. There are 50,000 visitors a day to a Disney park. Imagine if just 100 people were on a Segway. The midways would be chaos. It is bad enough with people pushing strollers that go 2 miles per hour. A Segway travels about 13 mph or about half the speed of Space Mountain (in case you didn't know that).

The ADA calls for "reasonble accommodations" for people with disabilities. Jeopardizing the safety of 48,900 guests is not a reasonable accommodation when there are alternatives such as a wheelchair.*** This post was edited by wahoo skipper 2/10/2004 10:21:59 AM ***

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 8:29 AM

Interesting Story. The question is, How many disabled people use a Segway? One would stil have to stand fully upright to use one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 8:57 AM
DawgByte II's avatar I didn't even know that many people owned a Segway, let alone having that ruffle some feathers at Disney...

But yes, along with that... what kind of disabilities do you have that prevent you from walking vs. standing upright on the Segway? Too many corns on your feet? Those machines weren't intended for the disabled... they were made for an easy transportation for city employees (ie: pedestrian cops, postal employees), as well as regular citizens for day-to-day transportation around city blocks (in the inventor's personal dream world).

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 9:27 AM
Jeff's avatar Doesn't it seem odd that an MS patient would be on a Segway, which requires leaning forward and backward to control it? I've only known one person with MS, but on a "bad day" I can assure you that wouldn't have been an option for her, she'd be using a wheel chair.

I have to agree that the issue is speed. Those things are too damn fast to have on a busy midway.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 9:52 AM
I agree Jeff. I know 2 people with MS and neither would be able to control one of these things.

I love this fact.. CNN.com , a professional journalistic site..

But he tired of sitting and the scooter cost him $200.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 10:10 AM
Why does this need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration? Shouldn't it be dealt with by the American's with Disibilities Association (excuse me if I have the wrong name)
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 10:25 AM
The ADA is the American's with Disabilities Act, which is the law that defines the regulations for access and accommodation. Actually, many would argue that the act does little to define what should and should not be done which has led to a multitude of lawsuits keeping lawyers in their BMW's for years to come.

The FDA is responsible for medical equipment which is what a wheelchair would be considered. Disney may have a PR problem with this issue but I believe they are clearly in the right.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 10:44 AM
There is more than meets the eye here:

Speed - The Segways come with three speed keys, one of them restricting the speed to about 4 mph - walking speed.

Leaning - Have you ever ridden one? It was billed as "you think forward, you go forward." Sure they lean a lot in the demos that they've done on TV...but they are demonstrating the product. I have ridden on one set to the lowest speed setting and you have to lean about an inch before it goes. It is so simple, so easy, and so elegant - it requires no effort at all.

Disney - It is clear that Disney has changed since FIRST left it. FIRST (For those of you who don't know) is a national robotics comeptition for high schools. It was created by Dean Kamen, the same guy who created the Segway. The Championships were held at EPCOT from 1996-2002. In 2002, after Dean unveiled the Segway, they were all over the place at Disney. Tournament officials had them, Cast Members had them...it was hard to go 10 feet in EPCOT without seeing a Segway. There was talk about letting customers rent a Segway for the day for like $100 or something. It seems that since the Disney-FIRST relationship is non-existant now, Disney doesn't seem to like the Segway too much anymore.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004 11:22 AM
Red Garter Rob--

Gonna have to call you out on this one because the sentence (barring starting with the word "but," which really isn't all that uncommon anyway nowadays) is grammatically sound. They're just using the past form of the infinitive to tire, much like a strenuous physical activity can "tire oneself out." In any other context, it would look like ghetto-speak, but here it's perfectly sound.

--Dave (who still thinks the grammar nitpicking has gone too far, despite his English major mentality and reluctance to let this one go)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 12:20 PM
To clarify, there are varying degrees of MS. My boss has the disease, but he is not confined to a wheelchair. However, he does tire easily. I could easily see something like a Segway being a great alternative for him while visiting a park like Disney.

I came thisclose to riding a Segway last year. They had a demo at the Daytona Speedway in July. I didn't want to stand in line to ride, but I did watch people try it for a while. I think they could be less of a menace than electric wheelchairs. At least on a Segway you're at standing height, rather than sitting height. And from what I've seen, I think my boss with MS would have been able to use it very easily.

But how do you keep the rowdy teenager with the Segway out of the park while letting people with valid needs use them?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 12:36 PM
The Mole's avatar You can have custom speeds for the Segs, so one that goes only 5 mph is possable. The thing is liablity issues with them. Since the Segway isn't oked by the FDA for medical use, Disney would have lots of issues with them. Also, since they arn't approved, how do you know their for a medical issue and not for a lazy person? (I know some fat lazy people use wheel chairs, but they don't go 5mph)
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 12:49 PM
Jeff's avatar Please... to suggest it's a conspiracy between Disney and Kamen is the stupidest thing I've heard today.

I still think Disney is right for the same reason they don't allow bicycles or skateboards.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 2:04 PM
The Mole's avatar Also, Disney and FIRST still have a very good relationship. Disney still has Segways in the parks, and also in displays. Also, Disney is with the Championships of FIRST when they were at Houston last year, and Atlanta this year.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 2:29 PM
xrae said, "But how do you keep the rowdy teenager with the Segway out of the park while letting people with valid needs use them?"Ding-ding-ding...we have a winner! ADA compliance is based on allowing FDA and medical use modes of transpotation. Until the FDA approves Segways as such, parks, businesses, etc. can ban them with no repurcussions other than PR headaches.

*edited for spelling*
*** This post was edited by redman822 2/10/2004 4:44:46 PM ***

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 4:14 PM
yes, but those of us with MS (like me) would love an alternative to a wheelchair or a scooter.

some of the residents where i work have scooters and let me tell you, those things are more of a menace than a Segway.

i have not yet had a wheelchair day at a park, but if a Segway option would allow me to PREVENT that from happening, i'd be all for it.

i can walk, but i limp horribly. some days are better than others. my balance is fine.

the thing about a wheelchair or scooter for someone as young as me is the looks of pity and stares and the "Whats WRONG with you?? youre YOUNG!! why cant you walk?"

a Segway might reduce those embarassing instances.

another thing about a Segway is that there would be no need for someone to help push that person in the wheelchair around all day.

*** This post was edited by 2/10/2004 4:19:19 PM ***

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 5:38 PM
I have MS but presently don't need a mobility aid. I don't know how long that will last. The time could come when I'd want a Segway or something else to get around. I oppose sidewalk use of Segways by the general public for safety reasons, but I think disabled people should be able to use Segways on the sidewalks. Yet this shouldn't be an unrestricted right. Disney is a theme park that caters to children and their parents. Not exclusively so, but it's the major clintele. As such, they have a huge obligation -- moral, ethical and legal -- to take all reasonable precautions to insure children's safety.

Pediatric organizations are on record with their doubts about Segway's safety in the presence of children. Dinsey must pay great attention to these complaints. If they allow Segways into the parks and a kid gets injured or killed by a disabled person on a Segway, Disney will be liable. And they damned well should be.


That said, I'd prefer that Disney find a way to allow Segways by the disabled. I think the following requirements would be appropriate:

1. A rider must have a handicapped placard. This would be to prove the existence of a handicap.

2. A rider must show proof of having passed a Segway training class

3. A rider must agree to use only the slowest-speed (4 mph) key at all times. Better yet, maybe Segway LLC and the theme parks could cooperate on a remote speed-limiting mechanism. Or maybe a rider could be required to rent one from Disney for a reasonable fee, and the Disney-provided machine would be incapable of going more than 4 mph.

4. Segways must be prominently numbered so they can be identified, and riders must be matched to specific machines.

5. Segway riders should wear a prominently identifiable article of clothing, i.e., a bright yellow or orange shirt. Something that alerts people around them to their presence.

Beyond that, I really object to some of the statements made by the rider who was banned from the park and her supporters. Specifically:

  • "I'm not prepared to let a corporate attorney dictate to me how I should be mobile," said Exum, who is technically quadriplegic from an injury as a teenager but functions as a paraplegic.
    This wasn't a corporate attorney's decision. Disney management was surely advised by their lawyers, but that decision is management's to make. It is fatuous to blame it on the lawyers -- especially when they were giving good advice. FDA approval of Segways for handicapped transport would be a defense against a claim of gross negligence on Disney's part.

    • "They want you to sit in a wheelchair and feel even more handicapped," Jenkins said. "Most people I know aren't ready to sit down. It's an insult."
      I couldn't possibly object more to this! I understand that Jenkins prefers to stand and sympathize with her. But she has utterly no business stigmatizing wheelchair riders. She was very, very wrong to have said that.

    • "Individuals should have the option to use whatever helps them get around," he said.
      This is not an absolute right. It must be balanced against competing interests and the availability of alternatives. The fact that someone has MS does not give them to right to throw a tantrum and demand to have it their way no matter what.

        I would ask two things of non-handicapped people who have read this far:

        1. Please realize that an MSer's desire to use a Segway is not a trivial matter.
        2. Understand that the opinion on the Disney issue within the MS community is not unanimously in favor of the person who wanted to use one. Some of us think she went too far with her demand.

        Thanks for reading this.

      • *** This post was edited by willysnout 2/10/2004 5:39:48 PM ***
        Tuesday, February 10, 2004 6:52 PM
        This being the funny thing, when I was at EPCOT just two weeks ago, management was riding around on Segways. There were about 7 or 8 of them going around. They had the long 'butt pickers' (anyone that has worked for rides or sweeps knows what this evil thing is, or course they gave me salad thongs). They were picking trash off the ground. Anyway, they were just riding around the Midways and having fun. I'm wondering if they were doing like a test for them. I thought they fit in with EPCOT, as it is supposed to be what the future is supposed to be like.


        Annual Passholder to: Universal and Disney; NEXT TRIP: FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Tuesday, February 10, 2004 7:06 PM
        definately to fast to be on the midway. i actually got to try out a segway last week. (they've got on at Brookstone in the local mall). I could see it causing some problems in a theme park.
        Wednesday, February 11, 2004 1:11 AM
        I take it that this means they'll stop the forever and ongoing demos of the Segway at Innoventions then, right?

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