Girl born without hands denied theme park rides

Posted Thursday, February 2, 2012 10:56 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Katie Champagne was humiliated last week when ride attendants at SeaWorld Orlando made her get off Kraken, one of the park's most popular roller coasters, because she was born without hands. In December, Universal employees stopped the Michigan teen from going on the Harry Potter ride. Experts say physical requirements are reasonable given exposure to lawsuits.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 11:02 AM

It's certainly an emotional issue for the teenager, and I empathize. Not mentioned in the article, however, was the guy who died riding a roller coaster at Darien Lake because he didn't meet the physical requirements of the ride. Certainly ride operators shouldn't be making judgment calls.

Regardless, it sucks because it's not like she's too fat to ride or something that's more in a person's control. She was born without hands. It's no one's fault, but there are only so many accommodations a ride manufacturer can make before it compromises safety for a wider range of people. Feelings will be hurt no matter what.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:01 PM

Your spot on with your thought Jeff. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I suppose this gives credence to the Cedar Fair tradition of holding on for the commercial photo shoots.

Last edited by SVLFever, Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:01 PM
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Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:02 PM

Her arms are long enough, and she is able to bend them... I see no reason to let her on. Its not like the guy with no legs, which the bars couldn't hold him in. Her riding will be just similar to someone raising their arms during the ride. I know parks need to be safe, but it sucks that she got the boot.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:06 PM

Part of the issue isn't so much if she could ride, but could she be evacuated if the ride experiences an E-stop. Not having hands to hold onto a handrail could pose an issue.

It sucks, but that's the nature of things today.

~Rob

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:07 PM

HeyIsntThatRob? said:
Part of the issue isn't so much if she could ride, but could she be evacuated if the ride experiences an E-stop. Not having hands to hold onto a handrail could pose an issue.

It sucks, but that's the nature of things today.

~Rob

+1 for thinking outside the box. i see how that can be an issue.

Last edited by sealedseven, Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:08 PM
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Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:35 PM

Also, it's really not fair to force a minimum wage operator have to make that call on the platform. Better to just say "full appendage = go. not full appendage = no go" than to allow any kind of interpretation.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 1:32 PM

Obviously it's a sad story, but it would be sadder if we were reading about her getting killed or injured as a result of riding without hands.

In the end, like the Darien Lake story, it comes down to people needing to know their own limitations but at the same time the ride manufacturers and parks must also set limitations. The parks in this story were being responsible, even if it came off insensitive.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 3:15 PM

HeyIsntThatRob? said:
Part of the issue isn't so much if she could ride, but could she be evacuated if the ride experiences an E-stop. Not having hands to hold onto a handrail could pose an issue.

It sucks, but that's the nature of things today.

~Rob

I was actually about to say the same thing. This is usually the reason behind many rider restrictions as much, or sometimes more so depending on the ride, than simply being restrained properly.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 3:27 PM

What I thought interesting is that the article made no specific mention of Katie filing a lawsuit. However, since her lawyer was quoted, I'm reasonably certain that won't be the case for long.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 3:55 PM

ApolloAndy said:
Also, it's really not fair to force a minimum wage operator have to make that call on the platform.

*Standing ovation*

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:10 PM

She has lived her whole life without hands. I suspect going up or down stairs on an emergency exit wouldn't be an issue. She probably would have an easier time in that situation than many people who have both hands.

But we need to draw lines in various circumstances. As noted, you can't have a case by case policy that is administered by untrained ride ops. They do not understand all of the issues in play. And its not their job to do that. Management people at parks wouldn't likely understand all of the issues either. Would also be inefficient (not to mention dangerous) to have determinations being made on a case by case basis in the loading station. So lines are drawn.

Challenges are also part of the process. Unsuccessful ones support the line that is drawn and will help limit further changes in similar circumstances. Successful ones will help customers in similar circumstances if the company has drawn a too cautious line.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:20 PM

She has lived her whole life without hands. I suspect going up or down stairs on an emergency exit wouldn't be an issue

The issue isn't about 'going up or down stairs'. The issue is with evacuation. And stairs on the side of a coaster's lift hill aren't like going up a set of stairs at home.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:22 PM

GoBucks89 said:
She has lived her whole life without hands. I suspect going up or down stairs on an emergency exit wouldn't be an issue. She probably would have an easier time in that situation than many people who have both hands.

Evacuating a roller coaster, particularly a floorless one, is very rarely as simple as walking down a set of stairs any more...

EDIT: Tek got his response in while I was debating adding more.

Last edited by maXairMike, Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:23 PM
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Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:40 PM

I would think one seat on one train with a 5-point belt harness would/could take care of these very rare situations.

And doesn't that ride have an elevator lift for evacuations?

Last edited by Aamilj, Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:42 PM
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Thursday, February 2, 2012 4:55 PM

So you think everyone with both hands that rides a floorless coaster would be able to evacuate on their own with no assistance?

Line drawing works both ways. Assumption is that everyone with both hands can evacuate on their own/hold onto ride restraints/etc. Doesn't mean everyone can. Doesn't mean everyone on the other side of the line can't. Its the nature of drawing lines.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 5:07 PM

We're not saying that at all. Heck, I wouldn't trust myself (or another operator) to evac from many modern rides in some of the blocks. You said yourself that this can't be decided on a case by case basis.

Last edited by maXairMike, Thursday, February 2, 2012 5:07 PM
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Thursday, February 2, 2012 5:31 PM

And I wasn't saying that exiting a coaster is as easy as walking down a set of stairs at home. From that article, the girl appears to be an active person (even with her handicap). My guess is that she would have an easier time evacuating the coaster/ride than some people who have both hands who can ride. To the extent the evacuations are the issue, she may have a point in her particular case. But I understand (as I have already stated) that you can't decide it on a case by case basis. Again, its the nature of drawing lines.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 7:10 PM

She would have been not allowed on the Simpson's either. When I was a sideshow there, the rule was that the rider had to be able to hold on with at least one working hand.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 8:27 PM

People in wheelchairs who are unable to walk down stairs at all are allowed on roller coasters (and since we are talking about Kraken, yes, Kraken) as well. They cannot be evacuated in a "normal fashion" either. First Aid will assist in evacuations of disabled guests. Why couldn't they do the same here? (I understand it may be for other reasons... body support, etc.) -- but since someone mentioned evacuations, I just wanted to throw that in there.

// no opinion on the subject, just pointing that out

Last edited by mfivsdarienlake, Thursday, February 2, 2012 8:29 PM
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