Paralympian denied use of water slides at Gold Coast water park

Posted Friday, October 24, 2008 9:36 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Amputee Steve Simmonds, a former Barcelona paralympian and five-time world disabled water ski title holder, was told during a visit on Wednesday he could not go on any of WhiteWater World's rides and slides with his five-year-old daughter. Simmonds told The Courier-Mail newspaper he had been informed his carbon fibre prosthetic leg was classed as a metal object and such objects could not be taken on rides.

Read more from The Australian and ABC.

Friday, October 24, 2008 10:36 AM

Hey, if he's willing to pay to replace any slides he scratches up, I'm all for letting him ride.

Friday, October 24, 2008 10:49 AM

Would this have been as big of news if the guy wasn't an athlete and was just rididing alone with a bunch of buddies?

He was offered a refund and the park gave a great response on their position, so what's the issue here?

Last edited by The Mole, Friday, October 24, 2008 10:51 AM
Friday, October 24, 2008 11:08 AM

The tricky thing about amusement rides is that safety restraints can only work if they have a predictable form factor to adhere to, and even them sometimes they get it wrong (see Intamin giant flumes). While I'm not an engineer, I think accommodating amputees is the single hardest thing to do, depending on what they've lost. The standard lap bar arrangement, especially those that elevate the knees higher than the butt, are an example where someone missing a leg absolutely couldn't be secured safely.

I'm guessing that water slide designers expect two legs as a stabilizing force to keep the body from flailing around, so regardless of possible damage, that to me sounds like a potential safety issue.

There are some unfortunate realities in these cases that leave people with hurt feelings (guests) and awkward positions (parks).

Friday, October 24, 2008 4:35 PM

They were CARBON FIBER!!! legs.

Friday, October 24, 2008 5:34 PM

What is your point?

Saturday, October 25, 2008 11:28 AM

While conductive, carbon fiber would not scratch the surface of the slide like metal would. But loss of the leg during the ride could be a problem

Sunday, October 26, 2008 11:14 PM

I would imagine that even if it were Carbon Fiber there were still some steel fasteners on the thing.

Monday, October 27, 2008 5:24 AM

Okay, I seet your point about the "nuts & bolts) of the situation.

Monday, October 27, 2008 11:54 AM

The question I have...

If the person were to remove the offending leg, would he then be able to use the water slide? I guess the leg is probably necessary to get to the top of the tower, and then an assistant might be needed to bring the leg back down...

But it seems to me that the whole issue is that the prosthetic would cause equipment damage, and that is certainly a valid concern. Heck, if it were me, I would be worried that impacting the pool at the bottom of the slide, or some action in the slide, would damage the prosthetic.

It might be logistically complicated, but removing the prosthesis might make it possible to offer some kind of "reasonable accommodation".

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Monday, October 27, 2008 12:07 PM

The article addresses this IIRC. He was not allowed to send the prosthesis back down the stairs with someone else. (And, I agree---this should have been acceptable, provided that the slide manufacturer does not require riders have both legs.)

Last edited by Brian Noble, Monday, October 27, 2008 12:07 PM
Monday, October 27, 2008 12:43 PM

But does the design of the slide require that two legs are used to stabilize the body as it moves through the trough? I assume that things like this go into the design of the ride.

Monday, October 27, 2008 4:23 PM

I feel bad for the guy but the park has a duty to protect people from themselves and the right to protect their property. I thought about what Jeff said and I tried to imagine going down a slide without legs. I think he's right that your legs stabilize you. Without them, or if this man lost his while riding, he way start to twist and flip over which could cause a serious injury or may even cause his to drown. Rules are their for a reason, just like the height rules. I was at Kalahari and watched kids clearly under the required height riding a couple of the slides. When they came out the tube at the end, they barley made it to the splash area and one was even backwards. This concerned me greatly and I told management who corrected the situation, or so I was told. The rules they set are for peoples safety. Not sure why the park in this case just didn't say that rather than the scratching the slide line. It can appear mean or for no reason but the parks have a duty to protect everyone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 9:22 AM

I'm no engineer or doctor but I would guess that the legs (both of them) give you some leverage that keeps you from rolling laterally while heading down the tube.

Now, considering his abilities as a paralympian maybe this guy would have the upper body strength to take care of himself but is that something the amusement park or even the ride manufacturer can make the judgment on?


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