Woman born without arms suing Universal Orlando for being barred from rides

Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2016 9:58 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Jessica Cox was born without arms, but is a pilot, surfer and scuba driver with a black belt in taekwondo. Last November, she and her husband took a trip to University Studios in Orlando, Florida when she said she was not allowed on any rides because of her disability. She is suing the resort.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 10:55 AM
Jeff's avatar

This story happens a lot. I would imagine that the evac concerns are an issue on a lot of rides, but which ones? I mean, could she ride Spiderman, for example?

I try to imagine this from the person's point of view, who is not an expert in human factors as they relate to theme park ride restraints. I think that showing up on any given day and expecting to ride is problematic, but what if the park had some kind of expert on staff who could explore the safety of a rider before they arrived? Is that realistic? We're talking about someone who would have the impossible task of evaluating a potentially life or death scenario while shielding or exposing the park to insane liability. This doesn't seem like a winnable situation for anyone.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 1:53 PM
Vater's avatar

While it's remarkable what she's been able to accomplish with no arms, not everyone has those abilities, and even she could be prone to injury or death on certain rides. Sometimes, not allowing certain segments of people to do certain things is not discrimination.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 4:38 PM
Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

Here is the current version Universal Orlando's rider's guide. On page 3 it states:

The guest must have at least one upper extremity or prosthesis exhibiting good grip control with the ability to brace and strong enough to allow the guest to maintain the proper riding position through the duration of the ride, where specified.

It then goes on to quote something very similar for every single ride individually. I'm not familiar enough with all of the rides at Universal to know whether that is overboard or not. At other parks it would seem that this is a requirement for some rides, but not all.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 4:58 PM

The article I read the other day said she was allowed to ride nothing. I don't know what Universal has but I would think there would be something that is safe, I mean at least a scrambler or antique cars or other milder things of that nature. Really the evacuation in an emergency and getting in and out would be the big thing since once people are in most rides half of them are putting their arms up anyway. Over the shoulder restraints obviously would be less effective so that would be a problem but there has to be something she could ride.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 5:07 PM

Pagoda Gift Shop said:

Here is the current version Universal Orlando's rider's guide. On page 3 it states:

The guest must have at least one upper extremity or prosthesis exhibiting good grip control with the ability to brace and strong enough to allow the guest to maintain the proper riding position through the duration of the ride, where specified.

It then goes on to quote something very similar for every single ride individually. I'm not familiar enough with all of the rides at Universal to know whether that is overboard or not. At other parks it would seem that this is a requirement for some rides, but not all.

Cedar Point requires 3 extremities for Woodstock's Whirlybirds (the mini teacup ride in Planet Snoopy), and in fact there are exceptions for a few rides where a rider can have two arms in lieu of one arm and one leg, but only one even mildly thrilling ride allows for two legs and no arms, Scrambler. Requiring at least one arm (natural or not) seems to be a minimum requirement across most all rides.

ETA: She could have ridden Hogwarts Express, used the stationary seats for Despicable Me, and I think one other attraction with motion that I can't recall.

Last edited by maXairMike, Tuesday, September 6, 2016 5:09 PM

Original BlueStreak64

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 5:27 PM

I say if she can fasten her own restraints she should be allowed to ride!

Last edited by gamerguy, Tuesday, September 6, 2016 5:28 PM

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 6:01 PM
rollergator's avatar

But then who is held accountable when it turns out that this "exceptionally capable young woman" proves unable to hang on to a given attraction...? I have no doubt that there are people missing limbs who can do virtually anything I can do...but it's not the park's responsibility to allow them access to everything they MAY be able to do. Quite the contrary, it IS he park's responsibility to prevent them from getting on any attraction that MIGHT do them harm...

Basically, from the POV of the park, it's a Catch-22 situation, but the costs of one type of error VASTLY outweigh the costs of the other type of error. So, that means they'll (rightly) err on the side of caution.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 7:08 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

I really just don't understand how anyone outside of the ride engineers themselves has any insight into who can or cannot safely ride. I mean, do short people sue the park when they can't ride? No, because they understand it's a safety concern. How is this any different?


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 7:28 PM

It strikes me that a lack of arms would mean that you would not be able to remain upright inside an OTSR, and would therefore risk head/neck injury were your upper body to flop around.

I'd have thought it wouldn't be that hard to design a special temporary harness for someone in this position though.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 8:16 PM
Jeff's avatar

I imagine that it depends on the OTSR. An Arrow OTSR literally restrains by the shoulders, while the modern Intamin variation with the soft upper part appears to be a lap bar disguised as an OTSR. And therein lies the problem that Andy described. No one is really qualified to answer the questions other than the engineers.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 8:52 PM

Does anyone know what the rules are with B&M's four point harness system? I have seen the red latch points on every B&M I have ridden this year, but I have yet to see information on minimum rider requirements with harness.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016 9:17 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

I am very impressed with what she has achieved. Piloting, surfing, and scuba diving are certainly beyond my abilities.

But .... parks don't make these rules up out of thin air. Guests may disagree with the park's reasons, but it's private property. Their playground, their rules.

And, well, it took me all of 15 seconds to pull up Universal Orlando's accessibility guide which, among other things, says "To ride, you must be able to: Continuously grasp with at least one upper extremity." I can't help but wonder why she didn't check that guide and reach out to the resort before their visit.

As someone who has successfully advocated many companies to change their policies, to me, working with the company to refine the ridership policies seems a better path than suing the company.


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