Update: Segway lawsuit against Disney

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2008

We missed this story in February, but a federal judge in Orlando threw out the suit (Nov. 13) claiming that Disney World discriminates against the disabled by not permitting Segway transportation devices. The judge didn’t reach the actual merits, but ruled that the plaintiffs hadn’t adequately established that they actually intended to visit the park. (UPI, Feb. 21).

Update to the update (5:30 p.m.): Matthew Heller of On Point News writes to say, “The Segway suit is actually alive and kicking. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint and in May the judge denied a motion to dismiss, finding they had alleged ‘a specific intent to visit the Parks in the future.’”

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December 11 roundup
12.11.08 at 12:36 am

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1 Rob Crawford 08.04.08 at 8:03 am

I know lawsuits aren’t required to make sense, but this one really, really doesn’t make sense. Disney has “electric courtesy vehicles” for rent, and allows people to bring their own or those rented from other businesses, into the parks. Segways also require you to stand up the entire time you’re riding them; it’s hard to see a reason for changing the park rules for someone who’s LESS disabled than someone who needs an ECV.

I see the WDW ban on Segways to be similar to their ban on “wheelies” and skates — for safety reasons. Yeah, there are Segway tours in the parks, but those are supervised and scheduled; cast members have a better chance of keeping an eye on things in those cases.

2 Annette Adams 08.18.08 at 8:52 am

There you go again judging who is “less” disabled. Just because I can stand, which is actually healthier, doesn’t mean I can walk. There are still a lot of people out there who are quick to judge, like the one who told me I wasn’t handicapped because I could stand on a Segway. It is difficult enough to fight a progressive disease like Parkinson’s everyday without having to fight rude, ignorant and prejudiced people. Unfortunately, it is often these people who get to decide whether I can enter a facility or participate in activities with my family.

The one item that the people, who are quick to tell you about the 12 mph capability of the Segway, tend to leave out is that the machine has three different keys for operation (speed). The black key, for low speed, is electronically limited to travel no more than 6 mph (the same as the majority of electric wheelchairs and scooters). It is the only key I use. The red and yellow keys are for faster speeds but I doubt you will find many, if any, handicapped Segway users using either of these keys or intentionally endangering themselves or others. The speed of a Segway is controlled by the user, just like a motorized scooter or wheelchair or even an automobile. Automobiles don’t automatically go to their top speed when turned on and we don’t ban them from use on public roads because they have a “potential speed” higher than our speed limits.

It amazes me that Disney will not let us use our own Segways in their amusement parks (because they are dangerous), but rent them at Epcot to first time users for $85 per person, with limited training. Not only can I not use my own device, but Disney charges a $100 deposit and $45 per day to rent a motorized scooter (a week will cost me an additional $315 because I am disabled). It looks more like a lucrative financial decision than a safety issue. At least SeaWorld gave me a free scooter because I couldn’t use my Segway

3 gitarcarver 08.18.08 at 2:19 pm

There you go again judging who is “less” disabled.

Disney makes reasonable accomodations for the disabled. As cited in the orginal post, the issue is “if a disabled person can get around just as well in a wheelchair as on a Segway, does Disney have the right to pick the wheelchair in the interest of guest safety?”

The red and yellow keys are for faster speeds but I doubt you will find many, if any, handicapped Segway users using either of these keys or intentionally endangering themselves or others.

I am sorry but you seem to be admitting that there are those who will and do use the faster speeds and therefore put other guests at risk. The fact that the injury to another guest may not be intentional is really not relevant. The injured guest could and would say that Disney (also known as the “deep pockets”) knew about the risk to other guests, but chose to ignore it.

4 Max Parker 11.03.08 at 7:13 pm

This in response to Mr. Crawfords and gitarcarver’s post.

I’m disabled, back injury with nerve damage right side and severe arthritis in my spine, hips and knees. I use a Segway instead of a walker or a mobility chair to get around.

I too have taken my Segway to Sea World and was comped an EV for the duration of my stay in the park, and I have to tell you it was miserable. There is a since of freedom when you disabled and on a Segway, that you don’t get with a mobility chair. And though I do have to stop from time to time and rest when riding my Segway, I don’t have to contend with the constant standing up and sitting down, which can be excruciatingly painful. And sitting down in one of those little ev’s is in and of itself pain causing, in my case.

Sea Worlds paths are all textured in such a way that your EV is constantly vibrating, sending jolts of pain up your spine. Not to mention the manueverability issue. Those EVs have a basket on the front which makes them about what almost the length of a small coffee table or about 45″x25″ and turn around in an area of about 6-7″ and with your ride hight most people don’t even see you and you wind up having to dodge park patrin’s the whole day. Where as the Segway has a Width of about 25″ and length of 19″ and can turn around on there own foot print or a diameter of about 25″. The EV is much quicker than a Segway limited to it’s black key. Not to mention the Segway is Far easier to control. You sit at eye level or a little higher which makes you easy to see, and it makes it easy to see everything around you.

And Seriously, Disney Rents Segways in the park, Mr. Crawfords argument that these are managed tours and you have park employees keeping an eye on things, doesn’t hold up. You would need a single employee for each rider to make sure nothing happened. So again, if these people, most of whome have probably never ridden one before, there is no reason a disabled individual shouldn’t be allowed to ride his or her Seg in the park. As far as the Segways top Speeds, have us leave our Red and Yellow key’s at guest services, then we’re limited to the same speeds as the EV’s.

We ride our segways so we can feel a little more normal with our disabilities, and it gives us a lot more flexability. And we don’t have to face the same stigmas that we face in wheel chairs and power chairs.

The DOT Per the FTA says that segways, when used as a mobility aid, are to be allowed onto handicaped accessable busses and subways must allow Handicapped persons with Segways on board, when there is sufficient room.
Read: http://www.fta.dot.gov/civilrights/ada/civil_rights_3893.html

You should also read Also read:
the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Vol. 88 Nov. 2007 page 1423
The Segway Personal Transporter as an Alternative Mobility Device for People With Disabilities: A Pilot Study
Were it says, “Because people can stand upright on it, visiability in busy areas is better for the rider and for others around them; also, weight bearing on the lower extremities when riding it is important for maintaining bone density. Users with a disability also have better digestion and circulation as a result of their upright posture when riding the device.” and later cuncludes,”This Preliminary study has shown that the Segway is a useful device for populations with a range of functional disabilities. Our results indicate that using a Segway increases personal mobility for some people with functional limitations. This would enable them to become more involved in meaningful activities, and therefore it has the potential to increase one’s self-esteem and quality of life.”

What I’ve found in riding my segway both in and out of theme parks, like Universal Studios and The Zoo, is that the Segway is about as dangerous or less dangerous, then a person in a mobility chair. It is most definately a hell of a lot easier navigating through crowds. Disney and Sea World need to ammend their rules to allow Segways.

Check out Draft.org where they give Segways to Disabled Veterans.

5 Alan Maccini 11.06.08 at 11:03 pm

There is little doubt in the views of most attorneys who I have discussed the issue with, including those in civil rights divisions of several agencies of the federal government, including Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, EEOC and many others that Disney’s policy is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The telltale sign of someone who lacks a real knowledge of the ADA, especially an attorney or someone who espouses to know the ins and outs of the provisions and protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is the moment they utter the phrase “reasonable accommodation” in connection with the protections afforded in Title III of the ADA.

Reasonable accommodation is a concept which is used in conjunction with employment protections offered in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It has little or no application to Title III issues.

In Title III of the ADA the concept which is used is, reasonable modification of policies, practices, and procedures, by the place of public accommodation, Disney in this instance, which requires them, not people with disabilities, to modify their policies practices and procedures to accommodate people with disabilities.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, LLC decision not to permit the use of Segways by qualified people with disabilities within their parks is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and in the case of those venues located within the State of California, the UNRUH Civil Rights Act.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, LLC requirement of the use of motorized wheelchairs or scooters for guests with mobility related disabilities does not satisfy the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act nor the UNRUH Civil Rights Act.

The motorized wheelchair is a medical device and a mobility device which is necessary and appropriate for those with disabilities when prescribed by a physician.

Its use by many of those with disabilities which are mobility-related in lieu of a stand-up mobility device is neither appropriate nor safe unless prescribed by a physician, and only then when designed specifically to accommodate their body shape and size.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, LLC requirement that people with mobility related disabilities use the motorized wheelchair or scooter provided, in lieu of a stand-up mobility device, not only is a violation of the ADA and UNRUH, but also violates state and federal law with regard to the practice of medicine without a license.

The Segway is among the, if not the safest, mobility device on the market today. There is not in existence today one single reported incident of a person with disabilities using a Segway as an assistive device having caused injury to any other bystander. The same claim cannot be made about the use of other assistive devices such as power wheelchairs and scooters, even in Disney’s own Parks.

It is not permissible under federal law for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, LLC to imagine or contemplate a danger. The use of the Segway by their “cast members” inside their Parks is clear and convincing evidence that the Segway presents no danger to others when operated properly.

It’s all in the ADA, but you need to read all of it and understand what “terms” refer to each title.

A few other points:

The GSA Administration issues Policy on the use of Segways by people with disabilities applicable to all Federal Buildings under GSA’s jurisdiction, custody or control:
http://www.draft.cc/draft3/Portals/0/GSA%20Policy/GSA%20Segway%20Policy.pdf

The City of San Francisco complies with the ADA:
http://www.draft.cc/draft3/Portals/0/KerrArticles/San%20Francisco.pdf

The Depart Of Justice is currently looking into Specific language regarding Segway use by persons with disabilities:
http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=DOJ-CRT-2008-0015

Some Cities chose to comply with the ADA volentarly:
http://www.azcentral.com/community/westvalley/articles/2008/10/29/20081029gl-nwvsegway1029.html

Judge rules against Mall in favor of Disabled man:
http://cjonline.com/stories/091808/loc_333720049.shtml

I could go on for pages, but I’ll control myself.

Disney is in violation of the ADA and they know it.

They have simply chosen to have their hand forced by the Federal Government. That will leave Disney no other choice and they will spin it like all things Disney, as if they were at the forefront.

Disney has been sued in the past for a variety of ADA violations and lost, even with the deep pockets.

Universal Orlando not only allows the use of Segways by those with disabilities they welcome them.

One last publication to look at:
http://viewer.zmags.com/showmag.php?mid=srpfs#/page0/

Disney has told some of these Heroes to “get off and sit in a wheelchair”. That causes me to question Disneys “Moral Compass”.

Thanks you for your time.

6 Alan Maccini 11.06.08 at 11:17 pm

I would be remiss not to mention two important matters of the currant laws:

Assistive Technology Act of 1998

In this act congress defined Assistive Technology as “any device item piece of equipment, or products system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individual with disabilities.”

Defining Assistive Devices

One of the dangers of definitions that they may be imprecise with ever-growing changes in technology, in 1991 Attorney General Richard Thornburgh in publishing the first regulations in implementing the ADA consistently said that “there would no exhaustive list of devices and services protected under the ADA because any attempt to do so would omit the new devices that would become available with emerging technology”.

There is no such thing as an “ADA” approved device nor does it state anywhere that a device must be FDA approved to be protected.

Example, my walker,cane and one of my wheelchairs are not FDA approved but still protected by the ADA. Not to mention the Assistive Technology Act of 1998.

7 Alan Maccini 12.18.08 at 7:33 pm

It seems that Disney has put itself into a precarious position.

One of their big issues was FDA approval. I would seriously doubt that Disney plans on going into the wheelchair business so I doubt this device will be an approved one.

Of course that does not matter because nowhere in the ADA in there a list of approved devices nor does it say they need to be FDA approved. Hence whatever they come up with could fall under the protection of the ADA.

They say they will rent them. If one was to bring the same device with them will I be allowed access ?

Are or will there be safety studies on these devices ?

I would hope so. Of course these are question yet to be answered because the device Disney is talking about does not exist at this time. Questionable st best.

Of course this puts Disney right back where it started, in violation of the ADA. They could also be accused of practicing medicine without a license. Only a MD can prescribe the right device.

So in the future Disney has conceded the FDA approval and the notion that they can put people in wheelchairs.

They have basically admitted guilt through the concept of a standing device. By bringing that into play they admit that their past policy was in violation of Title III of the ADA.

This one will be interesting to watch.

8 Alan Maccini 12.18.08 at 7:43 pm

gitarcarver,

As to your post of August 18, 2008 you said and I quote:

“Disney makes reasonable accommodations for the disabled”

This is a sure sign that you don’t have a complete understanding of the ADA, Title III in particular. “Places of Public Accomodations”. Thats the category Theme Parks fall into.

In Title III of the ADA the concept which is used is, reasonable modification of policies, practices, and procedures, by the place of public accommodation, Disney in this instance, which requires them, not people with disabilities, to modify their policies practices and procedures to accommodate people with disabilities.

Reasonable Accomodations only apply to Title I, employment.

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