Man alleges he was removed from ride due to disability

This is the type of story that makes my blood boil. An Atlanta area man said he was removed from a roller coaster ride at Six Flags Over Georgia because he had a prosthetic leg.

Torrence Bellamy was excited to ride the Goliath roller coaster when he visited the Cobb County theme park last month with his fraternity. He stood in line for more than an hour, but as he was in his seat and the ride was about to take off, he was approached by a worker.

“And she was like, ‘You can’t ride this ride. No, you’ve got a fake leg,’” Bellamy said. “Some people were booing. Some folks were laughing. Made me feel bad.”

Bellamy complained to park management about what happened and how insensitive the worker was. He said he was puzzled because he had just ridden Goliath last year.

“I rode every ride in the park last year with no problem,” Bellamy said.

In May, the park changed its guide to rides and attractions posted on the Six Flags website. The update says prosthetic devices are not permitted on rides, and specifies that you must have two legs and feet and at least one arm to ride several of the main attractions, including Goliath.

“Guests with certain disabilities are prohibited from some rides and attractions to ensure their safety. Our disability policies are customized by ride and include manufacturers’ guidelines and requirements of the Federal American Disabilities Act,” a park official said in a statement.

Really? Really. The complainant did note he filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Due to my lack of knowledge  regarding the many challenges disabled folks face that many able-bodied folks like myself take for granted, I didn’t think this was a recurring problem until I did a simple Google search. I came up with a story in the Tampa Bay Times that reported on a similar issue.

Cary Frounfelter of Seminole sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He settled out of court for an amount that barely covered his lawyer fees. But amputees wearing prosthetic limbs above the knee are still not allowed to ride the 60-mph roller coaster on which riders’ legs dangle freely.

“If you go there now, there are signs up at the front of the lines,” Frounfelter said Monday. “Those signs are there because of me.”

Lawsuits like Frounfelter’s have forced amusement parks to balance access to rides by the disabled with safety.

Last Friday night, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs to a roadside bomb was ejected from a 208-foot-tall roller coaster at a theme park outside Buffalo, N.Y. Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer died. His sister has said she does not believe he was wearing his prosthetic limbs.

The accident has brought scrutiny and perhaps more regulation of the industry. There is no federal oversight of amusement park rides. Now, a Massachusetts congressman said he is planning to introduce legislation that would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to inspect the country’s 400 “fixed site” amusement parks. Right now, only traveling rides are inspected. This means many parks come up with and apply their own rules.

James Barber of the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials said most major parks have rules regarding disabled riders. For example, ride attendants at many parks are not required to pick up someone out of a wheel chair and carry him onto a ride.

“I know they can deny access if it’s determined the person cannot be properly restrained on a ride,” Barber said. “That’s allowable under ADA rules. Each park takes their stand on it and it depends on whether their attendants believe a person is able to ride the ride.”

What’s ironic is several amputees are suing Universal Studios for barring them from riding on a roller coaster, which they said violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Since I don’t suffer from a physical or mental disability, I will refrain from giving my commentary on the matter. What are your thoughts on this issue?