Disneyland Slammed By Federal Judges For Dissing Disabled Visitor
Anaheim, oh dear, Anaheim.
You've had to endure the insufferable Curt Pringle, Harry Sidhu and the Rams.
Lately you've watched your city literally on fire as cops clash with outraged residents alarmed over continual evidence of police brutality and hoodlum antics.
How bad are things now in Anaheim?
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Well, Disneyland--the city's largest enterprise and one that should have mastered the art of winning free, positive advertising decades ago--has tripped over its own slick publicity machine.
It's difficult to transform a storied amusement park for kids into a nasty villain but, if a panel of federal judges are right, that's what the folks at The Happiest Place on Earth managed to do this month.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sternly lectured officials at the Walt Disney World Company for their callous treatment of a woman who suffers from muscular dystrophy and was blocked from using a Segway, a two-wheeled mobility device, to visit the park with her eight-year-old daughter.
That mother, Tina Baughman, claimed Disney's action constituted a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it denied her equal access to the park. Disney argued strenuously that it even though the Segway might be the least painful transportation device for Baughman, it wasn't "necessary" because she could use a less comfortable wheelchair. U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney sided with the company inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
But the appellate panel led by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ridiculed Disney's stance, stating:
"Read as Disney suggests, the ADA would require very few accommodations indeed. After all, a paraplegic can enter a courthouse by dragging himself up the front steps, so lifts and ramps would not be 'necessary' under Disney's reading of the term. And no facility would be required to provide wheelchair-accessible doors or bathrooms, because disabled individuals could be carried in litters or on the backs of their friends."
The court then poked Mickey Mouse in the chest even harder:
"That's not the world we live in and we are disappointed to see such a retrograde position taken by a company whose reputation is built on service to the public . . . As new devices (for the disabled) become available, public accommodations must consider using or adapting them to help disabled guests have an experience more akin to that of non-disabled guests."
There's a crack in Disney's PR armor
In a final shot, the judges underscored their frustration with Disney's bad attitude, writing:
"Disney simply takes the position that, even if Baughman's access is made 'uncomfortable or difficult' by its policies, any discomfort or difficulty she may suffer is too darn bad. Disney is obviously mistaken. If it can make Baughman's experience less onerous and more akin to that enjoyed by its able-bodied patrons, it must take reasonable steps to do so."
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