Monday, December 10, 2007

On Segways, Veterans, and Disney

There’s an interesting article in a recent edition of
USA Today
About the non-profit group
and their Program which Grants Segway personal transporters to disabled veterans.

I thought the scenario the article opened with was interesting. Attempting to give a personal application of the segway’s benefits , the article notes that one man who lost a leg in Iraq used to avoid walking around the amusement park with his wife and 2-year old son, because it was too much for him. Now the man says, with the Segway, he can now stay at the amusement park.

I don’t know which amusement partk that was, but I don’t believe it would be a Disney park. If you don’t already know,
Disney has banned the use of Segways in their parks.

According to the above-linked MSNBC article concerning the Disney ban,
“Disney World isn't the only place to restrict the use of Segways. They're also prohibited at Disney's California parks _ Disneyland and California Adventure. Sea World Orlando says it doesn't allow them for safety reasons and San Francisco last year outlawed them on its sidewalks.”

However, the article notes that Universal Orlando, the resort city’s other major theme park has no policy on the transporters.

Personally, I don’t think that the park should be in the business of telling anybody with a disability what kind of assistive device they can use. While the FDA has not yet classified the Segway as an approved medical device, the machine has developed a niche following among folks with neurological disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries, each of which can make it difficult for the impaired person to walk.

Instead of outright banning the segways, the parks could look at creating a policy which would be designed to regulate their usage. If the park is concerned because the top speed is faster than most motorized wheelchairs, then I feel certain that their legal eagles could wrangle some legal language to state just how fast they would be restricted to travel. Additionally, they could limit their use to just those with disabilities, indicated by the disabled parking decal or placard they display. The parking attendants could issue a permit to these people when they enter the parking facility.

Disney does not have to allow anybody the use of a Segway in their parks, and until made to change, I’m sure they won’t. Perhaps they believe that as long as they deny the use of Segways to everybody, they are not discriminating. I’ve read where they are being sued over this ban, but being the devices aren’t recognized by the FDA, Disney may be on sound legal footing. However, if the FDA should recognize them, then look out.

It is nonetheless still a sad footnote that the vets receiving these Segways won’t be able to go to the Disney parks with their families. At least not with their Segways.

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