Amusement Park To Girl: No Legs, No Ride
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 19, 2005
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Eight-year-old Jessica Rogers got a surprise on Monday when she tried to get on the Riffle Rapids, a water ride with just 6-inches of water designed for young children at Busch Gardens Amusement Park in Tampa Bay.
Theme park workers stopped her, because she does not have any legs.
The same thing happened at the Stanley Falls Log Flume, the Congo River Rapids, and the amusement park's train -- which includes a section for wheelchair users.
"Everybody else got to ride, but I couldn't just because I don't have legs," Jessica later told the St. Petersburg Times. "I couldn't even get on a kiddy ride."
Jessica's mother was irate.
"You got to be kidding," said her mother, Phyllis. "This kid jumps off diving boards."
Jessica was in Tampa to compete in the National Junior Disability Championships. Earlier on Monday she competed in the 25-meter breast stroke in an Olympic-sized pool.
Jessica was born with lumbosacral agenesis, a rare condition that stunted the growth of her spinal cord and her legs, which were later amputated. She left her prosthetic legs home in Virginia.
She returned to the Championships on Tuesday, but this time sporting a sign urging other athletes to boycott Busch Gardens.
The amusement park refunded the cost of the family's tickets.
A Busch Gardens spokesperson said Jessica was banned from the rides for safety reasons, based on recommendations of the individual attractions' manufacturers.
The Tampa Tribune reported that safety guidelines vary from one amusement park to the next.
"There are no uniform standards for guests with disabilities," explained Kathy Fackler, a consumer safety advocate with Saferparks.
The Tribune noted that the U.S. Department of Justice and the amusement and recreational industry are negotiating over access standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the federal anti-discrimination law sets general standards for access to rides, it does not deal with more specific issues such as loading and unloading ride vehicles and who can access certain rides.
"Disabled girl barred from theme park rides"(St. Petersburg Times)
"Amputee Ride Policy Up To Parks" (Tampa Tribune)