By Greg Van Gompel
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Some are small, some are tall, some are skinny and some are fat, some have no physical limitations and some do. Ride manufacturers try to deal with patron disparity by making different types of rides, but amusement facilities take heat from the public no matter what they do.
Recent news stories will have you believe that facilities discriminate against physically-challenged patrons, even though the facility’s policies are put in place based on manufacturer’s guidelines and requirements mandated by the federal regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities law. In fact, in a recent story, a patron said that parks “need to make accommodations on their coasters for people who have disabilities.” Does that mean a facility must have thrilling coasters to accommodate those adult riders smaller than 54 inches? Does that mean a facility must have a coaster that will comfortably restrain a 500 pound person?
Unfortunately, the industry has felt the consequences of what happens when an employee decides to be nice and accommodate requests by individuals from whom the rides were not meant to carry. With either choice, the facility gets painted in a bad light by the media.
A good practice for a facility is to adhere to manufacturer guidelines together with state, province and federal accessibility guidelines. The amusement facilities are limited by these guidelines in its ability to allow patrons access to the rides without endangering the safety not only of the individual patron, but of those patrons gathered around the ride itself. Even if a patron says that he/she will sign a release, some governments don’t acknowledge such documents. While it is in a facilities best interest economically to accommodate the desires of the most people possible, the rides, like clothing, could never be a “one size fits all” proposition. How boring might that be.