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32315 Dear Senator Graham: This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, XX , regarding an alleged lack of wheelchair accessibility in the attractions at Walt Disney World (Disney) in Orlando, Florida. Specifically, XX complains that his wife, who uses a wheelchair, was prevented from enjoying several attractions at Disney because the attractions were not accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. XX alleges that several of these attractions had been renovated after the effective date of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and that some attractions that were not renovated could easily be made accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. Finally, XX was concerned about Disney's imposition of certain policies that limited use of some rides to individuals who can walk. The ADA requires public accommodations like Disney to provide "full and equal enjoyment" of their goods and services to individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. S 12182 (a). Among the law's many provisions is a carefully crafted process for the development of physical access to places of public accommodation. The ADA places a relatively modest burden on existing facilities, requiring that they remove barriers to access where it is readily achievable, or "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense." 42 U.S.C. S 12182(2) (A) (iv); 28 C.F.R. S 36.304(a). When a place of public accommodation performs alterations or when it undertakes new construction, however, the law requires strict adherence to specific standards that are intended to provide maximum physical access for persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. S 12183(a) (2); 28 C.F.R. S 36.401 (new construction), 28 C.F.R. S 36.402 (alterations), 28 C.F.R. S 36.406, pt. 36, App. A (Standards for Accessible Design). Entities performing alterations that are more than mere cosmetic changes must ensure that any altered areas are readily accessible to and usable by persons with
cc: FOIA 01-03645
-2disabilities. 42 U.S.C. S 12183 (a) (2); 28 C.F.R. S 36.402. In addition, if the alterations involve areas of primary function, entities must spend up to 20% of the costs of the alterations making the path of travel to the altered areas accessible. 42 U.S.C. S 12183 (a)(2); 28 C.F.R. S 36.403. A "primary function" is a major activity for which the facility is intended and includes areas such as the lobby of a bank, the dining area of a cafeteria, and meeting rooms. 28 C.F.R S 36.403(b). The "path of travel" to an altered area is defined as an unobstructed passageway from the entrance to the facility to the altered areas, and includes areas such as restrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains. 28 C.F.R. S 36.403(e). While the Standards do not specifically address some elements of amusement park rides, other provision of the title III regulation may require purchase or modification of equipment in order to ensure full and equal employment of the facilities and to provide an opportunity to participate in the services and facilities. 28 C.F.R. SS 36.201 and 36.202. The barrier removal requirements would also apply. Several of the attractions identified by XX are existing, and others, allegedly, have been altered. Without a thorough investigation into the nature of the changes that need to be made in order to provide access to the existing rides, it is impossible to determine whether Disney has violated the section of the law mandating "readily achievable" barrier removal. Similarly, the United States cannot determine whether Disney has violated the alterations provisions, short of an investigation of the date on which alterations were undertaken, the nature of the alterations, and a determination of whether the alterations, if more than cosmetic, involved areas of primary
function. Finally, XX complains that his wife was not permitted onto a ride because of Disney's conclusion that she would be unable to evacuate the ride in the event of its breakdown. Public accommodations are required by the law to make all reasonable modifications in their policies, practices and procedures that are necessary to ensure that individuals with disabilities enjoy their goods and services. 42 U.S.C. S 12182 (b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. S 36.302. Entities are, however, permitted to establish neutral "eligibility criteria" that are necessary for the safe operation of the place of public accommodation. 28 C.F.R. S 36.301(b). Safety requirements must be based on actual risks, and not on stereotypes or generalizations about individuals with disabilities. 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, App. B at 605. A determination of whether the alleged criteria for the rides are discriminatory would require investigation into the particular circumstances involved. 01-03646 -3At this time, the Department has decided not to open an investigation of XX complaint. I am enclosing a copy of this Department's regulation implementing title III of the ADA and the Technical Assistance Manual that was developed to assist individuals and entities subject to the ADA to understand the requirements of title III. I hope that these materials and the discussion herein provide guidance to your constituent. Sincerely,
Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division
XX Oldsmar, FL XX XX December 24, 1994 Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board 1331 F Street NW Suite 1000 Washington, DC 20004-1111 Good Day: This is to issue a complaint about Walt Disney World, in Orlando, reticence to make their facilities wheelchair accessible.
My wife, XX , is a paraplegic and, of course, unable to stand or walk, and must use a wheelchair for mobility. Other than being paraplegic, she is in excellent health. In February of 1993, we purchased an Annual Pass for Walt Disney World in Orlando. At that time we realized that the Magic Kingdom, the oldest theme park, would be least accessible for someone in a wheelchair. Disney-MGM Studios, the newest park, would be most accessible, and Epcot would fall somewhere in between. Our subsequent visits to the park confirmed the aforementioned. Although we visited the park many times, we decided to return to the Magic Kingdom in early December to see the new attractions at Tomorrowland. Several of the rides in this section had been closed for upgrading, plus a new ride, the Extra "Terrorestrial" Alien Encounter were all due to open in December, 1994. Once we were in the park we learned their newest Terrorestrial ride would be delayed in opening until February, 1995. Since we were in the Tomorrowland area we decided to try some of the rides which had been renovated and were now opened. We tried to go onto the Tomorrowland Transit Authority but we were told that unless my wife can walk up an ascending ramp, to a moving turntable, she would not be allowed to go on this ride. Moreover, unless she could walk 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 miles in the event the ride stops functioning she is prohibited from participating on this ride. We have gone on many slow moving rides, at Disney, whereby the ride was stopped to enable her to transfer. I wonder what would have happened on Spaceship Earth if the ride stopped at the top of the Sphere, or if any of the other rides we were on were forced to a standstill. There is no way she could have walk away from any of these rides. Therefore, it follows using this logical approach that she should not be allowed on most of the rides in the park, or maybe just don't allow her in the park. When I tried to explain this to the attendants, at the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, I was told they were sorry but she cannot get on the ride. We then went over to the Astro-Orbiter and the attendant told us unless she can move the bottom portion of her body, it would not be feasible for her to wiggle into a rather tight opening to enter
DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS Great Movie Ride Backstage Studio Tour Plus all other shows in a theatrical format The reason Disney-MGM Studios is most accessible is simply because the preponderant number of attractions are presented in a theatrical format. I do not understand why the new rides, or the renovated rides have not been made wheelchair accessible. I thought the American Disability Act required new construction to accommodate wheelchairs. Furthermore, if the Act does not require new or renovated attractions to accommodate wheelchairs, don't you think the premier attraction in our country should extend themselves to help those less fortunate. The following attractions have been renovated or built since the ADA act and are not wheelchair accessible: Tomorrowland Transit Authority Astro-Orbitor Skyway Splash Mountain Spaceship Earth The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror We have learned to live and travel within the confines of my wife's disability. Many attractions discount their fees because we are limited to what we can see and do. When an attraction charges top dollars for entry, pays their CEO an annual salary of two hundred million dollars don't you think they should extend themselves to those who must endure life from a restrictive prospective. Maybe Disney is so big and important that they can flaunt the law of the land, and relegate the disabled to second class citizens. It has reached the time that renting a wheelchair at a nominal cost to the handicapped, or making some rides accessible to the handicapped is just not enough. We are tired of hand-outs. We want, when it is possible, to have the same rights and pleasures as able body people. Disney's denouement to those in a wheelchair must end, and they should voluntarily or forceable make their attr actions accomodate those restricted to a wheelchair.
Cordially, XX cc: Walt Disney World Tampa Tribune WFLA-TV National Spinal Cord Injury Association Senator Bob Graham Congressman Michael Bilirakis Abilities Inc. of Florida State Attorney General