Friday, July 27, 2012

Does the ADA Require Segways? It Just May - COTW #102

Does the ADA require Disneyland in Californ-I-A to allow Segways? It just may. (I can make things out of clay, and lie by the bay). The Case of the Week (HT: Heather Bussing) is Baughman v. Walt Disney World Company (opinion here), an ADA case from the 9th Circuit and written by fan-favorite Judge Kozinski.

The plaintiff has muscular dystrophy and sought an exception to Disney's policy prohibiting two-wheeled vehicles so she could bring her Segway. When Disney refused, she "sued Disney under the Americans with Disabilities Act ('ADA'), claiming that Disney denied her full and equal access to Disneyland."

The ADA defines discrimination in part to include:
[A] failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such modifications are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities . . . .” § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii).
Disney claimed that because the plaintiff could use a wheelchair (allowed under Disney's policy), allowing a Segway is not "necessary." Annnnd, this is why Judge Kozinski is a fan favorite:
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, see Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 513-14 (2004), 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. 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.
The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Disney and remanded to the trial court.

In case you think Judge Kozinski is down on Disney, he concludes with a message of hope:
New technology presents risks as well as opportunities; we must not allow fear of the former to deprive us of the latter. We have every confidence that the organization that, half a century ago, brought us the Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln can lead the way in using new technology to make its parks more welcoming to disabled guests. As the man who started it all said, "Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world."
Awww, am I the only one who hears "It's a Small World" in my head right now?