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Disney Can Settle Florida Case over Segways
September 4, 2012
News source: Courthouse News Service
The 11th Circuit upheld a class action settlement that lets Walt Disney World ban Segways while it develops its own stand-up vehicle.
Disney bans the use of all two-wheeled vehicles in all of the parks and hotels within its Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. The ban provides no exception for those with disabilities who rely upon the two-wheeled vehicles for mobility.
In a 2007 federal complaint, Mahala Ault, Stacie Rhea and Dan Wallace claimed that the policy violates Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The parties settled a year later, with Disney agreeing to maintain its ban while it develops its own electric stand-up vehicle (ESV) that operates on four wheels. The device is intended for disabled guests who cannot use a wheelchair, scooter or other mobility device that requires sitting.
A federal judge in Orlando approved the settlement, but the U.S. Department of Justice, Disability Rights Advocate for Technology and 23 states attorneys filed objections.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based federal appeals court also approved the settlement Thursday and affirmed certification of the settlement-only class.
"Class representatives in this class only seek injunctive or declaratory relief; therefore, the class receives either nothing or an injunction requiring Disney to permit Segways at Disney Resorts," Chief Judge Joel Dubina wrote for a three-member panel. "Because the District Court found that class representatives were unlikely to prevail at trial, the District Court found that Disney's agreement to produce and make available the ESVs is a beneficial remedy for the class. This finding does not constitute an abuse of discretion. If Disney prevails at trial, the class will be left with no remedy at all. This settlement precludes such a Draconian result and ensures that a stand-up mobility device is available at Disney Resorts that conforms to its unique safety requirements."
Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit revived similar claims from a woman who wanted to use a Segway to navigate Disneyland.
The Pasadena, California-based federal appeals court said Disney had to make "reasonable" accommodations for disabled patrons and must keep up with the developing technology.
Disney's lawyer, Daniel Fears, criticized the dangers of Segways, which lack brakes and steering wheels, yet go as fast as 12 mph.
But prominent disabilities rights attorney David Geffen countered that "Disneyland is the largest purchaser of Segways in the country."
"Their employees use them in the back lots," Geffen said. "They show the device in Tomorrowland and say, 'The Segway is the mobility device of the future. It's as natural as walking.' And, after an hour of training, you can use a Segway at Disneyland to tour their park.