A federal judge in Orlando has struck a blow for the rights of disabled veterans in rejecting a settlement that would have denied wounded war heroes their preferred method of mobility, the geo-stabilized upright transporter known as a Segway.
The ruling is one step in the right direction, but doesn’t end the battle to give our veterans their wheels of choice.
The Walt Disney Company stubbornly refuses to get with the times and allow visitors to use the state-of-the-art devices, which allow disabled people to get around standing up, instead of sitting a wheelchair.
Curiously, Disney allows Segways for the use of its own employees and for tours that it charges for, but claims allowing private citizens to use them is a safety hazard.
It strikes me as an outrage that our wounded warriors have to suffer this indignity, and for the life of me I can’t understand what the folks at Disney are thinking.
Am I wrong about this?
Disney is portraying this as a legal victory in part because the judge ruled, “there is simply no evidence that… use of a Segway is arguably essential to accessing Disney’s Park.” [Disney Wins Dismissal of Suit Over Segways, Settlement Voided - Bloomberg] Disney is simply glossing over the fact the settlement would have left its Segway ban in place.
But in vacating the settlement, the judge kept the key issue alive: It’s not whether the disabled vets COULD use the park without their Segways, it’s whether they SHOULD be forced to use an inferior substitute like a wheelchair, or Disney’s low-tech four-wheel stand-up scooter.
You can read Judge Gregory Presnell’s full ruling here, but this is the part I think gets to the central issue.
“This case is not about necessary accommodation. The real question, it seems, is the extent to which the ADA can (or should) promote equal treatment and human dignity by requiring acceptance of new technologies. As Major Gade and others testified, the Segway is quickly changing the way disabled Americans are perceived and treated in our society. The importance of this interest simply cannot be overlooked. While on the facts of this case equal treatment and human dignity may not be protected… those interests may still be protected by other provisions of the ADA or state law. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the purpose of the ADA is to eliminate the “physical and social structures” that have impeded the disabled. In this regard, the ADA concerned itself with much more than just eliminating physical barriers to access, but with advancing the “stature” of persons with disabilities, protecting against the “stigma” that is often associated with being disabled and promoting respect for “the dignity of individuals with disabilities.”
Gregory A Presnell
U.S. District Judge