SANTA ANA, Calif. — A California appeals court told Disneyland it must consider allowing use of two-wheel Segways by disabled people.
Disneyland currently allows disabled visitors to use wheelchairs and scooters at the Anaheim theme park, but the justices of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said it's time for "The Happiest Place on Earth" to study the idea of adding Segways.
"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," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the court.
The ruling comes in the case of Tina Baughman, who uses a two-wheeled Segway to get around because she has limb girdle muscular dystrophy, which makes it difficult to walk or rise from a seated position. Segway operators use the transportation device in a standing position.
"Disneyland wanted to put somebody in a wheelchair who has never been in a wheelchair," said David Geffen, the plaintiff's attorney. He said Segways are used by Disney regularly, and are ridden by their employees and visitors who can take Segway tours.
Baughman went to Disneyland to celebrate her daughter's 8th birthday. She explained her disability but Disneyland refused to allow her to use the Segway at the theme park, said Geffen.
Baughman filed lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Walt Disney World Co. under the Americans With Disabilities Act. A lower court ruled in favor of the company.
A federal judge held that Disney is not required to modify its policy banning two-wheeled transportation, which includes bicycles and Segways, because it permits motorized wheelchairs or scooters.
With today's ruling, the case now returns to federal court in Santa Ana.
A telephone message left Thursday for Disney attorneys Daniel F. Fears, Daniel L. Rasmussen and Daniel F. Lula wasn't immediately returned.
Disney argued successfully that "necessary" means only one thing: Can't do without. Because Baughman could access Disneyland by using a wheelchair or scooter, the lower court said a Segway isn't necessary for her to use the park.
The case was appealed and the 9th Circuit said federal disability protections require more than assuring access.
"As new devices become available, public accommodations must consider using or adapting them to help disabled guests have an experience more akin to that of non-disabled," Kozinski wrote for the court.
"We do not hold that Disney must permit Segways at its theme parks," the court said. But the appeals court said Disney must prove that Segways can't be operated safely at Disneyland before the theme park can exclude them.
The court then quoted Walt Disney: "As the man who started it all said, `Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.'"
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com