Raleigh, NC—Disability Rights North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte discriminates against people with disabilities. (Read the complaint here.)
Plaintiff Matthew Aldridge and his wife purchased season tickets for the entire family in 2016, and they were looking forward to multiple trips to Carowinds throughout the year. When they visited Carowinds, Mr. Aldridge and his two children were told they could only enjoy ten of the fifty-plus rides in the amusement park because they each have at-the-knee amputations. The restrictions were puzzling for Mr. Aldridge because he has visited Carowinds many times over the years and has ridden almost every ride offered. The restrictions were particularly hard for the two children because they were not allowed to enjoy most of the rides in Planet Snoopy, the children’s section of Carowinds.
“I’ve always had lots of fun at Carowinds, and I want my children to have the chance to create great memories there,” Mr. Aldridge said. “Carowinds’ decision to discriminate against them and me turned what should have been a fun family outing into a painful reminder that the fight for the rights of people with disabilities is far from over.”
Individuals with disabilities, like the Aldridges have a federally-protected right to enjoy every ride offered at Carowinds unless there is a legitimate health or safety risk. Carowinds did not know which rides actually presented a health or safety risk to the Aldridges. Over the course of their visits, Carowinds told the Aldridges they could enjoy twenty-five rides, then as many as thirty rides, and finally only ten of the rides in the amusement park. Carowinds’ unjustified exclusion of the Aldridges from rides they can safely ride is discriminatory.
“Going to Carowinds is a summer tradition for many in the Carolinas,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights North Carolina. “We cannot permit people with disabilities to be left out of the fun based on uninformed, unnecessary concerns for their safety.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal civil rights law, prohibits businesses from discriminating against people with disabilities. A business can only exclude someone because of his disability if it has health and safety concerns that relate specifically to that individual. Having broad rules that exclude people with physical disabilities based on speculation, stereotypes, and generalizations violates the ADA.