Monday, August 31, 2009

Theme park in Britain asks wheelchair-using teen to prove he is disabled

From Leicester Mercury in the UK:

A teenage wheelchair-user was left angry and upset after staff at a theme park asked him to prove he was disabled.

Mohamad Hussain, 16, was challenged by staff at Alton Towers' guest care centre when he asked for a special wristband which would enable him to jump queues for the Staffordshire attraction's rides.

Mohamad has muscle-wasting Duchenne's muscular dystrophy.

He is unable to stand or perform tasks such as dressing or feeding himself.

His mum, Jamila, eventually managed to convince staff her son qualified for disabled access.

But the teenager then discovered that the extent of his disability meant there were few attractions he could access anyway.

Mohamad, from Highfields, Leicester, said he "could not believe it" when staff challenged him to prove he was disabled.

He said: "It made me feel very bad. We were asking for wristbands which they give out to people with difficulties so they don't have to queue for a long time."
He added: "I went to Disney World not long ago and it was amazing. We were treated really well.

"I think some theme parks are behind the times when it comes to caring for the disabled."

Mum Jamila, 43, said: "I didn't know what to say when the young man asked me to prove that Mohamad was disabled. He was in a wheelchair in front of him.

"Maybe if Mohamad wasn't in a wheelchair then I could understand. But I don't usually carry a doctor's letter because no one has ever asked him to prove it before."

Jamila said that despite having the wristband, her son was unable to enjoy many of the attractions because access required more mobility than Mohamad was capable of.
She said: "After going to all the trouble of getting the wristbands we couldn't get on any of the rides anyway.

"They said there was disabled access to all the amusements but he wasn't able to go on a single ride.

"We spent the day walking around looking at the rides and shops and then went home.
"It's really disappointing and more should be done to accommodate people with disabilities, especially at big theme parks like Alton Towers."

A spokeswoman for Alton Towers said: "We offer various attractions, for example our sea life aquarium Sharkbait Reef, a variety of animals to meet and greet in Old McDonald's Farmyard and numerous shows, which means guests have other options than just rides.

"In terms of us requesting proof of disability, this is company policy and for auditing purposes.

"In some circumstances we do not require proof of disability, however we need evidence of why a wristband has been authorised."