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25 October 2008

ADA in Australia?

I used to work as a camp counselor for children with disabilities, and I always try and advocate for their rights, which is why I found this news report a little bit disappointing. The fact that Mr. Simmonds is a nationally recognized athlete is immaterial.

From news.com.au:

"I was told I wasn't allowed to go on the slide and had to go and see the park's medical people," he said.

"They told me I couldn't go on any of the rides because my $12,000 carbon fibre prosthesis is classed as a metal object. I could have walked up the steps and taken my leg off but how would I have gotten my leg back to the bottom?"

"I represented Australia at the Barcelona Paralympics, I've won five world disabled waterski titles and I walked the Kokoda Track last year but apparently I'm not fit enough to go on a kids' waterslide," he said.

"The thing that annoys me the most is that with my artificial leg, I'm not disabled. It doesn't fall off so it can't hurt anyone.

"I just think they need to look at their policies and apply a bit of common sense."

A Dreamworld spokeswoman said the park understood Mr Simmonds was 'disappointed and angry' but his prosthesis was considered unsafe.

She said the ride manufacturers' specifications prohibited metal objects because of fears they could cut fibreglass piping and injure patrons.

"It's a really difficult situation - we understand this gentleman is an elite athlete and probably a really responsible citizen," she said. "But at the end of the day, this is about the safety of everybody in the park."

She said the Simmonds family had accepted a refund.

I am not sure exactly what type of prosthesis this is, but I imagine it is a relatively standard, if not advanced, model. While I understand the park's need to protect the integrity of the slide, I imagine they could have come up with other accommodations rather than banning him from slides.