CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A lawsuit was filed Wednesday alleging Carowinds amusement park discriminated against a family by refusing to allow them to ride a large number of rides because of a disability.
A Clover man, his son and his daughter all have lower leg amputations dues to a medical condition. All three were born with no shin bones and underwent double leg amputations at the knee shortly after birth. They now utilize wheelchairs for mobility.
The lawsuit claims the family, all of whom are season ticket holders, was denied access to rides "not because of legitimate safety requirements" but due to "speculation, stereotypes, and generalizations" about their ability to safely ride them.
According to the lawsuit, park patrons with disabilities are given Rider Forms that state what rides they can and can't safely ride.
The lawsuit states that the father visited the park on three separate occasions in June 2016, twice with his children and wife and once by himself. The father claims the park denied he and his children access to at least 12 rides on the first visit.
On the family's second visit, the lawsuit states, they were denied access to at least eight rides until later in the day when the number was increased to at least 28. On his third trip to the park alone, he was again denied access to at least 28 rides.
On the second trip, which occurred on June 8, 2016, the lawsuit states the family went to the Rip Roarin' Rapids as their first ride. The family claims the Rider Forms indicated they could enter the ride. However, the lawsuit states, the ride operators "began to argue audibly" about whether the family could ride the ride.
"One operator said they should follow the Rider Form permitting the [family] to ride, the other said that the [family] did not meet the criteria for the ride notwithstanding the Rider Form," the lawsuit states.
One of the ride operators then called for security and a supervisor was also called over. The supervisor then "admonished the ride operator for calling security as there had been no threats of violence or other reason for their presence," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the conversation between the ride operator, the supervisor, and the family "took place in the accessible boarding area of Rip Roarin' Ride Rapids, within earshot and in full view of other park guests."
The family claims they were ultimately told they could not board the ride. The lawsuit alleges Carowinds then issued new Rider Forms for the family, dropping the number of rides they could board from 30 to ten.
According to the group Disability Rights North Carolina, the father was especially puzzled because he says he's been to the park many times and has ridden "almost every ride offered."
"I've always had lots of fun at Carowinds, and I want my children to have the chance to create great memories there," the father 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."
WBTV reached out to Carowinds for a response about the case and were told "It is the company's policy not to comment on pending litigation."