POLK COUNTY, Fla. – The family of a 10-year-old boy with prosthetic legs filed suit Wednesday against Legoland after they were told by ride attendants he could not ride some of the attractions.
The couple brought their son, who is a bilateral amputee, to Legoland in August 2016 and he wore his full-length prosthetic legs, according to the lawsuit filed in the Middle District of Florida U.S. District Court. The boy is referred to by his initials, I.S., throughout the lawsuit. The family's lawyer said his name is Isa.
The family went to the customer service office before exploring the park to ask about whether there would be any limitations on what rides he could participate in with his prosthetics, which are from the knee down. They were told, according to the lawsuit, that there were only two rides their child could not ride because of his disability. The family was also given a hero pass for "those who may have difficulty waiting in line."
However, when the family attempted to embark on The Dragon roller coaster, they were allowed to board and sit in the ride, but after a delay, the ride operator approached the boy and told him he could not ride because he did not have "one natural leg."
"All of this took place in front of a large number of other families and individuals, making I.S.
and the Suarez Family feel singled out and humiliated," the lawsuit states.
The family went back to customer service and was told they should have been permitted to ride The Dragon and were assured they would not have any further problems during their trip.
But when the family attempted to ride another attraction that was on the approved list, the boy was again told "without any compassion, discussion, or individualized analysis" he could not ride without "one real leg."
The parents said the situation was very confusing and upsetting for the 10-year-old boy, who had both legs amputated when he was a toddler.
The family again went back to customer service and again was told the boy should have been able to participate in most of the rides. Park officials also offered the Suarez family season passes.
According to the lawsuit, the family did go back to the park several times and the boy could ride the same rides he was previously denied, including The Dragon, and other times they were told he could not. On another occasion, the boy was denied access to a water playground where infants and toddlers were permitted, because an attendant said he did not have "three fully development limbs."
"They would often come over and tell Isa directly, a 10-year old boy, 'I'm sorry, you need to get off this ride because you don't have two natural legs,'" attorney Josh Glickman said. "Again, it wasn't the intention or the hope of Isa's parents or ourselves that he would go on a ride that is unsafe for him to ride, all he is asking for is he be judge by the same criteria that everybody else is judged on."
According to Legoland's own policies listed in their Guests with Disabilities Guide, the 10-year-old should have been able to ride almost all of the attractions. He met the height requirement, could sit upright, unassisted and could hold onto the lap bar, according to the lawsuit.
However, criteria listed under the rides themselves had prosthetic restrictions. "Participants must have two natural complete legs and one natural or prosthetic arm that can continuously grasp the bar," one of those restrictions read under Mia's Riding Adventure.
The family claims their son was able to participate and was never treated differently at any of the other area theme parks, including SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios and Walt Disney World Resort.
How Florida theme parks accommodate guests with disabilities
Click here for Disney's guide for guests with disabilities. The Amputee Coalition offers this list of things to know before visiting a theme park. Similar guides for Legoland, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando can be found at the top of this story.
"At Disney World, he was able to go on Space Mountain, he was able to go on Expedition Everest, you know, these rides that have inversions, they go extremely fast," Glickmand said. "At Legoland, he's being forbidden to ride on rides for toddlers."
Legoland officials could not comment to News 6 on the ongoing litigation. A spokesperson for the park gave this response:
Our parks offer a variety of fun attractions for guests of all abilities to enjoy such as stage shows, 4-D theater experiences, LEGO brick building classes, LEGO character interactions and the beautiful Cypress Gardens.
While we do not comment on specific cases, we are fully committed to providing an awesome experience for all of our guests, including individuals with different abilities.
Our highest priority is the safety of our guests. The minimum safety requirements to use certain attractions, rides or water slides at our resort are based upon the guidelines and best practices set by the equipment manufacturers and industry associations. We adhere to their guidelines with the utmost attention and accuracy in order to ensure guest safety in all potential situations.