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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

 

Disney Harasses Paraplegic Mayor Over High-Tech Wheelchair

Tuesday, 12.01.09

Disney stops disabled mayor over wheelchair

 
 Myron Rosner and his ibot wheelchair at Walt Disney World on Sunday.
Myron Rosner and his ibot wheelchair at Walt Disney World on Sunday. ROSNER FAMILY

JOSE PAGLIERY

Miami Herald

North Miami Beach's paraplegic mayor said his pleasant Thanksgiving weekend at Walt Disney World Resort turned into a demeaning experience after park officials harassed him because of his high-tech wheelchair.

According to Mayor Myron Rosner, theme park employees at both Epcot and Animal Kingdom questioned his use of his $30,000 iBOT 4000 -- a four-wheeled vehicle capable of balancing and moving on only two wheels.

Rosner, paralyzed during a construction accident, prefers to ride on two wheels -- allowing him to be eye-level with his wife, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel.

But park employees mistook his wheelchair for Segway, according to Rosner and a Disney World spokeswoman.

In front of his wife and four children, park employees demanded Rosner lower himself and use four wheels, citing a Disney policy that prohibits the use of Segways, which it deems as unsafe.

``I was totally harassed by Disney World. It was a nightmare for my wife, myself and my four children,'' he said. ``They gave me the impression I was not welcome here.''

That's not the case, spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez said.

Employees were simply confused, mistaking the wheelchair for a Segway.

``The guest was provided with conflicting guidance. We apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused,'' she said.

In 2007, three disabled people filed a lawsuit against Disney for not allowing Segways at its parks. The lawsuit was recently settled out of court, but the Segway ban remains.

Unlike a Segway, which is used while standing, Rosner's iBOT 4000 keeps the driver seated.

Rosner said Monday he plans to file lawsuits against Disney for what he called an embarrassing experience.

`ON ALL FOURS'``He said I needed to go down on all fours, and I said . . . the only way I'm going down is if the sheriff takes me down,'' Rosner said, noting his wife cried during the incident.

Ironically, Rosner said he was inspired to buy the high-tech wheelchair after seeing it on display at Epcot's Innoventions, which exhibits products that help make human lives better.

FINALLY GETS IN

Although Rosner's entrance to Epcot was delayed Friday, a park manager finally let him through.

But the questioning didn't end there.

Employees and a security guard surrounded Rosner and his family as they toured Disney's Animal Kingdom on Sunday afternoon, when he was again told to lower the chair.

FAMILY LEAVES

The family soon left after employees followed them around the park, Rosner said.

Rosner said he appreciated Disney's apology, but said, ``it still doesn't make up for how they treated us.''

``It made us feel dirty, disgusted, undignified,'' he said.


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