The BLOGFlume—The Heat is On

Apple and Disney dealing, a denial of ridership at Busch Gardens Tampa, and a privacy question.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: July 20, 2005 at 7:57 PM

Something coming?
Businesswire 7/19/05
Digital Lifestyles 7/20/05

Apple-owned iTunes and Radio Disney have announced a deal that will allow songs on the nationwide radio network to be purchased through iTunes. The deal also allows iTunes to stream Radio Disney through the iTunes website, and gives parents a great online destination for children’s music. Not only that, but Apple is currently negotiating with Disney and it’s television subsidiaries ABC and ESPN for the rights to digital videos. Apple is also working on deals with other movie and television companies to pave the way for the Apple “vPod”. The digital video player is the next step for Apple’s immensely popular iPod, and could revolutionize the way people watch TV and home movies. The product is still under tight wraps, but could be ready for release at the end of this year or early next year with downloads of digital video starting at $1.99. With Apple and Disney doing so much negotiating with music and video, could Pixar be part of the negotiations? While there are no reports suggesting such dealings, the recent talks between Apple and Disney could easily become relevant to the Pixar situation. As Apple is trying to solidify itself as a provider of digital media, Disney could be trying to use Pixar as a bargaining chip in any deal struck with Apple.

Safety First
St. Petersburg Times 7/20/05

It seems that theme parks are doing whatever they can to error on the side of caution these days. Around the country, there have been incidents of guests with potential pre-existing conditions dying on attractions. However, Busch Gardens Tampa has managed to create a bit of negative publicity by trying to avoid such an incident. An 8-year old girl, who competes in swimming events in the National Junior Disability Championships, was denied access to three water rides. Jessica Rogers suffers from lumbosacral agenesis, a condition that stunted the growth of her legs, which were amputated. Unfortunately Jessica had left her prosthetic legs at home, and ride attendants did not want to risk strapping a person into attractions that have a primary harness that secures the lower portion of the body. This situation poses a very interesting question: Should theme parks do whatever is possible to make attraction accessible to everyone, and risk an incident caused by a guest’s pre-existing condition, or should they create negative publicity by turning away guests because they don’t want to take a chance?

In a litigious society like the United States, it’s difficult to blame Busch Gardens for turning this little girl away. Who wants to take responsibility and bear the inevitable lawsuit if someone with no legs is ejected from an attraction? However, what theme park wants to prohibit children from riding, especially disabled children? Disney actually had a problem last year when a rider was ejected from the Mad Hatter’s Teacups, primarily because of a lack of strength in the lower body. The ADA requires that theme parks provide adequate access to rides and attractions for people with disabilities, but if disabled people cannot be secured by an attraction’s restraints, those people have to be denied access. It may break the hearts of little kids and anger their parents, but if we want to have theme parks to go to 30 years from now, parks cannot risk any major lawsuits or endure negative publicity centered around safety.

Atlanta Journal Constitution

An interesting commentary by former congressman Bob Barr discusses the consequences of biometric scans. Disney and Busch have begun to use hand scans for passholders -Busch for annual passes, Disney for all ticket holders. The system is rather convenient. You place your hand on a scanner, and hand the attendant your pass, and your identity is verified. No need for a picture, no need for an I.D., just give the park your hand geometry, and you’re in. The question here is, are the use of biometric scans for identification purposes an invasion of privacy? Your handprints and fingerprints are unique to you, and by turning them over to a theme park database, you in a way are giving them a piece of you. I personally don’t think these hand scans are an invasion of your privacy, even though many laws state that fingerprinting for non-criminal purposes is an invasion. In fact, I’d be interested in seeing them used for legal identification, so that identity theft, one of the most rapidly growing forms of crime in this country, can be quelled. However, by allowing these types of scans, we are opening ourselves up to even more invasive scans. A line needs to be drawn quickly before we’re giving a drop of blood or a hair for DNA identification. There has even been discussion of “tagging” criminals with sub-dermal computer chips that can allow police to identify criminals with a simple scanner, rather Orwellian I'd say. While I don’t think a theme park would ever go as far as imbedded chips or DNA identification, a standard for personal identification needs to be established in this country that is reliable, yet not an invasion of a person’s privacy.

Readers' Opinions

From Danny Bernard on July 20, 2005 at 11:09 PM
Well the girl probably should have been allowed on but what would you do if you saw an amputee asking to get on a ride with lower body restraints that youd never met before?

Also cant wait to get my vPod :)

From RANDY TAYLOR on July 21, 2005 at 4:40 AM
I would prefer that the park not allow her to ride than to let her ride and for something to happen. AS far as scans go, as long as the park is not going to profit off of my personal information by selling it without my permission, i'm all for it.
From Derek Potter on July 21, 2005 at 8:57 AM
Why is this getting media attention? She has no legs. It's too bad for her that she couldn't ride, but parks usually don't dictate who can and can't ride the ride, the manufacturer does. She may be a good swimmer, but that doesn't help keep you in the seat of a ride, especially when the majority of rides restrain your legs and waist, and her being a good swimmer sure doesn't release Busch Gardens from liablity if something were to happen to her

There is more to this than just restraints. What if a ride malfunctions and they have to do a safety evacuation? Who is going to piggyback her down the coaster hill or up some stairs somewhere? If her parents go and fall they are liable, if an employee goes and gets hurt, they are liable. Also, most rides require at least one lower limb to ride, and if I'm correct, don't most ride manufacturers consider prosthetics as a limb? The article said that she forgot them at home, and if she had broght them, she probably would have been able to ride. Busch Gardens refunded all of their money, so why the negative publicity?

All liabilities aside, these rules aren't here for no reason, they are there for everyone's safety. It may seem a bit excessive at times, but just when someone lets their guard down and allows an unfit person on the ride, another terrible accident happens. I don't blame Busch Gardens one bit for turning her away. They were looking out for her and their other guests. Don't get me wrong, I'm sorry that she couldn't ride, but it's just not safe.

From Justin Bates on July 21, 2005 at 9:00 AM
If the girl does have any prosthetic laegs she should have been wearing them, especially at a theme park. I agree that the park should have turned her away just becasue it seems that a lot of times when there are accidents on rides it involves someone with either a health problem or physical problem. It's better for thepark to think about the safety of everyone even if it means turning away a little girl.
From Deborah Davis on July 21, 2005 at 10:32 AM
I would understand that they wouldn't let her on many of the rides, but they wouldn't even let her go on the kiddie boat ride in Land of the Dragons. That I don't understand.

I did think it was odd that in the picture with the article she was holding a sign urging a boycott of BGT, yet they are supposed to be going to Adventure Island today. Hopefully they will have better luck there.

From Robert OGrosky on July 21, 2005 at 2:34 PM
With how sue-happy this country is the park made the right decision. Lawyers are doing there best with the help of idiots like rep. markey from mass. to legislate fun out of theme parks.
Ive read trip reports from a different site where they traveled to Europe and went to many parks and found them refreshing, as they had self-operated rides and numerous trampolines/obstacle courses that were fun but would never be found in a big american park due to the lawsuits that would happen if one got hurt.
If this gril has a complaint take it to the ABA and not the parks!!!
From Jason Lester on July 21, 2005 at 10:38 PM
Deborah, luck has nothing to do with this. While it sucks for the girl that she wasn't allowed on rides, ride operators aren't supid enough to risk it. I agree that she shouldn't have been let on. Accidents can happen on any ride, no matter how tame. If there's lower restraints and she doesn't have legs, then there's a safety issue in that. If she'd brought her prosthetic leg then things may have been better, but that's a personal fault, not the park's. There's no reason to boycott anything here.

Would you like the girl's day ruined, or her to be dead. Because I think the publicity would be much worse if she was dead rather then unhappy and ungrateful that the park tried to look out for her safety.

From Deborah Davis on July 22, 2005 at 5:51 AM

Either you misread my statement or I wasn't clear enough on my point.

I 100% agree that she shouldn't be allowed on a lot of the rides at BGT. Of course, no one wants an injury or death. But the kiddie boat ride is no worse than "It's a Small World". If she can get in the boat, there is no reason to use lower extremities to ride the ride. I've seen toddlers go on it by themselves.

As far as the boycott, I thought it odd that she was calling for a boycott, but then going to Adventure Island, a water park OWNED by Busch Gardens. If she's not following her own boycott, why should others? (It's hard to see in the picture, but the sign on her wheelchair says, "Boycott Busch Gardens)

I noticed that the article also states that prosthetic limbs "can be" considered bracing extremeties. It doesn't say that if she had brought them, then she would have been allowed on the rides. It sounded more like a "maybe". Personally, I'm not sure that she could have used them to properly brace herself on some of the rides, but then again, I don't have personal exprience in such matters.

I haven't heard anything today, so hopefully she enjoyed herself at AI yesterday and had no more complaints.

From Jason Lester on July 22, 2005 at 8:59 AM
Okay, sorry. I've never been to BGT so have never been on the boat ride thing. I wasn't really sure how childish it was. I think it's kind of ridiculous that they're going to Adventure Island. If she wasn't allowed on a kiddy boat ride, why would she be allowed on a water slide. Let's just say I'm sure she wouldn't have forgot the prosthetics, which may not have helped, but it's better to have them, then not.
From Joe Lane on July 22, 2005 at 3:26 PM
On the subject of biometric scanners:

I just returned from a three-day trip to Disney. The system doesn't work. I've had previous experiences at Busch parks. Sometimes the scanners read as they should and you're through the gate, but too often, and for too many, lines at the turnstiles back up as Guests fight with the scanners to get them to accept their fingers/hands. The attendant eventually gives up and waves the guest through with the push of a button. No ID is checked, so identity connection to ticket is useless. The scanners have a ways to go before they're working properly.

If I hear "squeeze like scissors" one more time, I'm going to freak out...

From TH Creative on July 23, 2005 at 12:58 PM
The vibe tells me that the next couple of weeks would be a PERFECT time for Disney and Pixar to announce they have come to an agreement.

Such an announcement would be EQUALLY positive for both companies -- and a HUGE HUGE HUGE victory for Robert Iger after he made peace with Roy Disney.

From Agent R on July 25, 2005 at 5:59 PM
It doesn't matter if it's a kiddie ride, it doesn't matter how benign the ride looks, if it has a height requirement, the team members have to abide by it. Simple as that. Your average tourist is not in a position to know more about the safe operation of a ride than park employees.
From Jason Lester on July 25, 2005 at 6:20 PM
Very good point. The girl and her parents shouldn't think they know more then the TRAINED employees of the park. They are in no position to say what's safe and what isn't at a theme park they don't work at.
From Kevin Baxter on July 30, 2005 at 3:30 PM
What the living hell is that friggin' post about Disney and Pixar have to do with anything???? Seriously. The stupidity of that is at a higher level than his usual stupidity.

Anyhow, ON TOPIC, should little kids now boycott if they aren't allowed on the "adult" rides? I can't fit on many rides due to my height, I guess I should boycott them - and then go to their water parks!

Busch could've kept her off everything, since without her legs, she doesn't reach the height limit for anything. Probably not even the kiddie ride, which may be why she was denied access to that. She apparently could've ridden any coaster or any flat ride with waist restraints. The problem here is the mother, who seems extremely ignorant. She has seven children with disabilities and most GOOD mothers of disabled kids check this stuff out first (we have had them ask us on TPI and I have gotten several emails asking). The other three kids she had were allowed to ride, so her disgust is a bit disingenuous, if you ask me. Especially when you learn what "straw" sent her fleeing from the park: The guy loading the wheelchair portion of the train had the gall to tell her she had to go to the other side! The HORROR!!! Well, what do you expect from a woman quoted as saying, "unlimitless" and "... the kids had not rode anything" which is not only grammatically egregious but a lie, to boot.

From Jason Lester on July 30, 2005 at 3:55 PM
Well put. This mother seems like a complete idiot to me out for nothing but publicity. She's had her 5 minutes of fame. Let's not give her 15.
From Cameron Rust on July 30, 2005 at 9:02 PM
Now, at both Busch parks, a HUGE "Ride Information" sign has been added at every questionable attraction stating no prostetic legs or arms, no motion sickness, or speed problems.

I like that...'gramatically egregious'!

On DarKastle at BGW there is a sign saying, "Do not ride if you are prone to sickness from strobe lights, artificial fog, or water effects!"

DARNIT! I wanted to ride, but i'm allergic to water. I wanna sue!!!

From Kevin Baxter on July 31, 2005 at 12:16 AM
Then go to their water parks!
From Cameron Rust on August 2, 2005 at 8:29 PM

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