Five-year-old in wheelchair forced to prove he can walk at U.K. Legoland
Legoland says staff were following safety guidelines when they asked a five-year-old boy in a wheelchair to demonstrate his ability to walk before he got on a ride at a U.K. resort. (Joanna Brett)
Published Monday, October 14, 2019 2:39PM EDT
Legoland is defending asking a five-year-old U.K. boy in a wheelchair to prove he can walk.
Joanna Brett was with her son Sebby at a U.K. Legoland’s ninja-themed ride when staff said he had to demonstrate his ability to walk in case of evacuation. He was asked to take three steps using just one hand for support. After a manager wasn’t satisfied, he was asked to complete what the park calls a “ride accessibility check” a second time before he was allowed on the ride. Sebby has an undiagnosed condition similar to cerebral palsy that affects the motor function in his lower limbs.
“I was astounded. I couldn’t quite believe what they were telling me was true,” said his mother in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca from Gloucestershire county. “It was more upsetting and humiliating for him because we were holding everybody up.”
Sebby was unsettled after the incident, said Brett, who recalled him asking: “Mommy, why would they make someone in a wheelchair walk?”
In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Legoland apologized for the distress the incident caused but said the staff actions were done to ensure guest safety in the case of an evacuation through emergency exits, which have stairs.
“We were very sorry to hear of Mrs. Brett and her family’s experience,” the company wrote. “We are always working to make the Resort more accessible and constantly review our processes to ensure families have the best possible experience when they visit, and all guest feedback informs that process.”
Brett said they had contacted Legoland Windsor Resort in advance about Sebby’s disability, but were not informed that as many as 80 per cent of the rides were inaccessible, according to Brett’s own count after reviewing official resort accessibility documents. “It’s not the 1960s any longer,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that the (parent company Merlin Entertainments) hasn’t thought about the basic principle of a child being able to use a wheelchair.”
The policy that requires all guests to walk during an evacuation and perform a “ride accessibility check” is “crazy,” said Brett. “The three steps is irrelevant. It’s not logical it makes no sense,” she said, adding that both Sebby and his younger sister Lottie, who does not have a disability, would have been carried out during an evacuation. After the incident, Brett wrote a lengthy Facebook post, which has been shared hundreds of times, detailing how Sebby was “forced to parade his disability” in front of staff and other guests.
“What did those 3 patronizing and embarrassing steps prove to them?!” she wrote online.
The resort apologized to Brett and family for the repeated request that Sebby walk three steps and said the company will meet to discuss the policy. Brett hopes that people who use wheelchairs will be warned in advance that many rides are inaccessible and that they may be asked to demonstrate their mobility. She hopes that any such walking “tests” will be done in private upon arrival, and that those guests will be given wristbands so the check isn’t completed at each ride.