A woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Six Flags Great America in north suburban Gurnee, claiming the park discriminated against her disabled son by not letting him on rides.
Ann McKinney, of Decatur, claims her young son Rory was refused permission on “the vast majority” of rides at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee two years ago due to his disability, according to the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court. Rory has Radial-Ulnar club hand, a “congenital upper extremity deformity” in both of his arms, the suit states.
The suit claims Six Flags’ exclusion of her son is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and “is not based on any credible scientific or engineering principles.”
The family of 11 visited the park as part of a yearly tradition in 2012, and 6-year-old Rory was able to ride throughout the morning, McKinney said. But later in the day, the family was told Rory could no longer go on rides in the children’s section because he needed at least one complete hand, she said.
When the family asked for a list of rides he could visit, they were told none would allow him, McKinney said.
“There are rides he should not ride. I wouldn’t put him on a ride he needed to be able to grip and hold,” she said. “I wouldn’t put Rory on a roller coaster.”
But she said there’s no safety reason her son shouldn’t be allowed on attractions children much younger than Rory can ride, like the park’s carousel.
McKinney said she hopes the park will make the policy less broad — considering extra safety precautions like an extra seat belt for riders like Rory or offering a waiver system for rides on which she “knew he would have no greater chance of being hurt than someone else.”
According to Six Flags Great America’s Safety and Accessibility Guide, many rides require a guest have at least one “functioning arm,” which is described as a “full arm with the ability to be flexed at the elbow and a minimum of three full fingers with the ability to hold on with a firm grip.”
Anthony Brady, an attorney for the family, said there is no engineering evidence that Rory’s condition would make him less safe on children’s rides. He said the park should evaluate the safety of each rider on a case-by-case basis.
McKinney said she seeks a change in park policy, an apology for Rory, who “was very upset and embarrassed” and a free day for any kids who have not been allowed to ride.
The three-count suit claims violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and of the Illinois Human Rights Act and seeks an unknown amount in damages.
A representative from Six Flags reached Friday evening did not comment on the suit.