Disabled woman suing Hersheypark over handicapped access

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DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa.- A disabled Maryland woman is suing Hersheypark in federal court over handicapped access in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Deann Walter, filed the lawsuit on January 11th in the United States Middle District Court. Walter suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and uses a scooter and/or cane to get around. She says she has visited Hersheypark numerous times and plans to do so again.

In the lawsuit, Walter claims that Hersheypark is discriminating against her because the company failed to provide and/or correct barriers to access due to:

  1. Improper signage or lack of signage in main park; lack of spaces designated for disabled use
  2. Inaccessible parking designated accessible throughout park property due to steep cross slopes
  3. Difficulty at the souvenir store and Tower Fries due to excessive counter heights;
  4. Difficulty entering the restaurant “Hersheypark Place” due to excessively steep slope. Additionally, the entrance is too small;
  5. Inaccessible restrooms near the main entrance due to the flush valve handle being located on the narrow side of the toilet near the wall;
  6. She has observed and/or encountered slopes/ramps with a lack of proper handrails along numerous sidewalk and walkway routes throughout the park;

The lawsuit also claims Hersheypark failed to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures. And that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.

The lawsuit asks the Court to declare Hersheypark is in violation of the ADA and that the facility be accessible and useable by the disabled. She also asks that the Court award her reasonable attorney’s fees, costs and other expenses of suit.

In response to the lawsuit, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company Vice-President Garrett Gallia released the following statement:

“Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) regrets any negative experience that a guest may have while visiting our properties. We would have been eager to discuss any issues Ms. Walter experienced but, unfortunately, we have no record of ever being alerted to any of her concerns resulting from her visits to Hersheypark prior to this legal action.

As a company, HE&R has a long history of welcoming and meeting the needs of our guests with special needs. Hersheypark regularly works with local, state and national organizations to ensure that our policies and procedures are consistent with industry best practices. In fact, we partnered with Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania (an organization devoted to parents helping other parents navigate life with a child with disabilities or special needs) in developing our current ‘Rider Safety & Accessibility Guide’ for Hersheypark.  In addition, we are committed to educating and training our team members to have an acute awareness of how we can best accommodate everyone.

We take our responsibility to our guests and employees with special needs or disabilities very seriously, and we are active in the community so we can best provide for those needs. For example, we were a lead panelist in a PA Disability Employment Empowerment Summit, and a presenter in the Living Well with Disabilities Conference. Additionally, we were a founding committee member of past-Governor Corbett’s Cabinet for Employment of People with Disabilities Business Roundtable.We also participate with AHEDD (a private non-profit organization with a mission to serve the community as a catalyst in the employment and development of persons with a disability) in developing community & agency programming for employees with disabilities.

Our goal is to ensure that we create wonderful family memories for everyone who works at or visits Hersheypark – and we believe that the time, training and policies we’ve put in place have a positive impact on our guests’ experience.”

For more information on ADA services available at Hersheypark, please visit:
http://www.hersheypark.com/park-info/accessibility.php