— (MCT) – A Weatherford man is suing Six Flags Entertainment Corp. in Dallas federal court, claiming the Grand Prairie-based amusement-park operator violated the Americans With Disabilities Act last summer when it refused to let him ride the Aquaman Splashdown at Six Flags Over Texas because he has no hands.
According to the suit filed Tuesday, when he was a child Clint Bench’s arms “stopped forming at the distal ends of the radius and ulna,” and as a result, “he has no fully formed hands.” Regardless, says the suit, he’s gone on to lead a normal life: He went to college, got a degree, got married, got a job and is now raising two kids of his own.
“He has lived his entire life with this condition,” says the suit, “and has never needed or even desired the assistance of prosthetics.”
Says the suit, Bench “is a physically fit, healthy adult with great upper body strength. He can perform all manners of activities, including activities that one would normally assume would require the use of hands. For example, he can do pull-ups and he enjoys such activities as water skiing and mountain biking. Mr. Bench also has surprising manual dexterity.
He can write, type, tie his shoes, use a cell telephone, and fire a gun.”
He also enjoys the thrill of a good amusement-park ride, says the suit – something he’s done often, both at the Arlington Six Flags and other parks owned and operated by the company. Which is why in March of last year he bought three season passes to Six Flags Over Texas, where he rode whatever he wanted – and whatever he was able to ride – till May 2012.
That, he says, is when he boarded the Aquaman Splashdown, only to be told by a Six Flags employee to exit the ride “because he does not have hands.” The complaint says “this caused Mr. Bench considerable embarrassment, as his children had never seen anybody discriminate against him due to his lack of natural hands.”
According to the suit, Six Flags’ Guide to Rides & Attractions said nothing about needing hands or the ability to “grasp” in order to ride what used to be known as Splashwater Falls, which has been a Six Flag staple since 1987. The old guide, filed as an exhibit with the suit, shows there were seven other rides that carried that caveat: Batman: The Ride, the Flashback (which was removed in September), Judge Roy Scream, La Vibora, the Runaway Mine Train, The Titan and the Texas Giant. But the Aquaman Splashdown came with no such restrictions.
Now it does: The suit also contains a guide that Bench and his Dallas attorney, Levi McCathern, say was written sometime after September 14. And now, in order to board the Aquaman Splashdown, it says, riders “must have one full arm and one full leg.”
But, says the suit, “The ride itself has not changed. What has changed is that Mr. Bench complained, and in response Defendant changed the policy to reflect what they incorrectly told him was the policy at the time he was kicked off the ride.”
The suit maintains Six Flags changed its policy only after Bench complained to park management after he’d been told to exit the ride.
“The policies are both over-inclusive and under-inclusive,” says the suit. “This case shows how the rides are over-inclusive. Mr. Bench – who is capable of riding every ride at Six Flags Over Texas, and who has done so many times without injury to himself or others – is now unable to enjoy the rides with his family. On the other hand, the policy is under-inclusive because it says nothing about those who have hands but choose not to hold on. There are many people who, either for extra thrill or in a silly display of bravado, keep their hands in the air for the duration of the ride. This is true even for the ‘high thrill’ rides. Nevertheless, Six Flags does not prevent these people from going on further rides.”
The complaint Six Flag is in violation of the ADA and the Texas Human Resources Code, which protects the rights of the disabled. He’s also asking Six Flags to refund him for his season passes, attorneys’ fees and any other damages the court sees fit based on whatever “mental anguish” he may have suffered after being kicked off the ride.
Sharon Parker, the spokesperson for Six Flags, said she had not seen the suit.
“But generally,” she said, “we don’t comment on pending litigation.”
Copyright the Dallas Morning News, provided through McClatchey News Service.