- Richard A. ZimmermanCOO Cedar Fair Entertainment / Carowinds Amusement Park
- Duff MilkieCorporate VP, Senior Counsel Cedar Fair Entertainment / Carowinds Amusement Park
- Maria SharpCharlotte Observer, Reporter
Carowinds Amusement Park: Change Policy and Treatment Towards Children with Disabilities
For children with disabilities and their families, every day is a struggle, but one they joyfully embrace. They know they have more challenges than typical families just to get through the day, let alone a vacation, and they make adjustments and arrangements ahead of time for both their comfort and enjoyment and the comfort and enjoyment of others. The policy and treatment of children with non-physical disabilities at Carowinds in Charlotte, NC effectively makes the park inaccessible. This is not only illegal, it's deplorable. Please read below the story of what happened to a friend of mine and her family when they ventured out for a day of fun at Carowinds...
Want to share the story of our sad day at Carowinds. As a mom with a twin boys, one of whom has autism, before heading to the park I made a call to ask some questions. I needed to know their food policies and more importantly about the rides. Every place is a little different but most of the time they give us a pass which allows us to enter through the exit. We wait a few minutes and they put us right on the ride. We do not take this for granted but frankly if they didn't do this we would not be able to go. My son can not wait because he doesn't understand. He does not transition or take changes well. It is very hard for him to see the trains come and go and not get on. He has AUTISM and this is part of his disability!!! I also purchased out tickets on line and was told that way we wouldnt have to wait on line to purchase. When we arrived we had to get on line to pick up our tickets. We waited 45 minutes! When I tried to ask for help I was told they were very busy. We got our tickets and went in only to wait on another line to get our "special pass". I was questioned about my child's disability and several times asked "Why do you need one if you said your child can walk?" etc. We had to justify his disability and need because my son doesn't "look" disabled. He is significantly autistic, and is non-verbal, but physically, he is fine. After giving a tutorial in autism to the attendant, we received the passes and finally we were on our way. We went up the exit and handed the attendant our pass. She said come back in 45 minutes. I tried to explain that would not be ok and why. She said sorry thats our policy. I thought maybe we had the wrong pass and asked for a supervisor. In the meantime, my autistic son starts screaming, watching each train go by it gets worse and worse. Now he is full fledge tantruming, biting, pinching, throwing himself on the floor. We asked again, please can you put him on the ride, she said Sorry, NO! I said do you see my child? and she said again, Sorry its policy. And to make it worse they were sending trains with empty seats but still would not let him on! Now my other son starts to cry because he is upset about his brother and I cry as well. 30 minutes later a manager comes over and I can barely speak with the tears rolling down my face. She put my son on the ride and he calms down. Guess what happened at the next ride? Here we go again. Three hours and two rides later we are back at the guest services asking for a supervisor. We were told over and over again, sorry by everyone! They could not accommodate us . Apparently they have changed their policy but didn't tell me that on the phone. Now they have decided to put all persons with disabilities from Autism to a broken foot into one category. The policy is that you get a pass go the front then the employee tells you when to come back. Can you even believe this? There is so much more that we experienced that I can not even begin to write. The lack of compassion, concern and tolerance was sickening. Their inability and desire to help us was sad. We left that park feeling terrible and sad as parents who struggle on a daily basis. They would not even give us our money back. I cried on the way home for a world that is not even close to understanding autism and all it comes with. I will never go back to one of their parks ever and I promised my kids that I will spread the word as much as possible. Thanks for caring enough to read my story...
- COO Cedar Fair Entertainment / Carowinds Amusement Park
Richard A. Zimmerman
- Corporate VP, Senior Counsel Cedar Fair Entertainment / Carowinds Amusement Park
- Charlotte Observer, Reporter
Change Policy and Treatment Towards Children with Disabilities. No one should experience what the family of a child with autism experienced. You have effectively ignored the Americans with Disabilities Act and made your parks inaccessible to children with autism.
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