Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., got into a bit of a public relations mess over Thanksgiving weekend when security officers told a patron he could not use a Segway inside the park.
The problem was, the man is mayor of North Miami Beach and the Segway was actually his wheelchair.
Mayor Myron Rosner was visiting the park with his family, including wife Sarah Zabel, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge. Paralyzed in a construction accident, Rosner rides an iBot – a $30,000 wheelchair that, although it has four wheels, is capable of carrying its passenger on two, and can elevate the passenger to eye-level of those standing nearby.
However, in front of his wife and four children, park employees demanded Rosner lower himself and use four wheels, he told the Miami Herald.
Park employees mistook the wheelchair for a Segway, which is not allowed in the park because it is deemed unsafe. Three disabled people filed a lawsuit against Disney in 2007 because of the ban, which was settled out of court, the paper said, although Segways are still not allowed into the park.
“I was totally harassed by Disney World,” Rosner said. His entrance to Epcot Center was delayed, he said, before a park manager let him through Nov. 27. But when the family toured Disney’s Animal Kingdom Nov. 29, they were surrounded by employees and a security guard who again told him to lower the chair, the paper said.
Rosner, who left the park soon after the incident, said he plans to file a lawsuit.
“The guest was provided with conflicting guidance,” a Disney spokeswoman told the Herald. “We apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused.”
Unfortunately for Disney, the iBot was once featured at Epcot’s Innoventions, which exhibits products that help improve human lives. Rosner said he was inspired to buy the wheelchair after visiting the exhibit.
Although an iBot is not a Segway, the technology comes from the same company, DEKA, founded by inventor Dean Kamen.