Segways Compromise of Safety in Disney Theme Parks Term Paper

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Segways: A compromise of safety in Disney Theme Parks

The use Segways as personal mobility devices in theme parks, opposing argument

Segway is an electronic transporter based on two-wheels. The device can carry one rider to travel in different terrains and allows the rider to balance on two wheels. The scooter uses network control mechanism, propulsion, sensors and mechanical assembly. The scooter has a stabilization technology, and the device uses software to adjust according to terrain and the rider. The device was invented by Dean Kamen but has been recalled several times owing to the product malfunctions and defects (Weiss, 2013).

The Department of Justice (DOJ) 2010 ADA Title III regulations has stirred controversy as DOJ requires that public accommodations must make reasonable modifications for giving permission for using Personal mobility devices (PMDs) in their premises. DOJ specifies two PMDs. One is the wheelchair and other is power-driven PMDs. Segway is amongst the second category of PMDs. After several cases of injury caused by the use of Segways, Disneyland decided to disallow the use of Segways in their theme parks due to several cases of injury. Powers (2007) reported that Segway has sued Walt Disney World (WDW) to let guests use Segway scooters. However, DOJ forces public accommodation to impose safety requirements for using Segways that are not speculative but should be based on actual risks. Disney Land has come up with some alternatives to the issue by introducing their own stand-up four wheel mobility devices or from companies such as Chariot 4-wheel scooter. Still, DOJ has forced Disney to allow using Segways, and this causes serious business issues for Disney. Following are highlights of injury cases filed by Segway customers regarding lack of safety and malfunctioning of Segway scooter.

The incidents

Jimi Heselden's death: Jimi Heselden, owner of the firm Segway who bought the company dies in a tragic accident falling off the cliff of a mountain while riding Segway PMD (Reuters, 2010). The news caused deep concern regarding safety and security of Segway as a PMD.

Don Greenfield, Pennsylvania: Don Greenfield dies while riding his two-wheeled Segway scooter in Pennsylvania. Don hit a path hole while driving Segway, but his wife survived.

Marchelle Syverson: He was an IBM employee who died while being hit by a drunken driver when Marchelle was on his Segway scooter. It was also observed that 18 complaints were received by the city authorities against Segway drivers in Honolulu (Metcalfe, 2012).

Richmond dealer lawsuits: A Segway dealer in Richmond was sued three times after the customers using Segway scooter fell off while trying to control the scooter. Lunging and lurching incidents of scooters are routinely reported in the media. The dealer says he is covered with liability insurance but facing three lawsuits at once renders his business severely impacted. The plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against Richmond-based Segway dealer are named Marge Pritchett, Jenny Honeycutt and Jeffury Whitt. Schwartz (2011) reports that all three Richmond-based plaintiffs are also going to sue Segway Incorporated.

Another inconsistency in the stance of DOJ is that it used Metro Segway Program to substantiate its stance on forcing Disney to allow Segway use its theme parks. The department authorities said that since D.C. Metro permits disable commuters to use Segway as a mobility device by showing Metro's disability related program, Disney should also allow the same. However, Burgin (2011) mentions that DOJ's direction to Disney is inconsistent with the department's recent ADA amended regulations. The ADA regulation requires that WDW should accept verbal representation as a credible assurance for allowing disabled persons to use Segway as a mobility device in the Disney theme parks.

The design gurus mark the Segway design a failure

Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs also criticized the design elements of Segway scooter by terming the design as being "stupid" (Caulifield, 2010). What triggered Job's comments was the failure of the Segway executive team to understand that the firm shall not be developing proprietary software for the scooter. Jobs criticized the Segway being launched in two models rather than one and also lamented that the company has failed to anticipate the need for a strong team of technologists if the software is to remain proprietary. Jobs pushed the company to adopt open source software that can be modified by technologists and code writers if the company comes across some issues related to software. However, Dugh Field and Scott Waters did not approve of the idea and let the scooter launch with a proprietary software that was later responsible for failing the machine. One high profile public relations campaign of Segway that failed was when former President George W. Bush stumbled while driving a Segway scooter (Caulifield, 2010).

Steve Jobs also stated the design to be highly erroneous as it does takes into consideration the likelihood that anyone can fall with little lack of attention. This may cause the person to sue or speak unfavorably regarding the product. The later incidents and happening confirm the anticipated findings of Jobs. Segway was sued by many customers and agencies for failing to make the product safe for drivers.

Settled but still twisted

Burgin (2011) reported that the U.S. Justice Department has violated its legal authority in terms of dictating terms to Walt Disney World (WDW). The department asked Disney management to make arrangements for allowing customers to use their Segway scooters and shall not impose blanket ban on Segways. Despite several lawsuits in favor of plaintiffs and increased safety concerns the department has failed to duly recognize the efforts of Disney in addressing the issue of disabled persons. WDW has developed their own version of stand-up four wheel powered mobility devices. WDW has adequately addressed the issues of safety by removing the essential design flaws present in Segways. The device is four wheeled that improves the balance of rider and provides more safety to nearby people.

The lawsuits

John Ezzo v. Segway: A Bridgeport jury awarded $10 million to John Ezzo who was riding on a Segway scooter in Southern Connecticut University in September 2009 (NBC, 2011). During a trail show, Segway employees encouraged Ezzo to ride Segway blindfolded that resulted in a head injury to Ezzo thus making him bedridden and being dropped out of the university. The incident suggests that Segway scooters speed away due to a malfunction in its software. Different incidents reported as a consequence of using Segway scooters include injuries such as spinal cord injury, broken bones, broken wrist, head injury and facial injury. Segway scooters are found to be too sensitive device that users are unable to handle appropriately (PW Parker, n.d.).

Howard v. Segway, Inc.: Dr. Howard filed a lawsuit in District Court Oklahoma and alleged that while riding his Segway HT i67 at Disney World Forest in Florida his scooter buckled and became uncontrollable. Howard was injured with a compound fracture (Leagle, 2012).

Timothy James v. Segway: Segway settled the lawsuit out of court by paying hefty amount of money to Timothy James, a senior supervisor for Ambassador Force. James was riding his Segway scooter when a slight incline in terrain required him to slow down the scooter from 12 miles to 4 miles. Suddenly the left wheel of the scooter stopped that caused James to fall and hurt his knee. James said he incurred $60,000 in medical expenses and before he recalled the Segway scooters in 2003. Segway Inc. settled the lawsuit by paying James out of the court.

Daniel Lindabaur v. Segway: Daniel a teenager from Texas was driving his Segway scooter at an open house event at his father house. Daniel report that the scooter suddenly stopped and caused Daniel to fall resulting in serious injuries. The company settled the lawsuit out of the court by giving compensation to Daniel's parents.

Fred Cowan v. Segway Inc.: The lawsuit was filed in New England by a community activist of Gloucester. Cowan reported that despite having used the Segway for two years and being fully expert at driving it, the plaintiff received serious injuries on wrist, head, and face when his Segway stopped functioning. Cowan has filed the lawsuit claiming $350,000 in damages (Sanders, 2008).

Presence of appropriate alternatives

It is contended that despite presence of reasonable alternatives to Segway scooters, the DOJ has forced Disney to make adjustments to its theme parks for paving way for the use of Segways. It is pertinent to mention that the new Q4 Chariot is a better alternative to Segway. The former is a 4-wheeled scooter that has a superior balance compared to Segway. It offers zero learning curve for its users and an affordable price makes it a better alternative. It is stable with four wheels and does not use sensitive sensors to balance the rider. The personal transporter has zero turning radiuses and has rear steering with two trailing wheels. Another feature is that the Chariot scooter has parking brakes, dual disk brakes, handbrakes, and brake lights (Scooter Catalog, n.d.). The researcher contends that DOJ's has shown bias towards forcing…

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