Theme park sued over accommodation policy

Theme Park Charges $2,261 for Ramp to Stage
Theme Park Charges $2,261 for Ramp to Stage

A Miami-based nonprofit is taking a popular theme park to court for failing to reasonably accommodate attendees in its primary event space.

In April, Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence (HOPE) held its annual Miami-Dade County Fair Housing Month Celebration at Jungle Island’s Treetop Ballroom. Three of the event’s honorees required a ramp to access the Ballroom’s stage, due to their mobility disabilities.

To request the ramp, Jungle Island instructed HOPE to contact its catering and event management contractor, Ovations. The company, which recently changed it name to Spectra, charged them $2,261.

HOPE paid the money, but has since tried, unsuccessfully, to recoup the funds. Finally, on October 16, it filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

“You can’t surcharge a group for having persons with disabilities attend,” HOPE Attorney Matthew Dietz told the Maimi New Times. “It’s wrong, especially when they are the honorees.”

As HOPE sees it, Jungle Island, which hosts hundreds of events in the space each year, must provide a ramp, free of charge, as a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

“If you had a bride in a wheelchair, is her wedding more expensive because she needs a ramp to get up on the riser?” HOPE President and CEO Keenya Robertson told the Daily Business Review.

A spoksesperson for Jungle Island told the Miami New Times that it has “purchased a ramp to have for future requests,” though HOPE President Robertson also allegedly was told in July the company would stop providing temporary staging at events altogether.

Jungle Island and Ovations, in addition to the city of Miami, which leases the space to the theme park, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.