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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Two North Texas families are angry with the treatment they say they received at a North Texas theme park.
The Wimberly family of Weatherford, and the Gibson family of Arlington, say they enjoyed a great afternoon at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, until they attended a live stage show at a theater inside the park.
Sami Wimberly’s daughter, Mayli, and Brittany Gibson’s daughter, Brooklyn both use wheelchairs to move around.
Both girls are five-years-old, with similar medical conditions. Their families became fast friends when the girls were babies, and participate together in a number of activities, from movies, to sports teams, to ballet class, to swim lessons.
“They are just like anybody else, they just get around with wheels instead of two legs,” said Brittany Gibson.
Inside the theater for a 5 p.m. show, the parents parked the girls’ wheelchairs in the designated handicapped section.
A railing blocked the children’s view from the wheelchairs, so the parents did what they often do when they take their girls to a theater: they carried them one row forward, so the kids could sit on the adults’ laps and see the show.
But the mothers say, the theater employees would not allow the wheelchairs to be left empty, even though the families were a few feet away. The parents refused to separate from their five-year-olds.
“That’s taking her rights away. The rights that every other kid in the theater has to sit with her parents, or on their laps if they choose. Our kids didn’t have that right because of their chairs,” said Sami Wimberly.
According to Wimberly and Gibson, the employees, including a supervisor, told them the wheelchairs would need to be moved outside with the strollers, if the girls did not sit in them. The mothers were concerned it would take away their daughters’ mobility.
“They are handicapped. That would be the same thing as me asking you to leave legs outside and you have to physically crawl inside to join your family. I’m not going to do that,” said Brittany Gibson.
The two mothers say the employees insisted their wheelchair policy was city code. CBS 11 News checked with the Arlington Fire Marshal. Fire Marshal Stephen Lea says there is no requirement that a wheelchair bound person must remain sitting in their wheelchair in a public space. The only stipulation is that the chair can not be blocking an egress, or exit path.
Gibson and Wimberly says that was never the case here. Ultimately their whole group left the show, including four adults and four children.
Before leaving the park Saturday, they filed a formal complaint in guest services.
Wimberly says they heard nothing until CBS 11 News contacted Six Flags for an explanation of what happened.
Sharon Parker, a spokesperson for the park, sent this statement:
“Both Brittany Gibson and Sami Wimberly want people to be more aware of the rights of people who use wheelchairs.
We apologize to the girls and their families. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication of our safety policy and the matter has been corrected. Our goal is to provide a day of safe fun for all of our guests and we invite both families to return to the park as our special VIP guests.”
Both Brittany Gibson and Sami Wimberly want people to be more aware of the rights of people who use wheelchairs.
“When this happens, that makes them see they are excluded. They are being discriminated against because they can not walk in there with their two feet and go sit with their families,” said Brittany.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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