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Good News Report
DRLC Newsletter

Friday, February 11, 2011

DRLC Sues Disneyland for Failing to Prepare for the Evacuation of Persons with Mobility Disabilities
When Joe Martinez and his wife went to Disneyland Park in Anaheim in November 2009, they were thrilled about spending the day at the "Happiest Place on Earth."
Joe Martinez at Disneyland before his ordeal
Joe Martinez prior to his ordeal on
"It's A Small World" ride
But the magic began to wear off when Joe, who has quadriplegia, could not find rides accessible to a person in a wheelchair, or companion restrooms. Joe was surprised by the lack of accomodations twenty years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. One of the few rides accessible to him was "It's A Small World."

Then things went from bad to worse when the ride broke down because of a computer glitch. While trapped in the boat, Joe suffered dysreflexia, a medical condition caused by overstimulation of the nervous system that can quickly lead to a stroke and/or death if untreated.

"Dysreflexia feels like your head is going to explode," Martinez explained. This excruciating pain was made worse by the ubiquitous "It's A Small World" music blaring. The Martinezes pled with Disney staff to call the paramedics.

They also pled for staff to evacuate them from the ride just like they did for the other passengers. But rather than trying to evacuate Joe or calling the paramedics they left him stranded in the boat for more than 40 minutes while waiting for the ride's computer system to reboot. Remarkably, the Martinezes' ordeal was captured by his wife on their video camera.
CBS interview of Jose Martinez
CBS 2 Interview of Joe Martinez

When the couple finally reached the ride's exit, the Martinezes were distraught to see that no paramedics had been dispatched. Instead, they were met by a Disneyland nurse who told Joe to follow her in his wheelchair through the thick, holiday crowd to the first aid station at the other end of the park on Main Street. When they reached the station the nurse took his blood pressure and found it was at a life-threatening level. Only then did the staff notify the paramedics.


Adding insult to injury, employees dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse came to the first aid station to entertain the couple who were shocked and embarrassed by the show.  Mickey and Minnie were inappropriate given the gravity of the situation.

The Martinezes' experience reveals that Disneyland in Anaheim, one of the most visited amusement parks in the world, is not prepared to assist people who use wheelchairs if a ride malfunctions or another emergency takes place.  


Image from the Martinezes' Video Camera

Image from the Martinezes' video camera

On February 7,the Disability Rights Legal Center and Girardi | Keese filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Martinez charging the owners and operators of Disneyland with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and California laws, which were enacted to protect the civil rights of persons with disabilities to use public facilities in a full and equal manner, including being evacuated in the same way as other patrons.


Not surprisingly, the case has been generating headlines. Serene Branson, a reporter for KCBS / KCAL TV, covered the story, interviewing Mr. Martinez and DRLC Legal Director Shawna Parks and using parts of the Martinezes' home video. The story Quadriplegic Suing Disneyland For Leaving Him Stranded On 'Small World' Ride aired the day we filed the complaint, on the 11 p.m. news. The Associated Press reported on the case, and many news outlets have picked up the story, including New York Times, TIME online, and Orange County Register.


Shawna Parks, Legal Director, said, "This is Disney's first theme park. Given the history of earthquakes and other disasters in California, Disneyland's failure to have policies and training regarding emergency evacuation procedures for persons with mobility disabilities endangers the lives of the thousands of persons with disabilities who visit Disneyland each year. It is disappointing that the well-established leader in theme parks, Disneyland, has not done more to address its emergency preparedness needs, particularly with respect to people with disabilities."

Hold July 23 for 'Casino Angeleno'


The Cancer Legal Resource Center's Casino Night event is back by popular demand! The CLRC will be hosting its "Casino Angeleno" summer event on Saturday, July 23, 2011. Set on the rooftop deck of the Petersen Automotive Museum, with the Hollywood Hills as a spectacular backdrop, guests will enjoy a starry, summer night of guilt-free gaming, music and prizes. Proceeds will benefit the CLRC. For sponsorship opportunities, click here to download the sponsorship packet, or contact Joanna Morales at joanna.morales@lls.edu. Event details will be posted at www.cancerlegalresourcenter.org in March

Attorney Joins CLRC Professional Panel

The Cancer Legal Resource Center would like to thank Isidro Garcia from Miami, Florida for joining the center's Professional Panel. Attorneys in the Professional Panel volunteer their time to speak with callers on the CLRC's national Telephone Assistance Line, to assist in resolving cancer-related legal issues.

Outreach Staff Begin Office Hours in Garden Grove
Dayle McIntosh Center in Garden Grove
Dayle McIntosh Center in Garden Grove

The Community Outreach Program has begun bimonthly office hours at the Dayle McIntosh Center in Garden Grove. This month, Outreach Staff will be at the center on February 23 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. This is a great opportunity for people in Orange County to meet staff in person and learn about the Americans With Disabilities Act and other disability rights laws. The Dayle McIntosh Center was named in memory of a young woman with a severe physical disability who worked to found the Center in 1977. It is located at 13272 Garden Grove Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA 92843-2205


The online credit card donation feature is available on the Make a Donation page of the DRLC website. This quick and easy function can be used for general donations.  



Visit the How You Can Help page of our website to volunteer as a pro bono attorney on a disability rights case, work as a student law clerk or assist with intake and administrative responsibilities.


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DRLC Staff Photo August 2010