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Old 03-25-2009, 10:17 AM   #1
jcb
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WDW Segway Lawsuit - 6/10/09 Update (post 74) - wdwinfo.com cited in lawsuit

I have been following the WDW Segway lawsuit with some interest. I thought it might help to explain why the government has objected to the proposed settlement.

At the start, I should say I'm not trying to go into technical legal issues here so you other lawyers out there don't start picking at me for omitting what you think might be relevant details. I'll admit I probably have for the sake of simplicity. Also, I have no professional relationship to the lawsuit.

I have a copy of the government's initial objections (they are to file their final ones today, though I doubt this will be much different than what it has already said). Anyone who wants to read these in full can pm me their e-mail address and I will gladly email you a copy.

The government's objections to the proposed settlement have a lot to do with technical issues relating to class action settlements. Here, the government feels this settlement disproportionately benefits the people who sued without benefiting the non-party class members (those whose name is not on the lawsuit but who would nevertheless be bound by the settlement) as well as how the settlement might muck up other, current and future, lawsuits or pending regulatory actions.

Take the last point first, none of the people suing say they have or want to go to Disneyland but the settlement would include Disneyland. That's a big problem, legally; it was essentially the reason why the Segway lawsuit was initially dismissed. Also, there is a pending a Segway lawsuit against Disneyland and the settlement, if it covers Disneyland, could affect that lawsuit.

More importantly (to the government), the government has, since at least June 2008, been studying whether and under what conditions (including safety concerns) must Segways (and any other "electronic personal assistive moibility devices") be allowed in theme parks (as well as other businesses). As to Segways in theme parks, you can see the issues the government is studying here (page 33, particularly "example 1"). Essentially, the Government is trying to find a way to balance the benefit of permitting Segway use against the safety and other challenges that use poses in public places. It is concerned that the WDW settlement (which would also include DL), would undercut whatever it decides to do in these regulations.

The other objections (to try to cut to the chase) are that the lawsuit benefits the people who sued but not any other members of the class. The people who sued get something of value ($4,000, free use of a Disney owned four wheel "electronic standup vehicle" and of course, some attorney fees) but other members of the class only get the "opportunity" (government's quotes) to rent WDW's "ESV" at, currently, $45 a day. The problem with this, the government says, is that this "opportunity" is an "illegal surcharge in violation of the ADA" because businesses cannot require disabled individuals to pay a fee to get an accommodation.

These are not the Government's only objections but this post already too much resembles a blog post as it is.

When the government takes the unusual step of objecting to a private settlement (and it is unusual for it to do so), it is more likely to direct its resources at highly visible targets because it knows that is more likely to generate publicity than in a lawsuit against a local shopping mall. It worked here, after all.

Don't take any of this as saying I agree or disagree with the government's position or that I disagree that WDW has a strong track record of accommodating individuals with disabilities. For what it is worth, were I calling the shots for WDW (and again, I am not) I would be inclined to ask that both Segway lawsuits be put on hold until the government finalizes the regulations that would govern whether and how theme parks (and other places) must permit the use of Segways.
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Last edited by jcb; 06-10-2009 at 10:55 PM. Reason: 6/10/09 update
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Old 03-25-2009, 11:03 AM   #2
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now that that's cleared up !! ???
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Old 03-25-2009, 01:39 PM   #3
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Can you image a park full of segways, strollers, wheelchairs, and ECV's They would have to make elevated walk ways for the walkers, so that no one gets hurt.
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Old 03-25-2009, 02:33 PM   #4
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Jack - I appreciate the time you took putting this into layman's terms and also shedding light on details we might've otherwise missed.
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:58 PM   #5
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Stacy,

I was happy to try to confuse things further!

Congratulations on getting to go to DL!
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Old 03-26-2009, 02:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcb View Post
Stacy,

I was happy to try to confuse things further!

Congratulations on getting to go to DL!
Thanks! As for confusing things further, not at all! You gave a clear and consise explanation that even an auto claims adjuster could understand. When I was looking at the suit itself and the govenment objections, THAT confused me!
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Old 03-26-2009, 02:55 PM   #7
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Thanks Jack. Interesting stuff.

I learned something today.

I appreciate the effort taken to post that information.

Kevin
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Old 03-26-2009, 03:46 PM   #8
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That really was a great explanation. It really helps to understand that the government is getting involved for a beneficial reason with long term benefits for all. Not just favoring a few.
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Old 04-02-2009, 02:51 PM   #9
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Update

I took a minute to check the status of the lawsuit.

The court has scheduled a status conference for 4/9/2009 at 03:00 PM in federal court in Orlando (Courtroom 5 A) if anyone is interested in going. It's a public hearing but these are usually only attended by lawyers and the judge to discuss deadlines and scheduling future hearings and how best to resolve disputed issues. Few if any decisions are made. I did see that Disney objected to putting this hearing off saying it wants to get the settlements objections resolved. WDW appears to be thinking the settlement will go through.

Part of the pending settlement would have WDW pay (by agreement) the attorney fees of the suing parties. Fee requests are almost always fun (in a warped sense) to review because, as you can imagine, when one attorney expects the opponent to pay, especially when it is WDW, the urge to pile on is too powerful for many to resist. I won't go into too many details. The thing that stuck out at me was that WDW objected (rightly so) to the suing parties wanting to be reimbursed $292 for their dinner at the "Ravenous Pig."

One wonders whether WDW would have objected to the cost if it had been the Spirit of Aloha.
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Old 06-08-2009, 04:08 PM   #10
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On past episodes of the podcast, Kevin, Pete, and John have discussed people in the parks walking/running in front of wheelchairs, and cutting them off. The podcast crew has spoken repeatedly about how difficult it is to bring a wheelchair to a sudden stop when people cut them off.

This brought a question to my mind:

I have never ridden a Segway, but when I was learning to drive the IBOT 4000 Mobility System, the trainer told me that the IBOT needed 3-6 inches of clearance to come to a stop when in the Balance Function. Since Segway technology is based upon the IBOT, I have this question for Segway users in general.

If a child darts in front of a Segway, can the Segway come to a sudden stop?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0y4B-I4pMk

BTW....I got my information reguarding the relationship between the IBOT 4000 and Segways from Independence Technologies, Inc.
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Old 06-10-2009, 10:53 PM   #11
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6/10/09 Update

I was finally able to look at the court filings in the Seqway lawsuit. Between May 6, the last time I looked, and now, there have been almost 50 filings. That means I probably won’t be able to accurately cover everything that happened so I will simply try to hit the highlights.

The June hearing occurred as scheduled. More on this in a minute.

Before the hearing, the attorney generals of a number of states (Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) filed a friend of the court brief urging the court to reject the settlement.

What will probably interest Dissers the most is that the state AG’s brief cites (in a footnote) one of Pete’s recent news’ stories about Disney building resorts in other states as a basis for their concern about the impact of the settlement.

The AG's legal bjections are essentially the same as those of the U.S. Justice Department. State AGs enforce state laws, however, so they add that they are concerned the settlement would inhibit their ability or their citizens’ ability to sue for disability discrimination. In their mind, no settlement is better than the settlement under consideration. Their remaining objections are largely procedural.

As to what happened at the hearing, it is difficult to say because I don’t have a transcript of the hearing, don’t really want to read it and really don’t want to pay for it. (Some of these transcripts can cost as much as a podcast cruise.) I can surmise some things the court filings.

Prior to the trial, WDW asked and was granted permission to bring to the hearing “one Electronic Standard Vehicle (ESV), one Electronic Convenience Vehicle (ECV), one manual wheelchair, and two Segways.” I don’t know whether they did this or not. Court records reflect that WDW put on two witnesses, their safety official (Mr. Hale, mentioned previously); and another (Peter Axelson) who is apparently an expert on assistive and adaptive technology (if I have the right person).

The exhibits WDW offered included photos of the crowds at the Magic Kingdom and a 12/07 video of EPCOT, DHS and AK crowds (hey, maybe DD and I were on the video! – the two photos WDW introduced appear at the end of this posting). Other exhibits included documentation about Segway safety and an article about “suing Segway.” It seems from this that WDW’s tactic was to show it has a very sound basis for saying Segway use in the crowded parks at WDW would be unsafe.

Other exhibits were introduced by the folks objecting to the settlement (“objectors”). These included a video of the objectors using Segways at Universal and exhibits described on the list as “training Segway for Disney employees” (WDW objected to this exhibit), “Disneyland Teamtalk 2-wheel vehicle for guest usage,” and “DVD of Noel Lee from Disney, California Hotel regarding Segway use.” I'm not sure who all testified for the objectors.

As to when to expect a decision, it will probably be months. The parties have 30 days to submit what are called “post-hearing briefs” but that period doesn’t start until they receive a transcript of the hearing. No telling when that will happen.

Please remember, I have no role in the lawsuit and I do not represent WDW or any of its companies. I’m trying hard not to take sides. I just want to keep folks up to date on the developments in the lawsuit.

Here are the two photographs WDW offered as exhibits:



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Old 06-17-2009, 10:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Jett View Post
During the March 25, 2009 "DIS Unplugged" podcast, Kevin and John spoke of a man who has modified a Segway to function as a wheelchair. WDW allows him to use it in the parks. This shows that WDW is sensitive to the needs of disabled guests, and will allow reasonable accomodations to fulfill special needs.
I don't know about that specific man, but I have looked at information on the internet about some of those Segways that have been modified to be ridden sitting down.
All of the ones I have seen involve transferring the weight of the user onto the mats, which have built in weight sensors as part of the balance sensing mechanism.
From page 67 of the pdf version of the Segway Getting Started Guide from the Segway website.
Quote:
When your feet are properly positioned on the Mats, all four Rider Detect sensors depress, allowing the SegwayPT to operate normally in Balance Mode.
If fewer than three Rider Detect sensors are depressed while riding, the Segway PT reduces the top speed limit regardless of whether Beginner Setting is enabled or not. Once your feet are properly positioned again, the SegwayPT regains full performance.
If the Segway PT is moved too quickly while in Balance Mode and none of the Rider Detect Sensors are depressed, the SegwayPT will give the Stick Shake Warning before exiting Balance Mode and transitioning to Standby Mode.
For additional information on Balance Mode and Standby Mode, see “Stick Shake Warning” on page 38.
and from page 139:
Quote:
Do not place any objects on the Mats. This could cause the SegwayPT to move on its own when in Balance Mode.
and a stronger warning from page 68:
Quote:
Never place anything on the Mats, except your feet. Doing so could interfere with the Rider Detection system and allow the SegwayPT to travel on its own, risking running into a person or property, and causing injury or damage.
From what I understand the 'seat' adaptations put something on the mats to basically 'fool the Segway into thinking that the Rider Detect settings are depressed. So, they are actually a way to get around the safety feature that keeps the Segway from operating with someone not standing with 3 or more Rider Detect sensors.
Quote:
Originally Posted by merryweather20 View Post
What are you including in "virtually any". The mobility devices that Disney does allow are those that are safe to operate at the park for guests during regular hours. The Segway manual states that the user should wear a helmet. Given the speed and height of the wearer this isn't a surprise.

Disney allows canes, crutches, walkers, rollators, wheel-chairs, power chairs, special needs strollers and ECV's, none of these require the user to wear a helmet while operating them.

Segways are substantially different then actual mobility devices.
From page 2 of the Segway manual I linked to above:
Quote:
RISK OF DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY
Whenever you ride the SegwayPT, you risk death or serious injury from loss of control, collisions, and falls. To reduce risk
of injury, you must read and follow all instructions and warnings in the User Materials.
From page 75:
Quote:
The SegwayPT balances front to back but not side-to-side.
You are responsible for maintaining side-to-side balance by leaning into turns. If you fail to actively maintain this side-to-side balance, the SegwayPT can tip sideways and fall.
Avoid riding across steep slopes.
Lean into turns and lean uphill when riding across gentle slopes.
From the Segway "Getting Started Manual", page 21:
Quote:
WARNING!
Always wear a helmet when riding. Use an approved bicycle or
skateboard helmet that fits properly with the chin strap in place, and provides protection for the back of your head.
WARNING!
Avoid obstacles and slippery surfaces that could result in a
loss of balance or traction and cause a fall.
I don't know of any mobility devices that tell a person using it to wear a helmet.
From the same manual, page 55
Quote:
WARNING
While the SegwayPT is designed to keep you upright under a variety of conditions, you can overpower the balancing capability of your SegwayPT by aggressively leaning into and ignoring the Speed Limiter.
The speed at which the Handlebar pushes back depends on a variety of factors including riding style, terrain, payload, whether or not Beginner Setting is selected on the InfoKey Controller, Battery condition, foot positioning, and other factors.
For additional information and conditions that may cause the Speed Limiter to activate, see “Speed Limiter” in the Reference Manual.
From page 58
Quote:
WARNING!
Never let go of the SegwayPT when it is in Balance Mode
because it will travel some distance on its own, give the Stick Shake Warning, and then cut power to the Wheels. If you let go
of a SegwayPT while in Balance Mode, you risk injury to others and damage to the SegwayPT.
From page 61
Quote:
When a Safety Shutdown occurs, the SegwayPT automatically reduces its speed, gives the Stick Shake Warning (shakes the Handlebar and makes growling noises), flashes the Balance Indicator lights, emits a warning tone, and the InfoKey Controller displays an unhappy face.
You have approximately 10 seconds from the start of a Safety Shutdown to come to a controlled stop and step off. After 10 seconds, the SegwayPT will immediately shut down when the Wheels reach zero speed.
If a Safety Shutdown occurs:
1. Immediately come to a controlled stop.
2. Carefully step off one foot at a time.
many people with disabilities that limit their standing may have difficulty getting off in that short amount of time (specifically people with balance problems or amputees).
From page 63
Quote:
Theft detection systems, such as the type used in some libraries and retail stores can interfere with the Segway PT’s ability to balance and/or cause the Segway PT to perform a Safety Shutdown. Do not ride within 5 feet (1.5 meters) of any theft detection system.
from page 126
Quote:
Safety Tips and Guidelines
The SegwayPT's unique balancing ability and ease of use can lead you to become overconfident. If you exceed the ability of the SegwayPT to balance, such as by riding over obstacles, uneven terrain, slippery surfaces, loose materials, or steep slopes, you can very quickly lose control, leading to collisions, falls, and injury. As with any other transportation device, using a SegwayPT exposes you to risk of injury. You can reduce the risk by following all the instructions and warnings in this Manual, but you cannot eliminate the risk.
Read this Manual and watch the Safety Video.
Do not allow any person to use your SegwayPT unless that person has carefully read this Manual and watched the Safety Video.
From reading the manual, it appears there are significant concerns even for experienced users.
But, if Disney did let them in, there would be nothing to stop off-site companies from renting Segways to anyone who wants to rent one.
Some of the inexperienced ECV drivers can be hazardous, but at least an ECV is stable (i.e. it is not going to fall down).
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:19 PM   #13
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I rode a Segway last year for beginning lesson. It was fun and really cool, but you really need to have control over your weight shift, position of your feet, and your upright stance. It does stop quickly, but you then have to control yourself so that you don't restart it by accident. It doesn't just make you "standing height" - the one I rode made me far taller than the over-6' instructor who "spotted" me for safety. Getting on and off took some practice because the step up is a bit higher than you might expect, plus you must balance the Segway itself in the process.

My family and I got stuck in a fireworks crowd last December at the MK. It was really a bit frightening to see how tightly packed the crowds were and how jostled you were when the swarm started moving afterwards. Not to mention that it was dark and the curbs were hard to find unless you knew they were there.

People with strollers and wheelchairs were both dangerous and endangered. People were rushing up, thinking they saw a clear space just ahead of the person in front of them, only to find that the person was pushing a heavy-duty stroller. I saw one woman struggling with her motorized wheelchair because she didn't realize that there were trolley tracks and curbs on Main Street. I had to think that it would have been smart to find a safe spot to park until the crowds passed, but perhaps it was her first time at WDW. (I was across the sea of people, or I would have offered some assistance. She was all by herself.)

I can't imagine being on a Segway in that crowd. Even if the rider stopped before hitting the kid who stopped to pick up his Mickey ears, someone could bump him/her from behind, causing the Segway to start moving forward or backward or the rider to fall.

I also think that they should have put their resources towards validating a modified Segway for the disabled instead of filing a lawsuit against a disability-friendly company such as Disney.
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