DENVER — A teenager who has been disabled since birth says she was humiliated by three workers at Elitch Gardens amusement park.
The honors student and college freshman volunteers to mentor disabled children.
She says the amusement park needs to better train its employees on how to deal with people who have disabilities.
“One of the employees came up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry ma’am but you can’t ride this ride because you need all your body parts,'” Samantha Lobato says.
She was born with a disorder that required partial amputation of her right arm. It forced her to get off the ride.
“I’ve been going to Elitch Gardens since I was a young child ever since I was tall enough to actually ride on the rides and I have yet to hear this.”
Lobato is on academic scholarship at the University of Denver, and she works with disabled children. “I have not experienced any public humiliation like that since… ever.”
“What if that was to happen to a younger child you don’t know how they would react or how that would make them feel,” says Samantha’s mother Nancy Arias. “They already have issues with themselves and you know their physical appearance.”
“We just don’t want to see another child go through this not only a child, a youth, my daughter a young lady,” says Samantha’s father Phillip Lobato.
She says she went to guest relations to file a complaint against the employees. “The way it was addressed I was very… it felt very disrespected it was very insensitive and definitely not handled with compassion.”
A spokeswoman for Elitch’s declined to comment on camera for this story saying they did not want to give the impression of defending something that left one of their guests disappointed.
The park did issue a written statement:
“The safety of our guests and team members is our number one priority. Guidelines for ride safety are specified for each individual ride by the ride’s manufacturer, as well as our own safety experts.”
The park says the guidelines are posted at the entrance to each ride and on the website. “Team members are trained to politely inform guests who may have overlooked these guidelines.”
Samantha took pictures of the guideline signs that day. She says the policies are not uniformly enforced.
“It’s not only about the situation that I went through but how can we prevent this from happening to other people as well?”