Jessica’s advocacy work on behalf of people with disabilities now extends into the world of recreation. You might think that in this modern day and age, access to amusement rides would be universal, but last November Jessica learned that just isn’t the case. She and her husband Patrick planned a visit the Universal Orlando Resort and saw on the website that the park accommodates people with disabilities. But in reality, when she got there she was told that she would not be allowed to ride almost any of the attractions due to her physical difference. This, despite the fact that she is allowed to ride similar rides at other parks including the Walt Disney resorts, and the fact that she was allowed to ride attractions at Universal Hollywood in the past.
“I was frustrated that the theme park was being advertised as a welcoming environment when my experience of being excluded just demonstrated that it is not,” Jessica recounted in a blog post on the Handicap International website. “People like me would benefit from being better informed about the park’s policies on disabilities so that we could find better use of our time…I felt ignored, unseen, not taken into account. I know from experience that this often how people with disabilities in developing countries feel, but it was jarring to feel this way in the U.S. in 2015.”
While some people would have walked away from the situation, Jessica decided to do something about it so that other people with disabilities, but especially children, have a different experience. She has filed a discrimination complaint against the theme park with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. This is not in hopes not of receiving monetary damages, but to produce discussion and a change of policy that would allow people with disabilities access to Universal.
“They can tell me I can’t go on their rides, but they can’t stop me from pushing for change,” says Jessica.