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Disabled Man Says Six Flags Targeted Him

DALLAS (CN) - A disabled man who lacks fully formed hands claims in court that Six Flags Entertainment illegally barred him from its rides - and changed its rules to specifically target him.

Clint Bench, of Weatherford, sued the Grand Prairie-based company in Federal Court.

Bench has a congenital abnormality.

"During development, his arms stopped forming at the distal ends of the radius and ulna," the complaint states. "As such, he has no fully formed hands. Nevertheless, Mr. Bench has adapted to his condition and done his best to lead a normal life.

"Despite his disability, he went to college, earned a degree, and got married. He now has a full-time job and is raising two beautiful children. He has lived his entire life with this condition and has never needed or even desired the assistance of prosthetics."

Bench claims he's ridden the rides at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington several times, had never been turned away and has never suffered an injury on a roller coaster or other ride due to not being able to hang on.

But he says that changed in March 2012 when a female employee refused to let him get on the Aquaman water ride.

"She told him that he could not ride Aquaman because he does not have hands," the complaint states. "This caused Mr. Bench considerable embarrassment, as his children had never seen anybody discriminate against him due to his lack of natural hands."

For the Aquaman ride, a lap bar is lowered over the rider's legs and the ride descends a canal of water until water splashes up and soaks the riders.

Bench claims that he protested to a manager, and was told that company policy requires that a rider "must have at least one fully formed arm all the way down to the fingers," according to the complaint.

In later correspondence, Bench says, Six Flags refused to grant him an exemption.

Actually, Six Flags' Guide to Rides & Attractions simply requires that riders "must be able to grasp" or "must be able to walk unassisted" on certain rides, Bench says in the complaint.

"Sometime after September 14, 2012, defendant published the New Guide, editing Aquaman's safety features and restrictions," the complaint states. "The only difference between the Old Guide and the New Guide with respect to Aquaman is the added notation, 'Must have one full arm & one full leg. Riders must be able to sit properly, use the lap bar & stabilize themselves.'"

But Bench says Aquaman is not listed as one of the park's "high thrill" rides under Six Flags' Ride Access Schedule. Rides on that list require at least one naturally formed hand capable of grasping.

"At the time that Mr. Bench was asked to dismount Aquaman, defendant's policy did not require riders to have natural hands for that ride. Now it does," the complaint alleges. "The ride itself has not changed. What has changed is that Mr. Bench complained, and in response defendant changed the policy to reflect what they incorrectly told him was the policy at the time he was kicked off the ride."

Bench points out that Six Flags' policies do not address riders who have hands but choose not to hold onto the ride.

"There are many people who, either for extra thrill or in a silly display of bravado, keep their hands in the air for the duration of the ride," the complaint states. "This is true even for the 'high thrill' rides. Nevertheless, Six Flags does not prevent these people from going on further rides."

Six Flags, a publicly traded company, owns and operates 18 amusements parks in North America, according to its website. It claims it had 24 million guests and earned more than $1 billion in revenue in 2011.

Bench seeks declaratory relief, an injunction, costs and damages for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Human Resources Code.

He is represented by Levi McCathern in Dallas.

Follow @davejourno
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