When Clint Bench bought his family season passes to Six Flags Over Texas in 2012, he didn't think his lack of fully-formed hands would prevent him from enjoying the rides alongside his children. But as he boarded Aquaman Splashdown last May, an employee asked him to dismount the ride due to his lack of hands.
Now Bench is suing Six Flags Entertainment Corporation for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. In a lawsuit filed in District Court on February 12, Bench's attorney says the ordeal was discriminatory and caused "considerable embarrassment." In addition to seeking reimbursement for the cost of three season passes, Bench is suing for mental anguish.
Bench's attorney believes the park violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it "imposed eligibility criteria for riding its rides."
Although born with a congenital abnormality that prevented his hands from fully forming, Bench leads a relatively normal life. He earned a college degree, got married and has two children.
"He has lived his entire life with this condition and has never needed or even desired the assistance of prosthetics," the suit reads. In addition to being a fan of amusement parks, Bench enjoys water skiing and mountain biking. He can also "write, type, tie his shoes, use a cell phone and fire a gun."
Although Bench recognizes that seven rides at Six Flags are classified as "high thrill" and explicitly require "at least one naturally formed hand capable of grasping," Aquaman Splashdown, the ride in question, was not originally included in the park's written safety guide. After Bench was asked to exit the ride in May 2012, the guide was amended to include a provision that Aquaman Splashdown riders "must have one full arm and one full leg."
Since, as the suit says, "at the time that Mr. Bench was asked to dismount Aquaman, [Six Flag's] policy did not require riders to have natural hands for that ride," then he was a victim of arbitrary discrimination.
Bench's attorney believes the park violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it "imposed eligibility criteria for riding its rides" and required participants to have natural hands. Six Flags "further discriminated against Mr. Bench by failing to correctly enforce its own policy on the Aquaman ride," the suit alleges.
Before seeking legal counsel, Bench attempted to regain access to the ride by contacting Six Flags in writing.
His attorney maintains that Bench is capable of riding every ride at the park, and that the creation of a policy that excludes those without hands and yet allows people with hands to "keep their hands in the air for the duration of the ride" is both over- and under-inclusive.
Bench is asking the court to overturn Six Flag's policy by declaring that it violates the Americans With Disability Act.