Mask Requirement At Amusement Parks Violates ADA, Suit Claims
PITTSBURGH — The parents of three children with disabilities, along with an adult diagnosed with anxiety, have sued Kennywood, Sandcastle and Idlewild over the amusement parks’ COVID-19 mask policy, saying they can’t wear masks because of their medical conditions.
Attorney Thomas Anderson, who has brought many similar suits against supermarket chain Giant Eagle, filed the suit last Friday in U.S. District Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The plaintiffs are Janine Wood of Bolivar, Westmoreland County, Jackie Webber of Kennedy, Lisa Mazzoni of Irwin and Ryan Walsh of Verona.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Wood and Webber are parents of children with autism, Mazzoni has muscular dystrophy and is the parent of a child with autism and Walsh has a medical excuse from his doctor for anxiety and breathing problems. Wood also has physical and mental conditions that compromise her respiratory system, the complaint says.
The amusement parks require everyone who visits to wear a mask with no exceptions for medical conditions, according to the suit.
All of the plaintiffs have been denied access to the parks in violation of the ADA, the suit says, despite buying season passes to the various parks. In addition, according to the suit, Idlewild has provided Woods’ child, H.W., with an exit pass that allows her to skip waiting in lines because of her disability. Kennedy’s child, J.M., has a similar pass from Kennywood and Sandcastle.
Last Tuesday, the complaint says, Wood and H.W. tried to enter Idlewild without masks and were told they could not. Wood said she explained that her daughter can’t wear a mask because of autism.
“Idlewild security guards prevented entry and screamed at the child causing her to have a mental breakdown and break out in hives due to anxiety,” the suit says.
Wood said she explained that under the ADA, the park had to accommodate her daughter. A guard told her that Idlewild is private property and so it “could enforce its own rules” and a manager said the park would make no exceptions other than for children 2 and under, the complaint says.
“Janine Wood and H.W. were harassed and denied access to Idlewild because H.W. cannot wear a mask,” the suit says.
Webber said she contacted all three parks to ensure her son could get in. She said she was told on June 22 that he would be allowed in without a mask but was later told he wouldn’t be.
She said she told Kennywood and Sandcastle that they were discriminating against children with disabilities and that her son has autism and is nonverbal. She said he would be in a stroller, away from other kids, and that because of his disability he would not have to wait in line.
Kennywood sent an email saying park management understood her disappointment but that the mask policy would remain to protect everyone.
The other plaintiffs made similar requests and were met with the same response, according to the suit.
Kennywood said its policy is not to comment on litigation.
Kennywood and Sandcastle reopened earlier this month to season pass-holders after delaying the start of the summer season by two months due to the pandemic. A full reopening is planned for this week.
The parks have instituted other safety measures, including limiting the parks’ capacity and temperature checks at the park entrance. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher or who shows COVID-19 symptoms will be denied entry. Other changes include requiring visitors to register for their visit after buying a ticket.
© 2020 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC