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Hershey Park is NOT Wheelchair Friendly

Posted Mon April 21, 2003, by Jeanne D. written to Hershey Foods Corporation

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I hope you can help me. I have a complaint that I'd like resolved. The specific product I am writing about is Hershey Park.

Here are the details: We visited Hershey Park for the Spring Preview (Easter Sunday). It's too bad that your advertisement did not let us know that your park is NOT wheelchair-friendly so that we could have saved our money and gone to another park where we could have had fun without all the frustration that we experienced all day long at your park. As it is, I feel that the money we spent for the four all-day tickets was a waste of our money. Although wheelchair signs are posted throughout your park, they don't mean anything. Let me detail some of the problems we encountered yesterday:

1. When we arrived, we went to the place where there were strollers and wheelchairs, outside the entrance to the park and near where the trams dropped us off, and asked for a wheelchair. The attendant told us that we would have to go inside the park and up the hill to get the wheelchair and that we could not get the wheelchair there. We asked why not since he clearly had wheelchairs there and we explained that my daughter-in-law could not walk that far. He refused and said the park rules were that we would have to go inside the park to the other location for wheelchairs and strollers. The discussion went on for a bit until finally he said he would loan us a wheelchair but we would have to drop it off inside the gate at the end of the day. He told us that he would take Sala's identification to that location. That's how we started our day!

2. On the first ride, because the wheelchair sign was posted at the entrance with no other directions, we assumed that we should go through that line with everyone else. However, after waiting in line, we ended up at a flight of stairs (roller coaster ride). At that point, one of us went ahead to find an attendant to ask where the wheelchair entrance was located, where we were told to go up the path of the exit.

3. On another ride, when we got to the ride attendants (via the exit ramp), there was confusion on their part and they did not have a clue what to do for us. On the third ride, the attendants kept forgetting that we were there and the ride stopped/started repeatedly. We'd remind them every other time the ride took off again that we were still waiting to get on the ride. The response from them told us that they clearly had forgotten about us waiting.

4. Another ride was not wheelchair accessible at all, despite the fact that wheelchair signs were posted at the entrance!

5. When we returned the wheelchair at the end of the day, we went to the location inside the park and asked how we were to get my daughter-in-law from that location to the tram? The attendants didn't care, but told us that we'd have to return the wheelchair at their location. We asked several times how we were to get her to the tram if we had to turn the wheelchair at that location (down a very steep hill and easily a full city block away from the tram pick up area). Finally I finally asked for a manager. A park representative in a blue blazer came and we explained our problem to her and asked if she could help us. She reiterated what the other attendants had already told her. When she realized that we were all utterly exasperated, she finally suggested that we take my daughter-in-law to the bench where the trams let everyone off at the park entrance and then return the wheelchair to the location where we were presently standing. We talked amongst ourselves and I asked if I would have any problem getting her identification back since I was a different person. I was assured that I could receive her identification when I returned the wheelchair. I told her I would return the wheelchair when we got her down to where the tram would meet us and we started to leave. It was very clear that we were all upset. At that point, she finally offered to go with us to the tram and she would return the wheelchair herself. They gave Sala her identification and we went with the attendant.

6. Finally, in the parking lot where the tram let us off, my daughter-in-law sat on one of the benches while my son went to get to car to bring it to her. However, your parking lot attendant would not let my son bring the car to my daughter-in-law and told him that the road where the tram left us off (by the benches) was for use by trams only and he would have to park the car on the other side of the fence and have her walk to the car (meaning my daughter-in-law would have to walk several hundred feet to get to an opening of the fence and several hundred feet back to where my son was permitted to park the car)! My son explained that my daughter-in-law cannot walk that far and that he would not hold up traffic since it would only take less than one minute to get her into the car if he could pull the car up to the bench where she was sitting. Still your parking attendant would not let Bryan pull the car to where Sala was sitting and insisted that the road was for trams only.

We had no choice. My son walked/carried my daughter-in-law to the car, which took about 10 minutes because she could not walk that distance. I asked if the parking attendant would call a manager because I simply could not believe that he was going to make my daughter-in-law walk that far. We have a handicapped tag on our car, so obviously he saw that we really did have an issue.

A security officer came up on a bicycle and wanted to know what the problem was. I tried to explain to her the situation, but your parking attendant continued to cut me off in mid sentence and would not let me finish. In utter exasperation, I gave up and went to help my son get my daughter-in-law to the car.

The only place where we did not have any problem was in Hershey World. Although we ran into the same problem at Hershey World that we had run into all day long at the park (the wheelchair sign was posted at the entrance with no other directions, leading us to believe that wheelchairs were able to get on the ride as well), we again ended up at a flight of stairs and the attendant there was very nice as we explained to him all the problem we had run into that day.

It's quite apparent that the wheelchair signs are placed throughout the park to satisfy some sort of regulation and NOT for the benefit of those in a wheelchair. Otherwise, the wheelchairs would be placed in a location to accommodate the people who need them (near the trams) and the wheelchair signs at the rides would either have directions for those in wheelchairs telling them how to enter the ride or be removed from the rides that have no access at all for those in wheelchairs. Just because my daughter-in-law is in a wheelchair does not mean that she does not want to have fun. She hates being in a wheelchair and the lack of consideration at your park only made it worse. Besides, her 5-year old daughter wants to go to amusement parks as well.

Today, when I returned to work after the holiday weekend, as my co-workers share their experiences from this past 3-day weekend, you must know that the main thing I've talked about are the problems we encountered yesterday.

Right now, I am furious. This totally surprises me because I had thought that anything with the Hershey name would be so much different from what we experienced this past Sunday.

Here's what I'd like you to do: Correct these problems so that those who are in wheelchairs can have fun as well:

1. Put the location of pick up/drop off of wheelchairs near where the trams are located.

2. Remove the wheelchair signs that are by almost all of the rides unless you are going to put directions for where those in wheelchairs can have access to the rides.

3. Your parking lot attendants need to understand that having handicapped tags in cars means that someone in the group cannot walk!!! There is no way to get access to a handicapped tag unless someone has clearance from their doctor, on a regular basis.

4. Ensure that your Hershey Park staff are as courteous to those who are in wheelchairs (and their families) as they are to those people who do not need wheelchairs. Repeatedly this past Sunday we felt as though we were a burden to the attendants because of the tone of voice they used with us and it was very clear that we were posing a terrible imposition to them.

5. Refund at least half of our money (four of us paid for all day tags and there was no discount for my 5-year old grand daughter) because our access to rides was severely inhibited due to the continual problem that we ran into and therefore, we only managed to get on 5-6 rides even though we were at the park from 11am until closing.

If you really were interseted in solving the many, many problems at your park for those who must be in wheelchairs, you would consider putting someone from administration in a wheelchair and let them spend the day at your park to see for yourself some of the problems we encountered yesterday. Not just riding around the park in a wheelchair, but gaining access to the park rides. Not someone whom the staff would recognize and would therefore treat them differently from any other person/family in a wheelchair. Not someone who knows that you must go to the exit on some rides, but rather must follow the posted signs to get to the rides.

Although I would like to visit Hershey Park again in the future, I definitely won't do so until these problems have been corrected. And, you can forget about me recommending you to my family and friends until such time either. In fact, you can bet that I'll be sharing the experience we had yesterday (Easter Sunday) with everyone I speak with until such time as I hear from you.

I hope you care enough about your customers to address these problems. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


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