The Ups-and-Downs of Roller Coasters at Amusement Parks (February 2018)
Several months ago, a client brought up a topic that I found to be rather interesting. He mentioned the discrimination people in larger bodies experience at amusement parks. As a child, I remember not being able to go on certain rides due to not being tall enough and that resulted in having to stay with the “kiddie rides.” I felt so left out that I couldn’t go on the exciting rollercoasters and would constantly ask my mom my height, waiting for the day I could join in like everyone else.
It hadn’t occurred to me that, for some, no matter how tall they grew, they wouldn’t be able to go on some rides. Amusement parks have height requirements for safety but what happens when weight and size discrimination is what interferes with wanting to go on your favorite ride?
My client shared with me that, now being a full-grown adult, it’s been years since he experienced refusal of rides due to height. What he did experience was not being able to fit in the carriage of the roller coaster. He explained to me that the seats are made for one type of body and does not take into consideration all body sizes.
The seats weren’t the only issue, as when the bar is pushed down over one’s lap, it could barely close. These carriages are not geared to fit anyone comfortably. They are meant to have a person crammed in and jolted around.
It doesn’t make sense that amusement parks, which are supposed to be happy and joyful places, are not recognizing how many park-goers they are hurting and alienating by not changing their ride designs. Those living in larger bodies, instead, feel anxiety when they go to amusement parks and shame when they cannot enjoy a ride because of their body size.
Imagine if this were to happen to you. The shame, judgment, and stigma that can occur when you wait in line, possibly for hours, only to find that the seats are too small or the bar won’t go down. Consider how it would feel to know that everyone in line is watching you and knows why you cannot ride as you walk away, letting those in your group enjoy the ride, waiting on the sidelines simply because you were born with a bigger body.
Our society, sadly, has built itself mentally, socially, and physically around the concept of the “thin ideal.” Airplanes, chairs, tables, doorways, cars, etc. are all conceptualized and built for people living in smaller bodies and those who don’t fit that are forgotten. For many, they don’t even notice this because they maneuver the world around them with ease. They are not the ones left feeling as if they are wrong, not good enough, or don’t matter simply because of the body they were born with.
That is why it is important that all of those who experience this form of discrimination speak about their experiences. My client and I discussed what he could do about this and I suggested he write a letter letting the park know that this experience took away the fun carefree time that he was supposed to have. The stories of those who experience this shame and unhappiness deserve to be told and heard so that our world can change and people can enjoy and embrace life regardless of their body size or shape.