Water park discriminated against girl with prosthetic leg, family says

Posted at 3:15 PM, Jul 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-24 15:15:42-04

Averie Mitchell hasn't let her prosthetic leg stop her from flipping in gymnastics tournaments, darting down a flag football field or scaling a climbing wall.

But the 8-year-old's family says she was forced to climb down from a slide at a water park over the weekend. An attendant at Frontier City's Wild West Water Works in Oklahoma City, they say, told her she couldn't use the slide because her prosthetic might scratch it.

"I was angry, I was upset," mother Kim Mitchell told CNN affiliate KFOR. "My child was crying. She thought she had done something wrong."

Now, the family is calling for the park's policy to be changed.

"If it doesn't damage equipment and it's not a safety hazard, then it should be allowed," father John Mitchell said.

People wear jewelry and watches as they use rides at the park, he said, arguing that his daughter's leg is no different.

Averie was born with a condition that led to the amputation of her right leg below the knee, KFOR said. She wears a prosthetic that is "designed to be fine on any kind of flat surface," her father said. A gel sleeve covers her knee, and the prosthetic's foot is made of rubber.

With it, she has competed in gymnastics tournaments and wowed friends and family alike with her skill and determination.

Her family says it wasn't fair to stop her from enjoying the ride, and argues the park doesn't do a good job of clearly stating its policies.

In a statement, Frontier City said its rules were "developed in consultation with industry professionals."

"Like many water parks across the United States, regulations regarding loose articles and medical assistance devices are enforced to ensure the safety of each guest," the statement said. "Unfortunately, we can't allow loose articles, swimwear with exposed metal ornamentation, casts, certain limb braces, or prosthetic devices on certain slides at Wild West Water Works."

The park said it was adding details about the restrictions to its website and to signs at the park.

"We deeply regret any disappointment caused to our guests due to our Ride Admission Policies. Again, our first priority is guest safety and our mission is to provide the best experience possible for all of our guests," the park said.

But that explanation doesn't pass muster with the girl's mother, who said in a series of Facebook posts that her daughter's prosthetic is not a safety issue.

Averie, she said, "has more body control than most" and could easily climb to the top of the park's tallest ride if she wanted to.

"This," she said, "makes it even more ridiculous."