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Swimming With Dolphins In Hawaii

Blind visitor not allowed to swim with dolphins

Aug 26, 2009

HONOLULU - A blind tourist seeking adventure at Sea Life Park in Hawaii said she instead found disappointment and a dashed dream.

Karla Rivas, 42, of Phoenix, has never allowed blindness to get in the way, KITV-TV reported. Her Hawaiian vacation was filled with adventure, from parasailing to scuba diving. But she had one dream left to fulfill.

"I wanted to interact with the dolphins," Rivas said. "I wanted to enjoy that activity as anybody else would enjoy it."

Rivas and her husband made sure Sea Life Park was compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act before paying a tour agency about $250 for the dolphin experience.

"Yes, they were ADA-compliant, that they would accommodate me any way I needed," Rivas said.

But when Rivas was standing in front of the dolphins at Sea Life Park she was notified she would not be allowed to interact with them.

"They told me they couldn't let me to participate because I was blind," she said.

Sea Life Park said it makes every effort to accommodate visitors with special needs, but the safety of both visitors and animals is priority.

"They said no because this activity is visual -- 'We give you visual signs,'" she said.

But Rivas's husband said he paid $48 to accompany his wife and take the cues for her.

"I say instead of giving me signs, just give me verbal cues. That's all I needed," Rivas said.

Sea Life Park offered the couple an alternative, but they declined and left. The park refunded their money.

"I'm very disappointed. I traveled from Phoenix, Arizona, to here, and I planned all these activities," Rivas said. "Everybody in this country has the right to enjoy all activities. And if there are ways to accommodate you, why not? I don't want this to continue happening to other blind people."

The National Federation of the Blind officials said they are also very disappointed and will investigate.

Blind visitor not allowed to swim with dolphins
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