Tokyo Legoland Discovery Center bricked themselves into an uncomfortable corner when it comes to disability rights, and has issued a formal apology.

With eight flagship parks worldwide, Legoland is one of the top pit stops on any budding architect’s childhood wish list. Japan sports its own main Legoland in Nagoya, but there are also indoor editions of the park: “Discovery Centers”, which you can visit in Tokyo or Osaka. The park is studded with architectural attractions: there’s multiple rides, visitors can design, build and race their own Lego cars, and even leap and bound through ninja-tastic Lego backdrops.

▼ Get right up close to miniature recreations of sumo wrestlers!

For Niigata-based teacher Tsuyoshi Abe, who is deaf, it was the perfect place to take his son and daughter for a day out. However, he reached an unexpected blockade when he, his two children and a family friend tried to enter the park on April 21 of this year. The employee staffing the entrance called the four of them back, demanding to know if any of them could hear. Mr. Abe was then informed in writing that theme park policy requires any disabled guests to have at least one accompanying, able-bodied support guest. As all four of Mr. Abe’s party couldn’t hear, the staff explained, they were unable to grant them access to the park.

According to the policy written on Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo’s website, the reason they don’t permit entry is because without an accompanying guest and all-deaf party wouldn’t be able to hear the disaster alarms and so the park would not be able to guarantee their safety.

While this would be upsetting enough for anyone in this situation (the man’s children reportedly asked why all the other children could play inside when they couldn’t) Mr. Abe was very qualified to tackle this injustice directly. As a teacher for the deaf, and a representative for children’s support groups at his school, he took it upon himself to reach out to the Japanese Federation of the Deaf, who took the issue straight to the government.

Thankfully this story has a happy ending: the courts found that refusing a disabled customer access to a store, park or service without a helper violates the Act for Eliminating Discrimination Against People with Disabilities. June 13 saw the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry formally request the company to “work hard to better understand the law and implement changes accordingly”. A formal apology from Merlin Japan Entertainment representative Peter Lee followed, so hopefully from here on out parents and children will be able to attend the park without any issues.

This issue has become a hot topic on the net, with users wondering “why couldn’t a member of staff just accompany the family?” and pointing out “surely you don’t need to be able to hear to notice a disaster: if everyone around you is running, then you run too – it’s not like the park is even that big.” Many users noted that as the party were able to come to the park in the first place, there should have been no problem with them navigating the park alone.

Of course, as with any controversial topic there were people arguing the opposite as well: “Why should the company have to apologize just for guaranteeing people’s safety? This is just a modern day witch hunt.” Multiple users considered the issue of responsibility – “if something bad were to be happen, would the family take responsibility or would they push blame onto the people who permitted them, I wonder?”

Considering the rough and rocky start to business the main Legoland park has endured, you would think that the park would be eager to get as many guests through the doors as possible.

Source: JIN, Asahi Shimbun, Legoland Japan
Featured image: Flickr/Tzuhsun Hsu
Insert image: Flickr/Tzusun Hsu