9 Investigates

Woman without arms files discrimination complaint against Universal Orlando

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Universal Orlando is being accused of discrimination, against a woman who has a black belt in taekwondo and is a certified scuba diver and a pilot, 9 Investigates has learned.

Jessica Cox said Universal refused to let her on any rides, because she has no arms.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray found out the theme park is not willing to budge on its policy, even though the woman has had no problems riding similar rides at Disney parks.

“I was never held back, never restricted,” Cox told Eyewitness News.  “For the very first time in my life, I felt as though I was limited.”

You guys. I cannot wait to bring you this woman's inspiring story tonight. Jessica Cox was born without arms, but she'...

Posted by Karla Ray on Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cox filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations after visiting Universal in November of 2015.  Universal’s rider’s guide requires guests to be able to continuously grasp with at least one upper extremity.  Cox, and others without arms, aren’t accommodated.

“To our dismay, we found out every single ride had this restriction,” Cox said.

Attorneys for Universal wrote in their response to the complaint that changing the rules would place an “undue burden” on the park, and exceptions would pose a direct threat to safety.

Cox’s attorney, Matthew Dietz, called it blanket discrimination.

“You can't make assumptions based on how somebody looks, and definitely not with Jessica Cox. You can't make assumptions on how she looks at all, because she does a lot more than I do,” Dietz said.

In fact, thrill rides are a pretty tame activity for Cox.

“I am the first armless pilot, I scuba dive, I surf. Just anything that crosses my path, I do,” Cox said.

She hopes by pushing for a change at the administrative level, she and others will have equal access to Florida’s theme parks, as she’s had in other states.

“For me, this is about standing up for something that is not right,” Cox said.

A Universal spokesperson told Eyewitness News by email that Universal does not discuss pending litigation.

If the Florida Commission on Human Relations determines that there was discrimination in the thiscase, the parties will have the chance to settle on their own, or it could end up in a civil lawsuit.