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Amusement Parks Should Use Voice Recordings In Multiple Languages To Issue Warnings For Intense And High Adrenaline Rides
By Lonce Lamonte - January 3, 2019

A Guatemalan family sued Universal Orlando Resort in central Florida for the death of husband and father, Jose Calderon Arana.  Calderon suffered a fatal heart attack two years ago after riding on the “Skull Island Reign of Kong” ride. 
 
The family complained in the law suit that Universal Orlando Resort only posted the ride’s potential dangers in English.  They alleged in their wrongful death complaint, filed very recently, that Universal was negligent in not displaying warning signs in Spanish. 
 
According to a January 2, 2019 article in Claims Journal about the lawsuit, filed in state court in Orlando, the complaint read, “Universal was aware of the great number of tourists on their premises who do not speak English.”
 
The problem with this statement is twofold:
 
Number one--there are more people than simply tourists in Florida who do not speak English.  Yes, many non-English speaking people are tourists, but even more are locals and residents of Florida and the rest of the United States. 
 
Florida has a very high Spanish speaking population, like California, a population which in its case grew significantly in the early 1960s when immigrants fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Florida’s Spanish speaking population continues to grow. Some of that population also is highly educated in speaking, reading, and writing in English. But some of that population is not. Some of that population does not read Spanish.
 
Number two--there is a distinct difference between speaking a language and reading a language.  The lawsuit transcribed specific language stating “… the great number of tourists on their premises who do not speak English,” and Associated Press writer , Mike Schneider, wrote about the percentage of visitors to central Florida’s theme parks who don’t speak English.
 
Speaking any language, whether it be Spanish, English, Chinese, or any world language, does not qualify the speaker as literate in that written language. Henceforth, when it comes to a sign that was written in English containing the warning about the dynamics of the ride, this warning was not a spoken warning and assumes any person can read English. 
 
Even if the warning had also been written in Spanish, it’s a bad assumption to assume a farm-class Guatemalan can read Spanish.  Jose Calderon ran a farming operation owned by his family.  Many Guatemalans read poorly if they can read at all. Some do not read at all.
 
Including in the United States, there are segments of persons with very low literacy in any language.  My mother was a professional educator in Orange County at the elementary education level.  She was a reading specialist.  She would lecture me regularly on how her classroom was bursting with growing numbers of children who couldn’t read.   She further proved her point when an article appeared in a magazine with the title: Johnny Can’t Read.
 
So, the language of the lawsuit, as well as the language of writer Mike Schneider of Associated Press, refers only to people who speak English, not people who read English. Schneider repeats his phrase “speak English” a few times with a lack of insight into the fact that just because an individual speaks English or speaks Spanish doesn’t mean he or she can read!   He even wrote that the sign “says” its particular words in English.
 
Even though it is a casual way of communicating to say or write “says” when one means “reads”, in this instance the writer should use the formal, literal word “reads” to refer to the writing on the sign.
 
Reading capacity is significantly lower in Guatemala than in Mexico.  There are so many different numbers put out by so many different statistics agencies, but generally it can be gleaned that Guatemalans have about a 10% lower literacy rate than Mexicans from Mexico.  In the United States, the literacy rate is about 10% higher than in Mexico. 
 
The Claims Journal article from January 2nd went on to state that Jose Calderon Arana, the deceased who died after riding on the Kong ride, didn’t feel well after the ride.  His wife thought that he got an upset stomach.
 
Jose Calderon took a break on a bench while his wife and son rode on another ride. When they returned, he had collapsed.  He was taken to a hospital where he later died, according to the lawsuit and as explained in the Claims Journal article.
 
The lawsuit contends that Universal Orlando Resort was negligent for not displaying the warning signs in Spanish.  But a counterargument can be made that common sense tells any man with a heart condition not to go on roller coaster-like amusement park rides. 
 
But be that as it may, a good idea for risk managers is to highly recommend to amusement parks that warnings be posted in writing in multiple languages, plus to also install speaker boxes that speak the warnings in the most common languages understood by the attendees of the amusement park. By using spoken language to communicate the warnings to the people contemplating getting on the wilder rides, amusement parks can be understood by the greatest common denominator of persons in any language. 
 
This practice of using the spoken word to issue warnings will cut down on plaintiffs’ use of the literacy argument in making claims against amusement parks.
 
 

January 2, 2019 Claims Journal article on lawsuit stating theme park warning signs should be in Spanish


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by journalist Lonce Lamonte, lonce@adjustercom.com; copyright adjustercom, all rights reserved.  

 
 

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