June 22nd 2018
The operator of Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo apologized for refusing to allow four hearing-impaired customers, including two children, to enter the amusement facility in April because of their disabilities.
“We made a mistake,” Merlin Entertainments Japan Ltd. said on its website on June 21. “We would like to offer a deep apology.”
The company, the Japanese arm of Europe-based Merlin Entertainments, said the customers were denied entry because of a now-scrapped guideline on safety.
The government said the company’s actions violated the law for eliminating discrimination against disabled people that was enforced in April 2016.
The incident occurred on April 21, when Kosuke Abe, 31, his two children and a friend tried to enter the facility in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, which features rides and games based on the popular toy building blocks.
However, a receptionist showed them a written note, asking, “Are you being attended by someone who can hear?”
The staff member added, “If not, you cannot enter.”
When asked for the reason, the receptionist replied, “Because (you) cannot react to possible calls to evacuate if a disaster occurs.”
Abe, a teacher at a school for hearing-impaired children who lives in Niigata Prefecture, said: “We had been looking forward to playing through parent-child communication at Legoland. We were saddened to be told we couldn’t enter because of our hearing disabilities.”
He said the rejection was particularly tough on his 3-year-old son and 6-year-daughter, who asked, “Other children are playing (inside), so why can’t we?”
Abe, who also serves as the representative of an association that supports hearing-impaired children, reported the incident to the Japanese Federation of the Deaf in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. The information was then relayed to the Minato Ward government and the industry ministry.
Peter Lee, regional general manager of Merlin Entertainments Japan, told The Asahi Shimbun that the staff member’s action was an offense to public decency, and that the company is sorry for causing such an unpleasant experience for its customers.
He also said the company will improve the situation.
An official of Merlin Entertainments Japan said Legoland’s website had mentioned that disabled customers could be refused entry if they are not accompanied by non-disabled people.
The company said June 21 that its “cautionary statement” was wrong and deleted it on June 11.
Under the law for eliminating discrimination against disabled people, facilities or institutions are prohibited from refusing services to customers because of their disabilities or setting conditions that do not apply to people who are not disabled.
The government said refusing to allow physically disabled customers to enter a facility or store because they are unattended is an example of unjustifiable discrimination.
The industry ministry on June 13 asked Merlin Entertainments Japan to submit a report about the incident and improve its operations.
A ministry official reportedly told the company, “We want you to understand the intention of the law and fully observe the law.”
Abe said, “I hope such a case of refusing customers (because of a disability) will never happen again.”