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Friday, February 20, 2009

Handicapped Abuse: Daytona Beach Speedway Makes Life Miserable for Disabled Patrons

Handicapped Abuse at Daytona SpeedwayDAYTONA BEACH, FL - While it is well known that the Speedway and associated ventures have reaped untold riches thanks to the various subsidies granted by local corrupt officials, a recent complaint exposes their disdain for the elderly, disabled, and otherwise handicapped.

Interestingly, speedway officials willingly take these people's money but fail to address their special needs to make their attendance a pleasant experience.

Here is one letter that caught our attention:

My Day In Hell at the Daytona 500

Note: The following essay was written by a local resident who recently returned from the Daytona 500 stock car race. After attending races there on a regular basis in the 1970s and 80s, he decided to take in one last race in Daytona Beach, Florida. But his body was not up the challenge, and apparently, neither was the planning effort by Daytona International Speedway officials.

Here’s his thoughts on the not-so-pleasant excursion.

Well, friends. I had forebodings about this trip before I left.

And everything went fairly well until the 500 ended and I endured the worst several hours of my life, not counting the passing away of loved ones.

I drove to the track and after circling it several times trying to find a good spot without paying $60 or $40, I decided to park in an offsite lot (Lot 10) which was designated the overflow for handicapped parking. It was about 2 miles from the outskirts track, with the Daytona Beach Airport. In between. But they had a fleet of public school buses to take you to the track.

Once at the outskirts of the track, there were trams that would take you even closer, and then they had a whole bunch of golf carts with handicapped flags on them.
It wasn't too organized. Basically you had to flag one down and see if they would take you closer to your gate. (Remember - the inside of the track is 2.5 miles around, so the outside is at least 3.5 miles around.)

Eventually I was taken pretty close to my gate and still had to walk quite a ways to my seat, but it was worth it. Or so I thought.

Then the race takes place and is called off early at 400 miles or so, because of rain and 250,000 people leave at once. On the way in, the crowd trickled in over a period of 8 to 10 hours. This is an important factor.

It's raining. There are no signs. And reality sets in.

THERE ARE NO GOLF CARTS for people like me. (Mildly handicapped with bad knees .)

No explanation. No help. No signs pointing us to the right place to at least catch a bus back to Lot 10.

Of most of the so-called employees of Daytona International Speedway, most were temps or community service workers who had no idea what to tell us.

No reason given for the absence of the golf carts or trams.

Police officers and sheriff’s deputies were the worst offenders in terms of not offering help or information.

After walking quite a ways and finding an information booth, I was told the pick up spot for buses back to Lot 10 was in the other direction, and that that [indeed], we were on our own.

The number of people needing special rides, out of a crowd of 250,000, is rather large, as you can imagine. I was not alone.

I even tried to give a guy on a golf cart $20 for a ride but he refused for fear of getting in trouble. The few golf carts we saw were being used to transport products, most likely food and booze from suites.

So I sucked up my gumption and started walking in the direction of the buses to go back to Lot 10. I estimate it was 2 miles. And there wall kinds of fences and barriers that were not clear, and sometimes I would have to back track because I found myself fenced in.

It was a living hell. I broke down a couple of times.

A few people were nice but most employees/cops/ etc were non-sympathetic.

Toward the end, I could see the school buses but they were still a quarter to half mile away. I saw some guy in a truck and begged him for a ride closer to the buses and he obliged.

But then, when I got to the buses, there were about 3,000 people in line to get on them. No benches. We had to stand in the rain for another hour. The mob was roughly divided between handicapped and non-handicapped people but there was some mixing of the classes, and no rhyme or reason to how buses were loaded. Tempers were flaring.

There were several people in wheel chairs waiting for buses. The buses were equipped with wheelchair elevators but it took about 3 to 4 minutes per wheel chair and they only took about 3 wheelchairs per bus.

Walking is easier for me than standing. And after an hour of standing in the rain with a mob mentality all around me, I came very close to collapsing. Some guys held me up and by this time I was pretty close to the front of the line and these Samaritans talked a bus-handler into letting me get onto the next bus.

This was at about 9:30 p.m., and I left my seat inside the track at 5:30 p.m.

Even after I got to my car there was a pretty good walk involved but it was made shorter because some people had, rightfully so, torn down a fence that allowed us a more direct route to our cars. Of course, like at any big venue, the parking lot was a nightmare and we sat in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour before getting to the highway.

I feel the need to vent my rage and frustration to the Speedway officials. this is not a NASCAR problem but a Daytona International Speedway issue.

Why were we given golf carts and other modes of transportation BEFORE the race but not after. Why the lack of signage? Why no benches at the bus waiting locations?

Why no coherent plan to handle the thousands of people needing special services.

There was no planning at all. It would have been common sense to announce that people with special needs or help getting to bus pick-up points should stay out of the way or in their seats. Let t he majority of people get to their cars and then the trams and golf carts would have better and easier access to move us around.

The Speedway might as well put up signs:

If you are handicapped or have special needs of any kind,

If that had been done, I probably would have stayed away.

Maybe a class action suit will get their attention.

Name withheld to protect this innocent person against retaliation by local public officials under Speedway control

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