Local man fighting mall over right to use Segway

Local man fighting mall over right to use Segway

Shane Latham uses a Segway Human Transporter as a way to get around without a wheelchair. Shane Latham uses a Segway Human Transporter as a way to get around without a wheelchair.

July 26, 2005

By SHASTA CLARK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- A potential court battle is brewing between a Knoxville man and West Town Mall because of a policy being enforced at the mall.

Shane Latham says that policy is violating his rights according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Latham uses a Segway Human Transporter as a way to get around without a wheelchair.

But Tim Hill, West Town Mall's manager, says Latham's new technology is against the mall's corporate policy.

According to Latham, the Segway has changed his life. "I'm looking at people at eye level. For the first time in my life, people see me now as an actual individual citizen that's non-disabled, just on a cool-looking device."

Latham's wife says it's changed their marriage. "Now we can actually go into Wal-Mart and do our shopping together, hold hands. We've never been able to hold hands. It's really just made our life normal."

Because Latham was born with only one good arm, he can't push a conventional wheelchair. And if he used a motorized one, he would have to have a van and lift to get in it.

But he can take the Segway anywhere.

"Nobody in three states I've been in, at any store, at any restaurant, at any bank, nobody has ever said a word about it," he says.

But the manager at West Town Mall saw it differently. "So he tells the mall security guard that I can't have that in there," said Latham. "The mall security guard informed him that I use it for disability reasons. He says, 'I don't care. It's company policy. Tell him to leave.'"

6 News called Hill. He sent a written statement saying the Segway goes too fast -- 12 1/2 miles per hour -- creating an unacceptable risk for other shoppers.

Latham disagrees. "If I want to stop on a dime with this, say someone walks out in front of me, I can stop."

Latham says he's going to fight. "I'm going to file a federal lawsuit."

Simon Property Group, owner of West Town Mall, says it won't make an exception for Latham, but offered to buy a motorized wheelchair that he could use anytime he's in the mall.

Latham says he's still hoping Simon will change their policy before he has to take legal action.

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