The family of a 25-year-old quadriplegic Marine is pressing a Michigan amusement park to change its admission policies after the park denied a request to grant the man free entry even though he isn't physically able to ride on any rides.
Michigan's Adventure, an amusement park located in Muskegon, has since offered Josh Hoffman a couple of complimentary passes, but his fiancee, Heather Lovell, and her father, Joel Lovell, say it's not enough — that more needs to be done to accommodate people living with disabilities.
"They should review the policy and allow people who have severe disability into the park for free," Joel Lovell told FOXNews.com. "It's a small price to pay. They [persons living with severe disabilities] can't be by themselves; they have to go with a family member, who would pay."
In January 2007, Hoffman was stationed in Iraq when a sniper's bullet hit his neck, severing his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. He now faces a variety of physical challenges, including the inability to talk or feed himself.
"Unless medical science figures out how to reconnect a spinal cord, he'll be like this for the rest of this life," Lovell, Hoffman's future father-in-law, explained.
Camille Jourden-Mark, vice president and general manager of Michigan's Adventure, told FOXNews.com that, although exceptions sometimes are made, the park isn't changing its policy about paid admissions.
"Our policy is that we do charge admission to all guests that enter the park," Jourden-Mark said. "We couldn't put out a blanket statement that says everyone in a wheelchair can get in free."
Late last month, Heather Lovell had been at the park acting as a chaperone for a children's group when a caregiver brought Hoffman there to meet up with his fiancee there briefly before she took him to his stepbrother's graduation.
Jourden-Mark said she was unaware of Hoffman's visit to Michigan's Adventure until after the disagreement over his admission, adding that if she had been contacted ahead of time she would have arranged for Josh to get a free ticket.
Heather Lovell isn't so sure.
"Camille Jourden sent my sister an e-mail explaining that these are there policies and they are going to stick to them," Lovell said. "It wasn't until later, when they were contacted by the press and numerous friends and family that she contacted us and apologized, offered free tickets and said there was exceptions, and Josh was one."
Now she hopes the park will re-evaluate its admissions policies for persons living with severe disabilities. She recommends Michigan's Adventure consider offering a spectator's pass at a discounted rate, a measure that the family thinks is more reasonable than asking a person who cannot participate on the rides to pay the full admission of $25.
"They allow children 2 and under in the park for free. Those babies can splash around in the water and enjoy the pool and they get in for free," Lovell said. "Josh and others like Josh can't do so much as that."
Her father told FOXNews.com that he understands why the current policy exists, that some people may try to take advantage. But "when there is an obvious disability, when the person wants to just go and enjoy the park, they should let them in," he said.
Michigan's Adventure is doing nothing wrong legally.
"There is no requirement not to charge people with disabilities," said Marilyn Golden, a policy analyst for the Disability Rights and Education and Dissent Fund, a non-profit law and policy center disability civil rights,
Golden, however, said amusement parks need to have accessible facilities, and she wondered whether Michigan's Adventure offered rides for people living with disabilities.
Hoffman's family also sees the bigger picture.
"It's not about Josh. It's not about getting something for free," Heather Lovell said. "It's about everybody who has a severe disability."