The Unfortunate Situation of the Blind Nudist
I have two words for you: Nudist. Colony. My apologies. Nudist. Resort. I’m sorry. Naturist. Resort. Well, whatever the hell the PC term is for not wearing any clothes in public (nauseating?), there are apparently many reasons behind one’s choice to join such a, ahem, club. Among them: To be pure and in-sync with nature, to say good-bye to tan lines, to strike up conversations with strangers (e.g. Wow, are those real?), to give the finger to the tyrannical, oppressive nature of clothing and to feast on a never-ending buffet of eye candy. I would assume that it would be safe to say, however, that this last reason had nothing to do with one woman’s choice to reside in a clothes-free zone.
In 2011, Sharon Fowler, a woman who had been battling Vasculitis, lost her vision due to the illness. In May of that same year, Sharon was notified of some good news. Being legally blind, she was qualified to receive a seeing-eye dog. As you can imagine, this made Sharon quite happy, as evidenced in her Facebook post:
In 2012 Sharon and her husband, Craig, along with her service dog (now named Laura), moved into the clothing-optional Paradise Lakes Resort and Condominiums in Lutz, Florida. A short while after they moved in, however, Sharon received a letter from Paradise Lakes Condominium Association, Inc. In the letter, they notified Sharon that she must get rid of her dog because it exceeded the 25 pound weight limit. She was also told that Laura was out of control and that if she did not remove the dog from the premises she would be fined $50 dollars a day. This, after Laura had already been approved to move into the condo with her dog by the very same association. As the Tampa Bay Times remarked, “Before Fowler moved into the community, she was required to fill out an application and pass a background check. She disclosed her need for Laura and the dog’s weight. Her application was approved.”
As it turns out, Sharon is the kind of woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially a bunch of cocky nudists (pun intended). As she told local Fox affiliate WVTV, “I am legally blind. Laura is a trained, certified guide dog. You cannot bully us. We will not leave. This is our home. I won’t be embarrassed. I won’t be intimidated. We will go all the way with this, and we’ve done nothing wrong.”
I had the privilege of talking to Sharon and her husband Craig, who are both very nice individuals. They desperately want to resolve this situation, so they have filed a lawsuit against Paradise Lakes Condominium Association, Inc. (It is important to note that the lawsuit is not against Paradise Lakes Resort, but rather a separate, independent association that is responsible for overseeing the section of the condominium complex that Sharon lives in.)
Although many local media outlets are said to have contacted Paradise Lakes for a comment, they have apparently heard nothing back. Even Yahoo stated in an article that “The various media outlets down in Florida covering this story have reached out to Paradise Lakes for comment, but so far the property and its management has kept quiet on the manner.”
That’s funny, because I called Paradise Lakes and spoke to its owner, Jerry Buchanan. He was a nice man and was sympathetic to Sharon’s situation. However, he was quite miffed at all the bad press his resort was receiving, when it is an independent association that has done the wrong doing. He was kind enough to send me a press release detailing the nature of the lawsuit, which so many media outlets seem to find rather confusing. Spell it out for them, Jerry.
In recent days there has been a large amount of misinformation about Paradise Lakes Resort regarding a service dog for a woman who is sight impaired. In an effort to clear up this misunderstanding we would like to make the following statement:
Paradise Lakes Resort is a 56 room “Clothing Optional” Hotel and Resort situated adjacent to 525 privately owned homes, town homes and condominiums. These 525 units are not under the control of the resort in any capacity but are controlled independently by 6 different condominium associations. The lawsuit in question is against one of these condominium associations and the resort is not named in the complaint.
Due to extremely sloppy reporting by a newspaper and local television stations Paradise Lakes Resort has been falsely accused of denying a sight impaired person the right to use her service dog on the premises. If proper due diligence had been performed by the media outlets prior to the publishing and broadcasting these stories they would have discovered that this accusation against the resort is completely false.
To our knowledge the woman and her service dog have never been denied entry to the resort for any reason.
Paradise Lakes Resort does not prevent a person with a service dog access to our facility. In fact Paradise Lakes Resort has several sight impaired guests that visit our facility on a regular basis. We have, on many occasions, and will continue to allow persons with guide animals access to the resort. Not only do we allow persons with disabilities, we also have a very valuable staff member of 15 years who happens to be sight impaired employed in our spa services area.
These accusations are completely without merit and are completely false!
Paradise Lakes Resort would like to thank its thousands of guests and members and assure them that they are always welcome and will continue be treated with respect.
We feel the charges and accusations made in these media stories have been very misleading and damaging to our guests and our reputation as a first class clothing optional resort and expect a full retraction of these charges and an apology by the parties involved.
Owner – Paradise Lakes Resort
Well, there you have it. Apparently a novice blogger does better research than local and national media outlets.
I wish Sharon the best of luck in her endeavors and hope that she will once again soon be able to live in peace with Laura without having to go through any more discrimination.
As the lawsuit continues to move forward, I was informed by both Sharon and Craig, along with their lawyer Jessica Thorson from the Orlando law firm Morgan & Morgan, that they would not be able to make any more comments on the matter. So, I thought it would be fun to end this post by exploring what actually goes on at Paradise Lakes Resort.
Paradise Lakes has many amenities, including “an upscale restaurant, a rocking nightclub, our Key West Bar at poolside, a fitness center with a gym, a day spa, a boutique featuring the hottest in clubwear, two RV parks, tennis, sand volleyball, water volleyball, hot tubs, a heated conversation pool and huge all-season pool”. I spoke to a few residents of Paradise Lakes who occasionally rent out their condo, and they clarified to me the precise meaning of “clothing-optional”. It basically means that you can be naked anywhere within the resort. ANYWHERE.
That’s right. That couple who are trying to get into better shape together? They’re in the gym, running on the treadmill. NAKED. That upscale restaurant you wanted to try? Well, just be sure not to drop your fork under the table. Want to try your hand at volleyball? At least you won’t need to worry about getting sand in your shorts.
There is also no need to worry about being spotted naked by anyone other than your fellow nudists, for Paradise Lakes has an eight-foot high “privacy wall” surrounding the whole community. What better way to be one with nature then by being confronted with an enormous concrete wall everywhere you turn?
I was interested in seeing how far Paradise Lakes pushed the envelope, so I asked my informants if public sex acts are allowed on the resort premises. Alas, they are not. As my friends told me, “The resort doesn’t allow public sex acts. Social nudity and public sex are not the same. What people do in the privacy of their accommodations is up to them…assuming that it is legal.”
However, in the FAQ section of Paradise Lakes’ website, they do have a few tips for when men become “visibly excited”: “On occasions where this occurs, simply don a towel, turn over, or take a quick dip in the pool.”
Before I end this post, I’ll leave you with one final question answered by Paradise Lakes Resort:
Q: What’s the one thing a first-time visitor to Paradise Lakes should remember?
A: Above all else, have fun. You’re in for a vacation to remember. We look forward to seeing more of you soon.
I’m sure they do look forward to seeing more of you soon. I’m sure they do.