Be Educated

Meet the 2016 Operator’s Forum: Guest Accessibility and Experiences Speakers

Erik Beard, Attorney, Wiggin & Dana LLPErik Beard
Erik Beard is an attorney in Wiggin & Dana's Litigation Department with a practice focused on product liability and aviation litigation, amusement / leisure counseling and litigation, and general business litigation. 

Erik has experience representing clients in a variety of product liability and aviation matters, defending product manufacturers, distributors, sellers and insurers in state and federal courts in Connecticut and throughout the country. Having spent several years working for two of the largest amusement park operators in the world, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Universal Orlando, he has a unique hands-on, high-level day-to-day operating experience in this industry and is a frequent speaker at amusement industry events and trade shows. Erik serves on the Board of Directors of the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and on the IAAPA North American Government Relations Committee. Erik independently authors The Legal Roller Coaster, a blog specifically devoted to legal issues affecting the amusement and tourism industries (

Laura Woodburn, Director of Ride Operations, Hershey Entertainment and ResortsLauraWoodburn
Laura Woodburn is the Director of Ride Operations for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts. She oversees the safe operation of Hersheypark’s 72 amusement rides and water attractions. Laura is active in her company, serving as the administrative support for the “Respectful of Others” Strategic Planning Committee and Chairs the Event Planning subcommittee for the Women In Leadership Committee.

Laura serves on the Board of Directors and Spokesperson for the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials. Laura was honored with the “Person of the Year” award in 2013 for her work on NAARSO’s first ever Ride Operations Certification program. In January 2015, Laura developed the second level of training and certification for the Ride Operations Certification program.

Locally, Laura serves as on the advisory board for the Derry Township School District, Act 48 Committee, and volunteers with Milton Hershey School’s Project Fellowship program. 

Laura also serves as Chair for IAAPA's Facility Operations Committee. 

Laura began working in the industry in 1988 and has served in various roles at Hersheypark, including the directors of Ride Operations, Guest Services and Ticketing and Entertainment.

Rachael Stafford, Director, Rocky Mountain ADA Center
Rachael Stafford
Rachael Stafford joined Meeting the Challenge, Inc. (MTC) in February 2014, as the Director of theRocky Mountain ADA Center, a project of MTC.  The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is one of ten ADA centers around the country charged with providing information, technical assistance, training, and materials about the ADA to all those with rights and responsibilities under the law.  The Rocky Mountain ADA Center covers a six state region: Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Since joining MTC, Rachael has also taken on the role of Director of Business Development for MTC.  She is currently working to expand MTC’s impact on markets that need information and consulting on all disability rights laws.  

Prior to joining MTC, Rachael served as general counsel to several not for profit and for profit companies.  Included in this was support of many celebrity entertainers and sports figures, including legendary actor, Tony Curtis.  She previously served as staff counsel for the 8th Judicial District Court of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Rachael received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from Colorado State University and her Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law in San Diego.  Rachael is registered attorney in the State of Nevada and with the United States Court of Appeals.     

Bob Minnick, President, RFM Consultants, LLC.
Bob Minnick 2016Bob is currently President of RFM Consultants, LLC. His firm was established in 2014 and provides consulting services, keynote speaking, and seminars on how to use a structured approach to safety to get results. Bob also provides consulting services to improve the customer experience for persons with disabilities by helping clients eliminate barriers to great guest service based on his 16 years of experience at Disney.

Prior to 2014, Bob was Technical Director, Facility Safety and Accessibility for all of Disney’s Parks and Resorts worldwide. The scope of work involved ensuring all Disney’s hotels, attractions, entertainment venues and properties complied with unique Disney safety standards and were accessible for guests with disabilities. Bob’s team innovated award-winning ways to permit guests using wheelchairs to board ride vehicles where ride dynamics allowed. Early in 2001, Bob’s team introduced an award-winning technology known as Disney’s handheld captioning for guests with hearing disabilities. Later in 2009, Bob’s team rolled out audio description services for guests with visual disabilities featuring attraction description and outdoor audio description menus.

Bob is active in the amusement industry (IAPPA), a member of the International Amusement & Leisure Defense Association (IALDA) member of ASTM F-24 Committee and ASTM F-13 Committee. He is a licensed professional engineer and certified safety professional.