Disclaimer or urban legend?

Subject: Disclaimer or urban legend?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 09:02:22 -0500


I received a long note via e-mail that claimed to be the text for a "Waiver
of Liability" to recreationists intending to visit the Nelson Rocks Preserve
in West Virginia. It begins like this:

"Nature is unpredictable and unsafe. Mountains are dangerous. Many books
have been written about these dangers, and there's no way we can list them
all here. Read the books. Nelson Rocks Preserve is covered in steep terrain
with loose, slippery and unstable footing. The weather can make matters
worse. Sheer drops are everywhere. You may fall, be injured or die. There
are hidden holes. You could break your leg. There are wild animals, which
may be vicious, poisonous or carriers of dread diseases. These include
poisonous snakes and insects. Plants can be poisonous as well. We don't do
anything to protect you from any of this. We do not inspect, supervise or
maintain the grounds, rocks, cliffs or other features, natural or otherwise.
Real dangers are present even on trails. Trails are not sidewalks. They can
be, and are, steep, slippery and dangerous. Trail features made or enhanced
by humans, such as steps, walls and railings (if any) can break, collapse,
or otherwise fail catastrophically at any time. We don't promise to inspect,
supervise or maintain them in any way. They may be negligently constructed
or repaired. They are unsafe, period. Live with it or stay away."

I don't imagine this is actually what appears at the Preserve; it reads far
more like what a park ranger would dearly love to say to a certain subgroup
of wilderness tourist but would be sacked for doing so. So my question is
twofold: First, does the claim that this is the real waiver have any basis
in fact? Second, has anyone seen such a warning message "in the wild" (in
cities too <g>) or used a similar style themselves?

At FERIC, we have a disclaimer that runs along these lines, though less
tongue in cheek. ("Modification to any machine without the manufacturer's
approval may result in injury to the operator or damage to the machine. As a
result, use appropriate caution, seek out qualified experts before
performing any modifications, and confirm with the manufacturer that the
modifications will not void your warranty.")

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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