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Disney Lawsuit: Families With Autism Claim ADA Violation

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Sixteen families with autistic children have filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, based on its new policies for disabled guests.

Last year, Disney changed its options for disabled guests when The New York Post discovered people were abusing the privilege. Wealthy parents were hiring a private service of disabled guides to bypass long lines. After more investigating, Disney discovered many people were abusing the disability program to avoid waiting in line.

On October 9, 2013, Disney transitioned from the Guest Assistance Card to the Disability Access Card.

Before the change, families with a disabled member were able to board a ride without waiting. After the change, families are now given a return time, which lets them know when to come back. When families do, they may have to continue to wait longer to board the ride, which can be difficult with autistic children.

The wait time in between is typically equivalent to the time the guests would have spent waiting in line. The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles by Tampa Bay’s Dogali Law Group, claims that the return time is the same as waiting, and does not honor the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Click here for a complete look at the lawsuit. According to Dogali Law Group, the plaintiffs allege that:

•    There was no widespread problem of abuse of the prior system for guests with disabilities. If any abuse really occurred, it was not committed by persons with cognitive impairments. There is no reason to make children and young adults with developmental disabilities collateral damage by withdrawing necessary accommodations.

•       The ADA requires Disney to provide individualized assessment of the needs of disabled persons with special needs, but Disney is training its employees to refuse to discuss individualized situations with disabled persons.

•       Disney refuses to tell disabled persons anything about the accommodations which will be provided to them until they arrive at the resort, which deters families with disabled or autistic children from risking the investment of traveling all the way to the parks.

Reuters reported that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts released a statement saying it has “an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests. We fully comply with all ADA requirements and believe that the legal claims are without merit.”

Disney’s website does provide the following information on Services for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities:

The theme parks offer a wide variety of great shows and rides for you and your party to experience, and accessing these can be done in several ways including the use of standard queues, Disney FASTPASS Service and a Disability Access Service Card, as well as other accommodations based on individual service needs.

In particular, the Disability Access Service Card is designed for Guests who are unable to tolerate extended waits at attractions due to a disability. This service allows Guests to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current queue wait for the given attraction.

To learn more about the Disability Access Service Card—in addition to other accommodations that might be available based on the Guest with a cognitive disability’s individual service needs—please visit the Guest Relations Lobby at the theme parks.

Click here to read more about the Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card.

For related news about Disney disability passes, visit:

By Stephanie Ervin for PeterGreenberg.com

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