Following an uproar over improper use of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ disability policies, the theme park operator made changes last fall meant to correct the problem. However, in doing so, mothers of children with disabilities claim the changes violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and have filed a 57-count lawsuit against Disney.
Disney changed its procedures that allowed for those with disabilities to receive front-of-the-line treatment with the use of a special Guest Assistance Card that provided unlimited, instant access to rides. After finding that people with disabilities were being hired as escorts to help able guests cut lines, Disney changed its policies, requiring guests with disabilities to be photographed for the new Disabled Assistance System cards, and providing a more reservation-like return time to access rides. Disabled guests now receive a return time that allows them to step out of line and return based on the wait time, essentially avoiding the line but not avoiding the wait. The guest with disabilities must also be present and ride the ride with other members of their party.
The suit, filed by mothers of 16 children with disabilities, including autism, charges that Disney is failing to accommodate the needs of their children, who cannot handle the long wait times for rides. The parents claim their children must also wait in long lines to be photographed to receive cards and charge that the new system no longer provides immediate access to rides. They also claim Disney changed its policies to discourage families with autistic children from visiting the park and disrupting other guests.
Disney denies the allegations, saying it works with guests with special needs and that it complies with all ADA requirements. The suit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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