A man with autism is suing Disney for its disability access policy. The issue has been in legal battle for five years, but now the case has a court date to go ahead to trial on February 18, 2020.
Before 2014, guests with disabilities, including autism, were allowed to enter attractions with their entire group via a handwritten card. The most common use of the card was for alternate entrances. While sometimes these alternate entrances were just the FASTPASS queue (hence people calling it “front-of-the-line access” despite often having up to 20 minute waits), guests unable to use stairs or who needed a special ride vehicle were often sent to a different load area that often had much longer than average waits. Especially with rides with only one accessible vehicle (like Toy Story Mania and Kilimanjaro Safaris), the alternate entrance waits could actually be much longer than the standby line.
After a some speculation and online reports that some guests were hiring guests with disabilities to allow them expedited access to some of the most popular attractions, Disney made changes to this policy. The current policy allows guests to use a Disability Access Service card in order to reserve a ride time for their entire party to come back and experience attractions with relatively little or no wait.
The lawsuit going to Orlando’s federal court soon argues that for guests with autism, getting a return time is the same as being made to wait in the standby line, due to the difficulty of understanding the concept of time if the guest has a higher impact of disability. Tampa attorney Anthony Dogali states that “The disabled plaintiff is mentally and physically incapable of traveling across the park to the site of an attraction only to be told to come back later. This experience will induce meltdowns in the large majority of persons with cognitive impairments.”
The lawsuit continues to argue that Disney’s disability policy treats anyone with a disability the same, rather than acknowledging that some disabilities need different treatment.
Disney sent WESH 2 News a statement saying: “Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests. We fully comply with all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and believe that the legal claims are without merit.”
For more updates on this story, continue to follow WDWNT.com as the story progresses closer to the court date.
Featured Image: Matthew Cooper Photography (C)