Disney Parks Sued for Disability Discrimination

By Albert Lin

Twenty-eight separate lawsuits have been filed against The Walt Disney Company alleging discrimination against people with disabilities at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and more are expected.

Attorney Andy Dogali, who represents the families, previously told DisabilityScoop.com that he planned to pursue individual lawsuits on behalf of the 44 original complainants in a joint lawsuit, with additional families expected to come forward. A judge had ruled that the joint lawsuit could not move forward because each family had differing circumstances.

The families charge that Disney’s Disability Access Service program violates the Americans With Disabilities Act by not allowing people with disabilities to cut to the front of lines. One complaint cites a 6-year-old boy with autism whose blood pressure rose so high during waits that he developed nosebleeds, ultimately forcing his mother to take him back to their hotel. The original joint lawsuit included multiple anecdotes about developmentally impaired children having “meltdowns” and being forced to leave park. The 28 complaints are largely uniform, with only a few paragraphs describing each family’s individual circumstances.

“Until recently, parents of developmentally disabled children universally adored Disney, because of the way Disney caringly accommodated their children,” Dogali told Disability Scoop in April. “No reasonable mind could ever conclude, after investigating these facts and spending extensive time with these families, anything other than Disney willingly abandoned them.”

The DAS program began in October 2013 when Disney discontinued its Guest Assistance Card program, which allowed people with disabilities access to rides via a separate entrance. In a letter to guests, Meg Crofton, President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France, wrote that the GAC program “has been abused and exploited to such an extent that we are no longer able to effectively sustain it in its present form.” Wealthy guests reportedly were paying people with disabilities to help them cut lines.

The DAS program requires families to obtain a “return time”—essentially a reservation—based on the current wait time for a ride. But they are allowed only one at a time, which means this program merely allows them to bypass standing in line by letting them wait elsewhere.

The Walt Disney Company is No. 34 in the DiversityInc Top 50.

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