ADA Suit Against Disney May Expand
The number of families looking to sue Disney over changes to its theme park access policy for people with disabilities is growing substantially.
An additional 30 families including 36 individuals with disabilities are seeking to join a lawsuit originally filed this spring that accuses Walt Disney Parks and Resorts of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate their special needs. Initially, 14 families including 16 people with disabilities were part of the lawsuit.
The allegations stem from modifications last fall to Disney’s procedures for accommodating visitors with disabilities. Prior to the change, those with special needs were provided passes that often allowed them and their guests to skip to the front of long lines for park attractions. Now, however, individuals with disabilities can schedule a return time for rides based on current wait times.
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Disney officials said the changes were necessary following “widespread” abuse of the old system.
Since the new policy took effect, the families say in their lawsuit that visits to Disney theme parks have been marked by long waits and difficult interactions with Disney employees. What’s more, the suit cites cases of kids with developmental disabilities who have experienced meltdowns allegedly because they could not handle waiting for rides.
After the initial complaint was filed earlier this year, attorneys for the families “received an outpouring of phone calls and emails” from others who were similarly affected by changes to the disability access policy at Disneyland and Disney World, according to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California this week.
“Most of the victims wanted to offer cheers of support and witness assistance; some were in search of counsel. Ultimately, the undersigned counsel agreed to represent many of them,” the attorneys, Andy Dogali and Eugene Feldman, wrote.
Disney vehemently denied the allegations in a court filing last month saying that “all guests with disabilities are provided the level of accommodation required by law.” At that time, the company requested that the lawsuit be dismissed.
Attorneys for Disney have indicated they will fight efforts to add more families to the case when the issue goes before the court in October.
The case is not expected to go to trial until 2016.