Disney Again Faulted Over Disability Access Policy
As dozens of lawsuits are readied for trial, a civil rights commission has found reason to believe that Disney has not adequately accommodated theme park visitors with disabilities.
Responding this week to complaints from three families about disability accommodations at Disney World, the Florida Commission on Human Relations said that “reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful practice occurred.”
The complaints came after Disney overhauled its access policy in 2013. Prior to that time, visitors with disabilities could obtain a Guest Assistance Card at Disney parks in Florida and California, which often allowed them to bypass long lines for rides and other attractions.
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Under the company’s current policy, however, individuals with special needs are offered a Disability Access Service Card which enables them to schedule a return time for one park attraction at a time based on current wait times.
Now the company is facing lawsuits from 69 families of children with autism and other developmental disabilities who say that the new system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to appropriately address their children’s needs, leading to meltdowns. The first case is set for trial in August in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Meanwhile, several families also filed complaints with the Florida Commission on Human Relations claiming that the company’s approach to accommodating those with disabilities violates Florida Civil Rights Act. Last year, the commission found reasonable cause in five cases and now they have returned similar decisions in an additional three.
“Even though (Disney) provides a new accommodation, it does not take into account that the complainants had come to rely on the previously offered accommodation. It appears that the removal of this option does prevent people with severe symptoms of this particular disability from enjoying the facility,” the commission wrote in all three of the determination letters issued this week.
“Respondent provided no reasonable alternative and did not even entertain the idea that this group of disabled individuals may require more assistance than others with cognitive disabilities,” the letters stated.
Though the Florida commission does not have any enforcement power, it can act as a mediator and decisions from the panel can add weight to legal efforts.
“I hope Disney gets it. There have only been eight findings, but they all say the same thing that my lawsuits say… There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all system that works for everyone,” said attorney Andy Dogali, who is representing the families suing Disney.
For their part, Disney has continually maintained that its practices are fully compliant with the ADA, telling Disability Scoop that the company disagrees with the commission’s findings and believes that the lawsuits are “without merit.”