Judge Finds ‘No Basis’ For ADA Claims Against Disney
A second federal judge has rejected claims from families who sued Disney over changes to disability access at its theme parks, but a lawyer representing the kids and their parents isn’t backing down.
In a ruling this month, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in California tossed out claims brought by families of children with disabilities who alleged that Disney’s 2013 policy changes violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The families are among dozens who have sued Disney in recent years after the company altered its approach to disability accommodations.
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Previously, individuals with disabilities could obtain a Guest Assistance Card at Disney parks in Florida and California, which often allowed them to jump to the front of long lines for rides and other attractions.
But Disney overhauled the program four years ago amid concerns about abuse and now offers those with special needs a Disability Access Service Card that allows visitors to schedule a return time for one park attraction at a time based on current wait times.
The families who sued alleged that the current approach violates the ADA and does not adequately address the needs of children with autism or other conditions, leading to meltdowns, among other issues.
Last year, U.S. District Judge Anne Conway in Florida found that Disney’s accommodations were in line with the ADA and allowed people with disabilities the same opportunity to experience the theme parks as other guests.
In the latest ruling, Real said that suits brought in California could not proceed because they hinge on the same issue already addressed in Conway’s ruling.
“Because plaintiffs’ common-law claims are predicated on their contention that defendant violated the ADA and (California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act) — an issue already decided against them — there is no basis for plaintiffs to succeed on those claims,” wrote Real in his order.
Despite the judge’s decision, however, the families’ attorney Andy Dogali said his clients are pressing forward. Thirty families are appealing Conway’s ruling while 14 have brought claims under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. Those affected by the decision this month may also choose to appeal, he said.
Representatives for Disney did not respond to a request for comment about the litigation.