Parents Of Autistic Kids Sue Disney Over New Waiting Line Policy

In an effort to discourage some ethically questionable visitors who had been hiring disabled “tour guides” (or who pretended to be disabled themselves) in order to skip long lines at Disney park attractions, the company instituted a policy change last October. Rather than moving directly to the front of the line, these guests are given tickets that tells them when to come back so they don’t have to endure a wait in line. But some parents of autistic children have sued Disney over the policy, saying it goes too far and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Orange County Register, 16 families with autistic kids recently filed suit in Los Angeles against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, alleging that the new policy is too narrow and doesn’t allow individualized exceptions for some guests, based on the severity of their disabilities.

The plaintiffs say that for some autistic children, being made to wait for an attraction — whether it’s in line or while continuing to move around the park — can result in a difficult scenario for parents.

“Because of their autism spectrum disorder, they’re not capable of waiting without melting down,” a lawyer for the parents tells the Register. He believes that the policy violates the ADA by failing to “provide an individualized assessment” in the way the previous policies did.

Before the change, disabled visitors to Disney were allowed to move to the front of the line. Because not all disabilities are visible, and because park employees are not allowed to ask for proof of disability, an increasing number of impatient visitors without any medical need to skip the line were gaming the system by lying.

The notion behind the new policy was to effectively expand the parks’ FastPass system to include disabled visitors. Without the ability to immediately skip the line, unethical guests would not be as likely to lie about being disabled. At the same time, disabled visitors do not have to wait in the queue but are free to see other parts of the park before returning at their appointed times.

A rep for Disney says the lawsuit is without merit and claims that, contrary to the allegations in the complaint, the new policy does allow employees to make evaluations based on individual guests’ needs.

“Our Disability Access Service is designed for guests who, due to certain disabilities, cannot tolerate extended wait times at attractions,” the company told the Register in a statement. “In circumstances where the service might not meet guests’ needs, we work individually with guests to ensure we are able to accommodate them.”

[via Cleveland.com]

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  1. charmander says:

    “The plaintiffs say that for some autistic children, being made to wait for an attraction — whether it’s in line or while continuing to move around the park — can result in a difficult scenario for parents.”

    Maybe a trip to Disneyland is not in the best interests of your child. If they can’t wait in line without a meltdown, take them somewhere else. Disneyland is all about waiting in line. People, get real!

    • StevenB says:

      I agree. This special accommodation crap is over the top. There are different ways for the parents to handle this instead of demanding to cut in line.

    • CommonC3nts says:

      Exactly, if they cant safely wait in line then how can they safely go on a ride where they movement will be restricted.
      If you are that out of control then it is not safe to be on any mechanical ride or enclosed space.

  2. MarthaGaill says:

    How about instead of saying, “Now we’re going to ride Space Mountain” and then having the kid meltdown because you have to go walk around or do a different attraction for a while, say, “Now we’re going to go get a ticket for Space Mountain and then go get pictures with Mickey.” Let them know the time table so there’s minimal anxiety.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      Or better yet, if there is more than one adult, have one adult get the FastPasses and coordinate the route so that the party can get to the ride at the time they can actually ride it. The kids don’t need to know about later if they have trouble with the concept, just wait and tell them about it when it’s time to actually go on the ride!

  3. Terryc says:

    So many things in life they will have to wait a moment for. The line at Micky D’s, the grocery store, the rest room at any public event, the carnival at school events. Yes we must try to accomodate disabilities but if they are offering to set an appointment for the kids to come back at a set time and go to the head of the line it’s hard to see that this does not solve the problem. Heck they have to wait for service for lunch too right?

  4. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    i’m torn on this. on one hand, i understand where the parents who are suing are coming from- but on the other hand, it’s DISNEY. it’s one of the most crowded places on earth and there are always going to be some lines, some waits, some delays. even when there were looser policies on boarding for disabled persons, there was always a wait of some kind.
    i worked there for 7 years, although not in the parks, but the free employee admission meant i spent plenty of time in the parks as a guest.
    it’s entirely possible to get the tickets to a ride without even telling your kids what you are doing and then go do something else for a while.
    are they also going to sue because they had to wait for food, for the bathroom, to see the parade, the fireworks?

    • furiousd says:

      I like that concept: if this lawsuit wins, the next step is suing because a special toilet wasn’t kept reserved so that the child (or autistic adult) didn’t have to wait more than 3 seconds. And then when there’s another autistic kid there, it’ll be another lawsuit because there weren’t TWO toilets reserved at each bathroom location for just such a scenario. I understand that it’s more difficult for those with certain disabilities to endure certain things (stairs, waiting, etc.) but that doesn’t mean that the kid won’t be able to handle things better if the parent expects them to be able to wait a reasonable amount of time.

      • theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

        the main thing i found out working there is that disney gets sued A LOT. like all the time. there was training on what to do as soon as a guest threatens to sue. a lot of litigious minded folks see disney as an ATM with no limit.
        i had an incident where parents threatened to sue because they dropped their non english speaking 5 and 7 year old off around 4pm, with no money, in the ticket line of a building with a $30+ admission price and an age limit – must be 12 to be admitted without a parent. no phone number for the parents, kids don’t know what hotel they are staying at, absolutely no way to track them down. (if it had been a disney hotel we would have been able to figure out the hotel registration from the kids’ names, but no luck there either)

        we got a spanish speaking security guard who was also a dad of kids of similar ages to look after them and take them on rides, get them snacks, and all of this was for free. when the parents turned up AT TEN PM they threatened to sue because we had a sheriff’s deputy waiting to meet them. they weren’t charged with anything, just a lecture and a warning that if it happened again there would be abandonment charges.
        i don’t know if they actually sued, but i hope they did because the state would press charges in a hearbeat.
        and knowing the policies and the way disney will bend over backwards to fix actual problems long before they ever get to legal action, i would guess a large percentage of the lawsuits actually filed are pretty ridiculous.

        • CommonC3nts says:

          What?? Why were the cops not called immediately and the kids taken to a foster home?
          That is crazy they allowed the kids to hang out with a security guard all day.
          Something is not right with your story.

          • theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

            the cops were called immediately. that’s why the deputy was waiting for them. i don’t know why the kids weren’t taken to a foster home. possibly because i don’t think they were americans. but it may also be because getting a foster home lined up that quickly is probably impossible. the deputy made the decisions on what steps to take and keeping the kids inside a secured area with a security person was probably a great way to keep them distracted and calm. i just ran the ticket booth so i only saw the parts that happened outside my window, and had to call a manager when the kids first got to my window and i realized they were alone.

  5. mobafett says:

    Wait times at Disney for the popular rides are crazy long if you’re there when the parks are full. Disney seems to only be addressing the problem with more fast-passes for guests that stay at Disney hotels. It’s disheartening to get in to the park and find that every attraction you’d like to experience has more than a 90-minute wait time. Unless you show up at the park opening and run to the attraction for the fast-passes, you’re doomed to the horrible wait times. Plus, you’ll be sitting in line only to watch an enormous tour group cash in all their fast-passes at once, stepping in line in front of you. It’s an assault on your sense of fairness.
    I was more disgusted at Six Flags where you’re charged extra for the line-cutter tickets, as if you hadn’t paid enough to get in to the park. Oh, you actually wanted to ride on the attractions? Pay us more.
    I can really sympathize with the parents of kids with disabilities. If it weren’t for the jerks gaming the system, they’d be accommodated with shorter waits that are warranted.

  6. MarkyMark says:

    And this is how a few people who exploited a well meaning system totally ruined it for everyone else who followed the policy meant for them.

  7. CommonC3nts says:

    This is so wrong. Because you cant keep your kid under control they should let you cut in line???
    Also, why does it seem every kid now a days classifies as having autism??

    If your kid is so impatient or out of control then it is NOT safe to put them on any ride where their movement will be restricted. These parents are insane.

    It is so wrong to abuse the ADA by trying to make it make that an amusement part has to allow you to cut lines because your kids have autism.