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.”