Disney Sued by Visitors With Autism

Lawsuits against Disney's U.S. theme parks brought by visitors with severe autism can move [...]

Lawsuits against Disney's U.S. theme parks brought by visitors with severe autism can move forward.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that plaintiffs in 30 lawsuits can proceed with their claims alleging Walt Disney Parks and Resorts violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A Florida district judge had previously dismissed the claims in 2016 prompting the appeal.

The lawsuit claims that the autistic visitors bringing the suit endured virtual and physical waits, some leading to "meltdowns", despite Disney's current system of allowing visitors with disabilities to make "appointment times" to get on rides and go to the front of the line if the wait is less than 15 minutes. The system is a change from a 2013 program that simply allowed visitors to disability to go to the front of the line without appointment or delay and it's that change -- and according to the lawsuit, the new program creates issues.

"It is the nature of the neurological disability that makes waiting an impossibility," the plaintiffs argued.

The lawsuit has a suggested resolution similar to the 2013 program with a pass allowing them to automatically skip lines entirely. Disney has argued that that would not solve things and would, instead, result in abuse of the program much in the way the 2013 version had been abused with wealthy visitors hiring guests with disabilities to help them avoid waits. However, the court's decision specifically noted that the current system simply doesn't work.

"The DAS Card does allow disabled guests to avoid the crowded and constrained conditions that exist when standing in line for a ride," the decision read. "But Disney theme parks are high-commotion environments and plaintiffs must virtually wait therein."

Disney Parks responded in an emailed statement to the Orlando Sentinel on Monday.

"Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests," the statement read. "The lower court concluded that we fully complied with all ADA requirements and dismissed the claims. The appellate court ruling sends the lawsuits back to the lower court for further proceedings. We are reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps."