16 families sue Disney; claim park violates Americans with Disabilities Act



ORLANDO, Fla. - Sixteen families are suing the Walt Disney Corporation, claiming it does not provide adequate access to rides for theme park visitors with autism.

Three of the families included in the lawsuit are from central Florida.

In October, Disney stopped offering autistic visitors a guest assistance card, which allows them to bypass lines.

Disney officials claim they were trying to stop tourists from cheating the system by paying disabled guests for access to the front of the line.

Instead, they are offered a disability access service card, which gives them a scheduled return time.

The families said Disney is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

They said some people with autism have difficulty waiting for rides.

“It’s not just an inconvenience, it’s almost an added burden,” said Maureen Deal, who first spoke to WFTV in October about the struggled navigating around the park with her 19-year-old autistic son.

Deal is not part of the lawsuit but she’s blogged about the frustrations of their visits since Disney’s changes to the policy.

She said it’s unfortunate families with autistic children were forced to file a lawsuit to get the changes needed.

“Because of the actions of a few, it’s really impacted a lot of guests,” Deal said.

The suit insists Disney is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and inflicting emotional distress on autistic guests, who now have to wait in line at guest services to get the new disability access card.

According to the lawsuit, autistic guests are incapable of waiting in the extended lines and may become distressed to the point where they flail their arms and make it uncomfortable for other guests.

Attorneys argue Disney implemented the changes to, “intentionally or recklessly cleanse its parks of what Disney views as the anti-magic of such persons.”

Disney officials fired back, saying they fully comply with ADA requirements and believe the legal claims are without merit.

The attorney for the families said they’re waiting for a judge in California to be assigned to the lawsuit.