by Jacki Mick
Last April, a lawsuit was filed against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, alleging discrimination against park guests with autism. The lawsuit was initially filed due to changes Disney made to its Guest Assistance Card program, which allowed disabled park visitors (and their guests) to go to the front of the line for the parks' rides and attractions. Disney changed the program after it was revealed that some wealthy people were paying disabled tour guides to accompany them to the park so they could cut lines.
The newly introduced Disability Access Service program does away with automatic front-of-the-line access for disabled guests, instead providing them with a predetermined ride time, based on estimated wait times. This new system, complainants say, doesn't automatically send guests to the front of a line, which means that sometimes they have to wait. For guests with autism, that can cause “meltdown behaviors.” These behaviors sometimes led to the children being asked to leave the park. The lawsuit claims that the new system violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.
The initial lawsuit included 26 plaintiffs. Last night, Deadline reported that this number could triple, with the addition of 69 new plaintiffs who reached out to the attorneys after hearing about the suit. “After the initial Complaint was filed, undersigned counsel received an outpouring of phone calls and emails from victims and their families, similarly situated to the 26 existing Plaintiffs,” said lawyers Andy Dogali and Eugene Feldman in one of several filings today in federal court (read it here). “Most of the victims wanted to offer cheers of support and witness assistance; some were in search of counsel. Ultimately, the undersigned counsel agreed to represent many of them.”