A group of families of disabled children and young adults have filed a suit against the Walt Disney theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California. The suit stems from a recent change in the policy for how guests with disabilities are granted priority access to the rides at the two theme parks. Previously, disabled guests were given a card that allowed them instant access to the front of any ride. The new system is more similar to the “Fast Pass” that all guests were eligible for, in that the disabled guest is given a scheduled time to return for the ride.
The disabled guests must also now be photographed in order to receive this new Disability Access Service card. The suit alleges that these new policies were put in place to keep autistic children from visiting the park, so as not to interfere with the “magical Disney experience enjoyed by Disney’s nondisabled guests.” The complaint also accuses Disney of having a top secret “Magic List” of people that Disney will grant the old “front of the line” access to, without the restraints of the new system. Disney refutes all the claims of the suit, issuing a statement in their defense.
“Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests. We fully comply with all [Americans With Disabilities Act] requirements and believe that the legal claims are without merit.”
It would seem more likely that this change was designed to help the disabled children and adults that visit Walt Disney World and Disneyland on a daily basis. Disney faced a scandal last year when it was revealed that wealthy families of non-disabled children were hiring disabled tour guides in order to take advantage of the liberal front of the line policy for disabled children and adults that was in place prior to this most recent change. A New York Post article revealed that wealthy families were paying disabled guides $130 an hour to accompany them on the rides, making use of the disability “front of the line” privileges. The Post article quoted one mom as saying:
“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours. You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge. This is how the 1% does Disney.”
Disney responded to the alleged abuses when Disney spokeperson Bryan Malenius told CNN
“It is unacceptable to abuse accommodations that were designed for guests with disabilities. We are thoroughly reviewing the situation and will take appropriate steps to deter this type of activity.”
The suit against Disney seeks unspecified monetary damages and a forced reversal in the new disability policy.