A lawsuit challenging recent changes to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ line policies may be expanded to include a larger class of plaintiffs.
In April, 26 people with autism and other cognitive disabilities filed a federal lawsuit against the entertainment giant, arguing that the new policies no longer comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In court filings made August 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District District of California, the plaintiffs are now requesting that the lawsuit be expanded to include 69 more individuals allegedly harmed by the changes, according to an article on Deadline.com
“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,” the papers state.
The lawsuit stems from a rule change that went into effect in October 2013.
Prior to then, people with certain disabilities could obtain a Guest Assistance Card, allowing them to automatically go to the front of the line at Disney theme parks.
However, Disney argued that people abused the system and replaced the policy with a new system where people with certain disabilities receive a Disability Access Service (DAS) card, which allows guests to return to the rides at a later time, although they would no longer be able to go to the front of the line.
As the plaintiffs see it, the policy essentially eviscerates Disney’s long-standing accommodation in its line policies for people with autism and other cognitive disabilities, making the experience unbearable for many individuals.
“The disabled Plaintiffs, like other persons with cognitive impairments, are mentally and physically incapable of waiting for significant periods of time in a line or queue,” the lawsuit states. “The idle, unfocused state which necessarily results from standing in a queue causes persons on the autism spectrum, and other non-sectrum exhibitors, to over-stimulate, resulting in meltdown behaviors.”
Throughout the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse Disney of enacting the DAS system in bad faith, with the purpose of “substantially reducing the number of autistics and cognitively impaired persons in Disney.”
The plaintiffs argue that Disney retains a secretive “Magic List,” where it grants certain individuals accommodations, while making others stand in line to obtain a DAS card each time they enter one of its theme parks.
In addition, the lawsuit states that the policy has had the additional impact of altering the relationship of Disney’s employees with people with cognitive disabilities. As described in the lawsuit, “courtesy was replaced with rudeness, acceptance with suspicion, understanding with impatience, consideration with discourtesy.”
Further, the plaintiffs describe Disney’s rationale for the change – that the old system had been abused – as “a contrived solution to a non-existent problem.”
“For persons with disabilities, the (Disability Access Service) has not only made the Disney experience less than equal, it has made it unlawful,” the plaintiffs wrote in the latest filing.
A hearing is scheduled in the case for October.