Federal Appeals Court Says Visitors With Severe Autism Can Proceed With Lawsuits Against Disney Parks

30 former Disney guests with severe autism are seeking to bring lawsuits against the Parks, alleging that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A Circuit Court of Appeals has given them the green light to continue with proceedings.

What’s happening:

  • Last week the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the okay for 30 pending lawsuits against Disney Parks to proceed.
  • Each case is in regards to guests with severe autism who allege that Disney’s policies are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act .
  • While Disney has a program in place for guest with disabilities, ABC News reports that plaintiffs have claimed not enough was being done to accommodate them when visiting Disney Parks, such as avoiding waits that would allow them to keep to their established routines.
  • Guests with disabilities visiting Disney Parks can get a special card — a Disability Access Service card — that allows them to make “appointment times” at attractions with wait times longer than 15 minutes. They are able to make unlimited appointments throughout the day.
  • Cast members will give the guest a time to come back to attraction (an “appointment”) and get on the ride with little to no wait. If wait times are 15 minutes or less, guests with disabilities can ride immediately.
  • In the past, the program allowed for guests with disabilities to get on all attractions without the need for reservations, however after abuse of the program by guests without disabilities, Disney changed their rules in 2013.
  • Back in 2016, a district court in Florida dismissed claims saying Disney was legally accommodating autistic visitors. The autistic visitors appealed to the court in Atlanta.
  • Plaintiffs have stated that while they may not be enduring physical waits, even the virtual waits often resulted in meltdowns. A change to their routine, even a small one, can cause distress to those with severe autism and they don’t have the ability to express their struggle. Plaintiffs argued in their lawsuit, “It is the nature of the neurological disability that makes waiting an impossibility.”
  • According to ABC News’ coverage, “the appeals court said that the fact-finding coming out of the trials would help determine what is considered “necessary” to accommodate autistic visitors’ need for rigid routines and no waits.”
  • A spokeswoman for Disney said their are examining what steps to take next. Disney also remarked in a statement, “Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests.”