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An 11th Circuit Court has overruled the summary judgment motion granted to Disney in 30 federal lawsuits alleging Disney has violated its duty to autistic children at its amusement parks. This ruling will give plaintiffs an opportunity to have their claims heard in court.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts a child's ability to express emotions and thoughts correctly, and often makes it very difficult to consistently use appropriate behavior. ASD impacts approximately one in every 68 children born in the U.S. The American with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in certain instances. ASD is considered a disability under the ADA.
At issue is whether autistic children and their families should be granted near-immediate access to rides and repeat rides under Disney's Disability Access Service (DAS) program. Disney claims that this request has to do more with the families who do not want to bear the burden of dealing with the autistic children's inability to wait. Disney claims that surely these children had to wait in some sort of uncomfortable situation (car, plane) in order to get to the theme park. Though the federal court saw Disney's point, the 11th Circuit didn't, and claimed this was a factual dispute, and undoubtedly different among every autistic plaintiff. Therefore Summary Judgment shouldn't be awarded.
Disney also claims it does offer quick access to rides through its DAS Card, similar to a FastPass to all autistic guests free of charge, but there is sometimes a 15 minute wait. Disney eliminated the front-of-the-line disabled protocol after there was widespread abuse, mostly by wealthy people who were not clinically disabled. Therefore, Disney asserts, the DAS Card strikes the best middle ground between quick access and truly disabled guests. Though that may be true, the 11th Circuit again felt that there were too many material issues of fact at play, and that they should each be heard at trial.
Disney is no stranger to disability suits. In 2014, Disney was sued by parents of children with developmental disabilities, claiming Disney failed to accommodate their needs and actively dissuaded their presence at Disney theme parks. This suit came on the heels of the elimination of the front-of-the-line protocol. The courts eventually found in favor of Disney.
If you or your loved ones believe their civil rights, as protected by the ADA, have been violated, contact a local discrimination attorney, who can listen to your situation and advise you on best legal courses of action.
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