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Parents of Autistic Kids Sue Disney Over Policy

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

Sixteen families with autistic kids are suing Disney over alleged Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations.

The families claim that the park doesn't provide adequate access, after Disney stopped offering "guest assistance cards" to autistic visitors. The "guest assistance cards" allowed the visitors to bypass lines, according to Reuters.

The program was called in question after Disney discovered that people were finding ways to cheat the system.

The ADA and Public Accomodations

Under the ADA, commercial facilities and places of public accommodation are prohibited from discriminating against a person on the basis of their disability. To be covered by the act, the individual must have a physical and mental impairment that substantially limits a "major life activity." Autism is covered.

Businesses that are public accommodations must abide by the ADA's requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, or unequal treatment.. They must also comply with specific requirements to effectively communicate with people who have hearing or vision disabilities as well as reasonably modifying their policies and procedures to accommodate the disabled.

Abusing the System?

The main reason why Disney discontinued its "guest assistance card" program was because of reported abuse of the system -- for example, by people who hired disabled guides at the park in order to cut in line.

Instead of the assistance card, Disney now has a Disability Access Service Card that includes a photo ID. The new system assigns a time for the disabled visitors to return and bypass the line at that time, according to the Orange County Register.

Parents behind the Disney lawsuit claim that the new system discriminates against autistic kids because it doesn't provide an individualized assessment of their needs; many children with autism are unable to wait in line. The parents also allege that even if they have a time set, they sometimes still have to wait in line when they return, the OC Register reports.

In response to the lawsuit, Disney insists it complies with all ADA requirements and believes there's no merit to the parents' legal claims.

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