Parents of autistic kids sue Disney over new line-waiting policy

It’s never easy taking a child with disabilities to a theme park.

But since Disney changed its Guest Assistance Card program  to crack down on rampant line cutting, some families with autistic children say taking them to the park has gotten worse.

Last week, 16 families with autistic children filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, claiming the new policy is too narrow for those with disabilities such as autism, and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles, includes Anaheim’s Disneyland and Disney California Adventure and seeks an unspecified amount of money and a policy reversal. 

Under Disney’s new Disabled Assistance System [DAS], launched in October, visitors with disabilities are issued a Disability Access Service Card, with a photo ID.  It works similar to the park’s FastPass system and allows a disabled guest to return at a specified time where they can access the ride without waiting on line.

The change in policy follows several cases of where guests were paying for disabled guides or using fraudulent GAC cards to get on rides without the wait.

Disney said in a statement to that its parks “have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests. We fully comply with all ADA requirements and believe that the legal claims are without merit.”

Yet,  plaintiffs say children with cognitive disorders often have a hard time waiting in long lines and that the policy doesn’t allow individualized exceptions for some guests, based on the severity of their disabilities.

“It does (violate the law), because the new system doesn’t provide an individualized assessment,” Eugene Feldman, one of two lawyers representing the plaintiffs, told the Orange County Register.

Disney representatives say the new program accommodates the vast majority of guest with special needs.

“Our Disability Access Service is designed for guests who, due to certain disabilities, cannot tolerate extended wait times at attractions. In circumstances where the service might not meet guests needs, we work individually with guests to ensure we are able to accommodate them,” the park said in a statement.