EXCLUSIVE: Fourteen new individual lawsuits were filed this week against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. “The systems, policies and procedures associated with the Disability Access Service which Disney rolled out in October of 2013 were certain to create discrimination against Plaintiffs, and it was obvious that the community of persons with cognitive impairments would be harmed by the DAS,” said the filings in federal court in Florida (read one of them here). Representing 26 families with children with autism and other developmental disorders who visited Disney World, these latest complaints come out of an order late last month by a judge breaking up the group discrimination case against the House of Mouse first filed in April. The filings this week were one per family, as designated by U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conaway.
And there will be many more to come soon. With Judge Conaway allowing the amended complaint of August 27 to go forward, over two dozen new cases from 69 more plaintiffs are expected within days. In her October 30 order, the Judge gave plaintiffs until November 21 to make their filings. As the original 57-claim complaint lays out, the plaintiffs in the filing earlier this week say that Disney’s change over to its DAS system in an effort to stop abuse of the system left the children and their families suddenly treated harshly by employees at DisneyLand and Disney World, stuck in long lines to which their conditions are unsuited, and caused unsettling “meltdown behaviors.”
All of which is to say Disney now is about to be fighting a lot of families on a lot of fronts in the Sunshine State. Disney has said in past and in motions before the court that it is anything less than accommodating and sensitive to the needs and requirements of patrons such as the plaintiffs. And Disney is not only accused of violating the ADA, but also promoting information that the filings say “blame the autistic person” for being unable to “appreciate Disney Parks” via videos posted online.
“Disney knows that viewers of these messages who are part of the disabled community or who have any true understanding of cognitive impairments will be insulted and disgusted, because Disney is too smart to be delivering such inane messages in good faith, just as Disney is too smart to genuinely believe autistic persons can go all the way to a ride and calmly and peaceably accept an instruction to come back later,” says the complaint filed by A.L. and his mother D.L.
As with the other complaints, the filing by A.L. and D.L. details very specific instances of the “horrible experiences” they had at the company’s parks under the new DAS system. Needless to say, Disney and its employees really do not come out well. Neither does the contested existence of a so-called “Magic List,” which allows park patrons five immediate-entry, no-appointment ride passes. The plaintiffs say such a List or something like it could solve a lot of their issues. Disney says no such list exists.
At this point, it looks like that’s a debate for a lot of people to be having before the courts.
Like in the previous group action, attorneys Andy Dogali of Tampa, Florida and Eugene Feldman of Hermosa Beach, CA represent the individual plaintiffs.