Autism queue lawsuit against Disney will go to trial in Orlando Federal Court

Posted | Contributed by BrettV

A federal judge will allow a trial to start in February on behalf of a man with autism who says that Walt Disney World's policy of allowing return times for attractions in lieu of waiting in line violates the ADA. His lawyer argues that people with ASD are incapable of waiting.

Read more from WESH/Orlando.

Jeff's avatar

As a parent of a kid with ASD who likely has the disorder himself, this pisses me off. A couple of points:

  • The generalization that people with ASD don't understand time is nonsense. As a spectrum disorder, you can't generalize, and this particular issue tends to fall more in the category of ADHD, which is often a comorbid condition.
  • If I were to make any generalization, it's that kids with ASD don't understand the social contract of queuing. That's an entirely different challenge, and I've seen that one first hand. It's easy for people to write that one off as a sense of entitlement, which is totally wrong.
  • Asserting that, "This experience will induce meltdowns in the large majority of persons with cognitive impairments," should be easy enough to knock off with expert testimony. You can't make that generalization with "cognitive impairments," if you can consider ASD that at all, let alone with the wide spectrum of characteristics that people with ASD exhibit.
  • The plaintiff sounds like an adult, and maybe his condition is severe, but I don't agree with Disney making this accommodation. One of the consistent messages from therapists that we've had is that outside of severe ASD, people advance by developing coping mechanisms. For example, you may find a social interaction uncomfortable, but you can develop a strategy to deal with it. Many ASD kids, by the time they're adults, have figured out how to exist in the world. I don't want my kid to get the pass, I want him to adapt. Adaptation is the skill that enables survival.
  • And again, when it comes to kids, you don't have to tell them you're virtually queuing. That's on the parents to set expectations. When you roll up to the carousel and walk right on at your time, you don't need to set up the situation up front.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Tampa attorney Anthony Dogali writes: "The disabled plaintiff is mentally and physically incapable of traveling across the park to the site of an attraction only to be told to come back later. This experience will induce meltdowns in the large majority of persons with cognitive impairments."

Simple. Allow them to set up their queue for any ride at various areas around the park. Therefore, they don't have to "[travel] across the park ... to be told to come back later." They can go to any of the booths, pick a ride, and get that time.

I'll admit that I'm very ignorant to the struggle of anyone on the spectrum, so I have no idea how this plan would affect them any differently than the current way it's handled. I would imagine, though, that someone incapable of understanding time would be with someone who is capable; this person would be the one setting up the pass.

Jeff, I applaud your working with adapting over accommodating. My son had some VERY minor attention issues at school (especially in comparison to what you and others deal with daily). We didn't find ways for the school to change their methods to accommodate - we worked with them to find ways to adjust the way our son approached assignments and work.

Bakeman31092's avatar

Jeff said:

I don't want my kid to get the pass, I want him to adapt. Adaptation is the skill that enables survival.

Imagine how much better our society would be if everyone thought this way.

Jeff's avatar

Neurotypical people can't seem to adapt anymore, and yet have more excuses.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

slithernoggin's avatar

What Jeff said up top. I'm high functioning autistic; I have had to develop mechanisns to function socially.

I don't have an issue waiting in line for a coaster or ride, in part because I carry a paperback to read on line. And I look for short lines. The parks I go to most often, I've already ridden the rides. If I go to Michigan's Adventure and the line for Shivering Timbers is too long, I skip it.

And my visits to other parks are predicated on ACE events, which have shorter lines.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Tekwardo's avatar

I’m not on the spectrum (well, that one) but I am pretty severely ADHD. Waiting for anything is pretty much torture. One minute seems so much longer and I just want to do the thing I want to do.

Ive never taken meds for it, though I was on another med once for something and it was the first time I’d ever had the ADHD under control by meds as a side effect, which was nice, but I didn’t plan on taking medication long term and wasnt on it but for a short period.

I've also learned coping mechanisms. I do have my phone and backup batteries at a park when I’m by myself. Having said that, I typically plan trips when I know that lines will be short and also always consider queue management or line skip options.

My parents taught me that I had to learn to cope. I’m glad for that.

Last edited by Tekwardo,

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Jeff's avatar

My son has to medicate for ADHD or he simply can't make school work. That said, a mix of meds and therapy are certainly a better option for people who can afford it.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Tekwardo's avatar

I think medication (and yes, therapy) are definitely great options for people that need it and it works for them. I’m definitely not anti medication and think that people should do what works.

I was never on medication as a child and decided not to medicate for it as an adult, but I do wish my parents had sought medication for treatment for it when I was a kid. I may have done better with school.

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Jeff's avatar

I'm in the same boat. I've not had a formal ADHD diagnosis, but knowing now what it looks like, I'm pretty sure that was me.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

I will admit I do not know much about the different disorders out there.

I just know from my experiences with my stepson who has severe Autism. He is 22 and and is like a 2 year old. He does not talk and still wears adult Depends. He will go whenever you put him on toilet. But does not know how to go on his own or have the concept of waiting until someone takes him. When eating, he needs to be fed, or he will over indulge until he throws up.

When it comes to rides, he loves them. He has been to CP, HW, SFOT, SFGAm, SFStL and SDC. It has been several years since taking him to any parks and have read so many things on here and other sites about parks changing policies due to people that have abused the system. I know that CP's system the first couple times was great. You get instant access on each ride once per day. If you wanted to ride again, you would have to get the scheduled time to come back. We were ok with that. It allows us to take him around the park and enjoy all the rides he can handle and then go to room to let him chill. I have heard that their new system is good because you can schedule the rides so that they are grouped how you like to prevent walking back and forth.

Adapting doesn't work for everyone. My biggest problem with wait times is if the park is so busy, there really isn't much to do while you are waiting for your ride time. He can't play games and would be lucky to sit through a show. Can only walk around so long before he starts getting stressed out.

I remember a couple years ago on another thread here, someone said that if he is so sensitive, then we should take him to those places. So, are we supposed to lock him up for rest of his life and not allow him to enjoy things the rest of us do? I don't feel entitled because of his condition. Just want a system that keeps people from abusing it and also works for everyone. I knew nothing about these disabilities before meeting my wife. But now I have so much more respect for those parents out there dealing with these issues on a daily basis.

Jerry - Magnum Fanatic
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Jeff's avatar

Therein lies the problem though... a theme park can't legally assess or even ask about the extent of a disability, and therefore doesn't have flexibility to make a case-by-case decision. The courts, where it has even gone far enough, have to an extent agreed that there are limitations around disabilities and attractions. For example, with regard to lap restraints and double amputees.

I don't agree with the sentiment of "lock him up for the rest of his life." No one suggests that or finds it reasonable. My kid is high functioning, and will probably do OK as an adult, but even now, there are situations that I don't put him in, and I look for other things to do with him instead. Every parent has to make those decisions, disabilities or not.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

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