Court says autism access lawsuit against Disney must be individuals, not group

Posted Monday, November 10, 2014 9:00 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A group of families suing Walt Disney Parks and Resorts over its new policies for people with disabilities, such as autism, has suffered a setback. The plaintiffs must file individual lawsuits, a federal judge has ruled. Judge Anne Conway said late last month the plaintiffs' claims are too diverse to handle in one lawsuit.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, November 10, 2014 9:03 AM

I think the other thing this decision outlines is that there is no "typical" autism. You can paint some very broad strokes about what it entails, but relative to the access complaint it's specific to a variety of challenges that not every kid has.

As a parent of an ASD kid, I still don't think these parents are doing their kids any favors.

Monday, November 10, 2014 9:17 AM

I agree, Jeff- these parents aren't doing their kids any favors. I have Asperger's, and while it's not full-on Autism it does present its own unique challenges. I am an independent adult living on my own now, holding a steady full time job for 10 years. I cannot imagine where I would be in life if my parents had not pushed me out of my comfort zone growing up.

I'm sure it wouldn't work for *everybody* but I have to think at least putting forth the effort into helping your child grow as much as they can is worth it. If you always baby them and pander to them they'll never grow. This is true of all children, yes, but I feel it is especially important for ASD kids. They're smart kids and it does no one any favors if you don't try and teach them. It may not stick with all of them, but it's absolutely worth the effort.

"Everything worthwhile takes hard work." -My mother

Monday, November 10, 2014 9:46 AM

Splitting the cases up does concern me in the sense that it would *seem* more likely to have at least one of the cases go against Disney. By having all of the plaintiffs enter in as one case, Disney stood a much better chance of having everyone go away with one judge's they're going to have to defend against a whole series of separate yet related arguments. I don't think Disney would be too pleased with this development.

Monday, November 10, 2014 9:51 AM

I'm not sure though... can every one of those families afford to bring it? I doubt it. The appeal to getting involved was likely shared cost or the single firm working on contingency for a big pay-out.

I just can't see any world where you couldn't bring in an expert witness and ask them, "If a kid doesn't know they're 'scheduled' to return to a ride, will it cause them stress?" The answer has to be no. So in that case, there's no negative impact to the kids in this system.

Monday, November 10, 2014 10:08 AM

To follow your second argument, how much stress does it cause when you know you have a time to return, and then there's a ride breakdown? Can we sue if Johnny gets upset because he's supposed to ride Big Thunder and it's not operating? Just seems like any decision for the parents re-opens a can of worms Disney tried to put a lid on by coming up with this new solution...sure hope this blows over quickly.

Monday, November 10, 2014 10:24 AM

I can relate to that scenario, because while my kid likes to queue, he doesn't know what to do with breakdowns and sudden closures. We've had meltdowns in those situations, and in the past we have, with varying degrees of success, redirected. (This is a core tenant of ABA therapy.) But I would counter, it doesn't matter if you're next in line (as we most unfortunately were once for Pooh), in the virtual queue or standby. The outcome is the same in every case: The ride is just down and there's nothing you can do about it.

Monday, November 10, 2014 12:43 PM

I have a class of 6 students on the spectrum. We go to hershey park every year. A simple solution is a ride attendant who's able to know what the ride wait time is- write it down and tell me the rules - aka how many in the party can go at once etc. what happens at all the parks is that they make you walk up the exit ramp. Some exits are massive. So you walk up steel ramps and stairs and then the ride attendant looks surprised. They can do one of two things. Get you on the next ride and out of the way because we are obstructing the exit or tell us to come back but only after having been stepped on by several trains worth of people coming off the ride. Only after the attendant decides to write down a time do we then turn around and walk down the exit. An hour later back up and again stepped on by massive riders coming off and then getting setup to ride. I get frustrated I can't begin to imagine how frustrated a person with transitional issues feels.

Monday, November 10, 2014 1:10 PM

That's why it's such crap that Disney would be taking any heat for this. It's about as seamless as can be. You just go to the Fastpass entry, and off you go. Some rides you'll still have to wait a few minutes because of how they group people, but that's as fair as it gets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 2:07 PM

As long as the child isn't expected to physically stand in line for an hour I think they've been accomadated. If a child on the autism spectrum needs way more then this accomadation to be able to handle Disney then maybe parents need to really think hard about how much enjoyment their child can get from the experience versus how much sensory overload it's going to cause.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 2:25 PM

You're making an incorrect assumption that "sensory overload" is an issue for all ASD kids. That was part of the point I was making... you can't generalize like that, which is why trying to make this one big suit doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 2:28 PM

How about a more general wording?

"If your child needs much more accommodation than this, maybe you need to consider how much postive they're getting out of the experience versus how much negative it's causing them."

The beauty is that it's a common sense statement that applies to all people in all situations.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 2:31 PM

Yeah, and you know how common the common sense is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 2:33 PM

It's really just a nicer way of saying, "Everyone might not be able to do everything"

At some point you have to concede that the situation just isn't for matter how much you want it to be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 9:09 PM

Jeff said:

You're making an incorrect assumption that "sensory overload" is an issue for all ASD kids. That was part of the point I was making... you can't generalize like that, which is why trying to make this one big suit doesn't make sense.

I'm not assuming, I know it isn't an issue for all kids on the spectrum. I think Disney's system as it's been described on the forum seems like it should work for most kids with autism. I'm just saying that for those parents who feel that being given a specific time to come back and ride with no wait is not enough of an accomadation for their child they need to consider if the amusement park experience in general will be pleasant for their particular child or if it will just be too much. I've had students on the spectrum that go to Disney yearly and have a great time and I've had students that can't handle a one hour field trip to the pumpkin patch down the street because it's just too much for them. What I meant was pretty much what Lord Gonchar said more clearly and in less words than I used.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 2:34 AM

Interestingly, over at Disneyland on november 19th, they will roll out an electronic version of the DAS program. Once somebody is registered for a DAS, everyone in their group and themselves have their tickets scanned. Once you show up at the fast pass entrance, everyone's ticket has to be scanned in order to get a time assigned. Once you return, everyone has to has their tickets scanned.

Why is that? The same people who had abused the old Guest Assistance Card program have found ways to break the new system. Be it sending each person of your group to get "replacement" DAS, writing your own return times, stealing the cast member stamps or just plain lying on the number of people in your party, they hope this new update will help.

Now, with a centralised system linked to something unique (park tickets or annual passes), they hope to curb abuse.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 11:25 AM

Are there that many people who abuse the new system? In the line cutting thread, the majority view (with which I agree) seemed to be that some people did cut but it didn't happen enough to justify putting in place systems to reduce/stop cutting. Are there enough people who abuse the new system to go thru additional steps to justify the additional steps?

Thursday, November 13, 2014 11:55 AM

People that visit Disney are, on average, bigger assholes?

Thursday, November 13, 2014 12:17 PM

The entire reason this started in the first place was because people were hiring disabled tour guides to get them to the front of the line. Those people were the assholes.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 12:55 PM

I think abuse of the DAS system has been a more significant problem than line jumping.

One reason, numbers: the number of line jumpers relative to the number of the people on line in the park at any given time is going to be a pretty low number. Whereas with the DAS system you have a fairly small percentage of the guest population using a system that has historically been easy to abuse.

As Absimilliard notes, you have people writing in their own return times, sending multiple members of the party to request "replacements" etc.

Electronically tethering the DAS pass to each person's ticket is a smart move.


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