Families of autistic kids sue Disney over queue policy

Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:01 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Families with autistic children have sued Walt Disney Co, alleging the company does not provide adequate access to theme park visitors with autism who have difficulty waiting in long lines for rides. In October 2013, Disney parks stopped offering autistic visitors a "guest assistance card" that let them and their families bypass lines, and now offers a "disability access service" card to allow them to obtain scheduled return times for park attractions.

Read more from Reuters via The Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 3:12 PM

The issue is not waiting 29 minutes, the issue is waiting, for example, 110 minutes, because the line was 120 minutes, and then facing a new 30 minute line. It's simply a math issue that Disney hasn't accounted for. Evac situations are nothing like a queue situation, from a sensory processing standpoint.

Last edited by Farfel, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 3:22 PM
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 3:29 PM

My point still stands. If your child can't deal with the uncertainties of life, that's not Disney's problem. You as a parent should know that it's time to bail. Disney did their best, but sometimes life happens. Extricate yourself from the line, and start over.

The 29 minutes was from your scenario, not anything I dreamed up. As I understand it you mean that you "waited" 110 minutes (although not in the queue itself, maybe you were watching ducks on the Rivers of America), and then the 29 minutes is on top of that. Again, I'm not seeing how this is Disney's problem.

Trust me, if your kid can't handle 29 minutes in a line, they won't do well constrained in a ride vehicle for over an hour waiting for a reset or an evac.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 3:40 PM

Then you fundamentally don't understand autism or related issues like sensory processing disorder. If his kid is anything like my kid, being constrained in a ride vehicle for an hour would probably calm him down. This isn't an issue of enclosed spaces, it's an issue of understanding social contracts. You can't explain waiting in line to an ASD kid because it doesn't make logical sense to him. The time has nothing to do with it.

Lord Gonchar said:
If you can't handle standing in line, don't expect to be able to do things that require standing in line.

Your selective quoting removes context and doesn't get me any closer to seeing you point of view. This particular line of yours is hilariously ironic because you've been making the case for years, and bragging about your ability to see the future, that Disney has been moving to schedule everyone's day. Well... guess what they're offering to do for ASD kids? Get them out of lines.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 3:48 PM

Now that's a straw man argument.

How about this correction instead then?

If you can't handle (fill in the blank with literally anything), don't expect to be able to do things that require you to (the same anything from the first blank).

In this case:
If you can't handle how Disney accommodates guests, don't expect to be able to do everything (anything, some things?) at Disney.

Every child of needs is going to have their own comfort zone and as a parent you know that comfort zone. Disney cannot possibly know, nor accommodate, everybody's comfort zone.

(Isn't this essentially the same argument/discussion we, as a group, have had about physically disabled riders on several occasions?)

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 4:01 PM

My issue isn't with that world view. I too think the lawsuit is crap. I think Disney is absolutely doing the right thing. My issue is with the dismissive tone that some have toward the problem. Some people keep straddling the line suggesting that Disney doesn't have to, or shouldn't have to do anything. I completely disagree with that, because obviously I'm an advocate for my kid, and by extension others and their families who have it worse.

People have no idea how autism affects lives of the children or their parents. It's frustratingly difficult to understand it when it's your world, and even professionals have a hard time diagnosing it and prescribing the right therapies. In this very thread, there's a fundamental misunderstanding about why it's hard for a kid to wait in line. It's not because he's an impatient or entitled little dickhead, it's because having to wait for something, the way his brain is wired, is fundamentally illogical.

And you can tell the difference in a potential meltdown. An ASD kid at that point can only work through it and let it run its course. But watch him... he can't be consoled. He's not looking for comfort or a reaction from others, the way any other kid acts in a tantrum situation.

As I said at the beginning, I know from experience that with practice, redirection and structured techniques make the Disney system totally workable and fair to everyone. I'm lucky that we don't need it, but I've had to use those techniques in analogous situations elsewhere.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 4:40 PM

I applaud you for advocating Autism awareness, Jeff. I still wish I had your drive to keep doing it.

In my case, I'm only advocating for my kid and some awareness for his peers. I've accepted that most people don't understand the personality of someone who is autistic and the other sensory issues they have.

It sucks. It's the cold hard truth. Again, I wish I had your passion and maybe it'll happen as Alex gets older. Everything you are saying is completely true, but some people just don't get it. It happens and as much as you can try to change someone's mind sometimes you just cant.

~Rob

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 5:46 PM

If you look at things on a micro level, Gonch's reasoning makes sense. People with disabilities shouldn't expect to do <x> if <x> requires abilities they don't have.

The problem is when you zoom out and start seeing all the different <x>'s which are impossible because of the disability: It might include - not going to a museum, not going to an amusement park, not going to a ball game, not going to the local playground, not going to the library, not going anywhere with loud noises, not going to the zoo, not going to publich school, not working in a place with crowds, not working in a place with stairs, etc. etc. etc.

At some point, we as a society have to say that some large proportion of these things should be made accessible to people, even if they have a disability which normally prevents <x>, because the alternative is that they can't access anything, anytime, ever.

Now, that said, with my completely uninformed understanding of the case, I think these people suing have no leg to stand on.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 5:49 PM
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 6:04 PM

ApolloAndy said:

At some point, we as a society have to say that some large proportion of these things should be made accessible to people, even if they have a disability which normally prevents <x>, because the alternative is that they can't access anything, anytime, ever.

And I hope it doesn't sound like I'm suggesting otherwise.

All I'm saying is that there are so many people and so many <x>'s that you can't possibly include everyone in everything.

You make concessions, try to be accommodating as is reasonably possible and roll with it.

But people (all people - special needs or not) have to realize they might not be able to do everything in life they wish they could. There will always be things in life that you, I - anyone - can't do due to some sort of personal limitations.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 8:14 PM

Isn't this the same argument we had when people suggested that rides should be made to fit all body types?

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 8:36 PM

CreditWh0re said:

My point still stands. If your child can't deal with the uncertainties of life, that's not Disney's problem. You as a parent should know that it's time to bail. Disney did their best, but sometimes life happens. Extricate yourself from the line, and start over.

You totally missed my point. My point is the system has a flaw, my child should not, consistently, be asked to wait longer because he is unable to wait in the standard queue. If Disney knows, on average, that the pre-show and queue after the show is longer than 10 minutes, they should adjust the timing for that ride to compensate. On the flip side, the previous system had a flaw, in that it allowed consistently skipping long lines. I, like Jeff, am not a fan of the lawsuit.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 8:57 PM

Tekwardo said:

Isn't this the same argument we had when people suggested that rides should be made to fit all body types?

If that's the case, someone is having the wrong argument, as the two situations are not comparable. An adult is, for all intents and purposes, responsible for the body type they currently display.

Lawsuits like this make me cringe on some level, but at the same time sometimes the good in these types of lawsuits is that they spark discussion and, in some cases, action. And you're right, Gonch, of course the world is filled with things that physical limitations may make impossible for some to enjoy.

But that said, our world is also filled with individuals brave enough to open doors to people with limitations so that they can enjoy what others simply take for granted. While I cringe at the lawsuit, I also know that I have no idea what it's like to have a child with a disability severe enough to not allow something as simple as going to Disney a plausible reality. I worry about what hotel will have the best room, while they worry if their kid will learn to become independent one day. Different realities.

Disney was designed for 3 year olds. It's for kids. At the very least, this gets people in the industry talking about whether or not there is anything they can do to make the experience better for everyone.

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:38 PM
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:09 PM

I'm 6'2" and I can't fit in some rides. I'll remember that I can control my body type next time I'm too tall to fit on A ride.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:43 PM

I'm also 6'2" and I've never encountered a ride I can't fit into, including the ride formerly known as Jr. Gemini. Yet. I know my picture is deceiving in terms of height. It's not to scale. And I have less hair.

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:44 PM
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:46 PM

Tek, you should be OK as long as you're not all 6'2" in the gut like my brother.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:51 PM

That you haven't found something you can't fit in at the same height means nothing. Because of my height, I've not been able to ride certain things. Adults who are little people (or whatever politically correct term we're using now) and are too short to ride something can't control their body type either.

Back to the point, though, some things people can't control. That doesn't mean that everyone should be able to do everything, child or not.

I just think its odd that it seems to be a different argument simply because this affects children. Your first thought was that someone must be fat (which, according to you, is totally controllable, which is also not true in everyones case) when they can't fit on a ride. That wasn't the point. The point in both arguments was that not everyone can do everything.

I think what Gonch is saying more is that parents should realize that, if they have a child with special circumstances, they shouldn't expect everybody to make every concession possible. Regardless of whether a child understands why they can't do something, if they can't do it, why is the parent demanding they be allowed to do it.

We make the same argument when an amputee demands to ride a ride and can't.

We make the same argument when someone can't ride do to their body type (height, weight, breasts, etc.).

We make the same argument when someone complains that they can't afford fast pass.

But a child can't do something? Then the provider should try to be more accommodating.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 9:53 PM

sws said:

Tek, you should be OK as long as you're not all 6'2" in the gut like my brother.

Is he going to KI soon and wants to know if he can fit?

Because of my body type, when I was 200lbs and skinny at 20 or 260lbs and overweight at 30, I've often had trouble with certain manufacturer's OTSRs.

Not a gut thing, totally my shoulders.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 11:53 PM

Interesting discussion.

I'm on the autism spectrum -- specifically, the autism formerly known as Asperger's. My particular issues involve, among other things, not being able to understand social cues and the need for lots of structure in my activities.

It seems to me that some people may not really understand what being on the spectrum means.

It's not that people on the autism spectrum don't or won't do what neuro-typical people do -- it's that we can't. Our brains are literally not wired that way.

I was administered the Rorschach test twice and "failed" both times. To me, the inkblots looked like inkblots. The first time I took the test the guy who administered it noted I need to have lots of structure, that being the reason I "failed". It took me a long while to understand that when I was asked, "Do you want fries with that?" my response of "Did I order fries with that?" was not considered polite. To me, it seemed (and seems) like a rational response to the question.

As I've said, I think Disney's new program is the right way to go -- sure, it needs and will receive adjustments. Some of the comments I've read here and there from parents strike me as those parents demanding a program tailored to their child's specific needs. That's unrealistic.

Sorry to ramble on.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014 8:51 AM

Tekwardo said:

I think what Gonch is saying more is that parents should realize that, if they have a child with special circumstances, they shouldn't expect everybody to make every concession possible.

I don't think Gonch is saying that at all, and I don't think even the lawsuit is expecting "every concession possible." You're painting with a really broad brush. Even if you think the lawsuit is bogus (as I'm pretty sure most of us do), try for just a minute to put yourself in the shoes of a parent facing these challenges. I mean really pair the love someone feels for a child and the many feelings that go with the reality that your kid literally understands the world in a fundamentally different way. Perhaps you wouldn't be so dismissive.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014 9:53 AM

It might be semantics, but I think I might be kind of saying that.

I'm not sure I can make it any more oversimplified and broad than "Everyone can't do everything" - which is why I keep saying it.

I don't think it's reasonable to expect to be able to do everything and anything you'd like to in life. Add special circumstances and the idea applies even more.

And again, I don't think it's dismissive or incompassionate at all. It's realistic.

If you understand the world in fundamentally different way, you're going to have to approach the world in a fundamentally different way. That might (will?) mean that some things that work out just fine for most, just don't work for you. What I don't understand about the lawsuit is the reluctance to accept that - especially given that Disney has taken extra steps to try to include more guests.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:19 AM

I think part of the contention is that the ride itself isn't the problem; it's just getting to the ride. We're not talking about the dude with no thighs who literally can't safely be restrained in the seat. And while Disney is trying to make queueing less boring, I don't think anyone usually considers the line to be part of the ride, and obviously lots of people will drop decent coin to avoid it at other parks. (Of course this doesn't address CreditWh0re's concern about emergency evac, but wouldn't there also be a problem with people in wheelchairs who are permitted on rides?)

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