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.

Friday, April 11, 2014 6:36 PM

Thank you Slithernoggin and Jeff and everyone else who has shared your stories. I am sure I am not the only one whos learned alot in this discussion.

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Friday, April 11, 2014 7:58 PM

Like most Aspies my age (which, in my case, is ancient) I've learned to adapt over the decades and get along with nypicals (neuro-typicals), but I still have rough spots and looking people in the eye is one of them. Makes me uneasy.

Krafty, glad I could make a small contribution to the discussion.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 5:09 PM

I know I chimed in last year after learning of changes in Cedar Fair's policy.

I am one of the people who knew nothing of Autism until I met my wife and her Autistic son, Bryce (who turns 17 next month). He is on the severe side. He still cannot talk and when we had him last Christmas, he was still not potty trained. His school in Kansas has been trying, but he just doesn't understand that. So, taking him to parks can be really challenging. But, we manage. He loves the rides. But has problems with crowds and standing waiting. He enjoys walking around the park. But after a prolonged period, he will start getting fussy and we usually take him back to room.

Cedar Fair's old policy was: him + up to 3 additional family members were allowed instant access once per ride per day. If we would want to ride a second time within the same day, we would be required to get time-stamp like the regular special access process. I have always thought this was a fair policy because it kept people from abusing it. It allowed us to take him through the park and get many rides done in short amount of time, take him back to room and let him chill for evening.

Early last season, I learned that they eliminated the instant access completely. So we did not buy him a pass or take him at all. But later in season we learned that they made some changes again. They added a new program called "plan your day". You go into park-op early in day and they actually give you a schedule for the entire day with a 30 minute waiting period between rides. My wife and I were happy with that. Seemed fair.

Without that, we would be required to do time-stamp. Problem there is if the park is so busy and everything has 1-2 hr waits, what are we supposed to do with him? He is not capable of playing any games. He cannot sit still for any of the shows. Walking around is very limited.

I have read statements on here saying "if a person cannot handle it, they should not be there". I feel that is being very ignorant! So what do we do, just leave him locked up in house and never take him outside? What kind of life is that?

I know it's all goes back to the people that have abused the system. It is truely a shame our society is like that!

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Monday, April 14, 2014 5:51 PM

CoffinBoy said:

I have read statements on here saying "if a person cannot handle it, they should not be there". I feel that is being very ignorant! So what do we do, just leave him locked up in house and never take him outside?

No. Dial it back Mr. Hyperbole.

You take him places where he won't have issues with the surroundings, environment or situation. The same as anybody does - limiting condition or not.

I'm just never going to understand the idea of expecting the world to bend around you. I'm just not that way. It's my responsibility to do things appropriate to myself and my family. I'll never get the concept of "I can't wait in lines, so rather than avoid places where lines and waiting exist, I'll just expect to not wait in them." (insert Qbot joke here)

How is that reasonable?

If you have a debilitating fear of loud noises, you don't go to a fireworks display. If you have excercise-induced asthma, you don't run a marathon. If you're blind, you don't try to drive a car.

Generally, it's a good idea to not do things you can't do.

If you have problems with crowds and standing and waiting, why on Earth would you go to a place that is pretty much guaranteed to be a day of standing and waiting in large crowds?

It hurts my head to think about...so I'm going to quit trying to rationalize it. (see what I did there?)

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Monday, April 14, 2014 5:52 PM
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Monday, April 14, 2014 8:00 PM

Sorry if this adds to your headache, but...

On the same token, isn't it people who dare to do things that others would say "you can't" who create a positive impact for themselves and others like them?

I actually do have exercise-induced asthma and I run marathons. Well. :)

What I'm really saying is, I don't think the attitude is "Let's try to get the world to bend around us". I think the attitude is more along the lines of "Let's try and change little aspects of the world to make it a better place for me and my kids". Not expecting the world to change for you...but actually feeling empowered by going out and making an impact on the world yourself. Internal locus of control.

If you have a fear of loud noises, go. Just wear sound-proof headphones. If you have asthma and want to do marathons, learn how to control it, then run it. If you're blind, well...ok...maybe you should get a driver.

Or...maybe you push for research into helping the blind see to make it possible for you to drive a car.

I think it's very reasonable to expect a parent to push their kid to try and do everything he or she can to live a life that they see as fulfilling, and nothing less.

Last edited by OhioStater, Monday, April 14, 2014 8:00 PM
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Monday, April 14, 2014 8:15 PM

If someone's who is autistic and whose brain literally can't process waiting in a line shouldn't go Walt Disney World...

...should a person who walks with crutches because of a lifelong disability not go to Walt Disney World? Why should a blind person using a service animal be allowed to have their animal in the park?

Lord Gonchar, what you seem to be saying is "There, there, not-normal person....go sit in the corner while the rest of us have fun."

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Monday, April 14, 2014 8:52 PM

OhioStater said:

On the same token, isn't it people who dare to do things that others would say "you can't" who create a positive impact for themselves and others like them?

Inspirational. I agree.

But I'm not sure asking to be let to the front of the line qualifies.

I actually do have exercise-induced asthma and I run marathons. Well. :)

Cool. But...

1. You know what I meant

2. You didn't ask to be wheeled along the course, have the distance shortened or have special concessions made. You're the equivalent of a guest with special needs actually standing in line.

Not expecting the world to change for you...but actually feeling empowered by going out and making an impact on the world yourself. Internal locus of control.

Agreed. But I still don't think expecting to be let directly on a ride or attraction qualifies. If fact, it feels like exactly the opposite.

If you have a fear of loud noises, go. Just wear sound-proof headphones. If you have asthma and want to do marathons, learn how to control it, then run it. If you're blind, well...ok...maybe you should get a driver.

Or...maybe you push for research into helping the blind see to make it possible for you to drive a car.

And those are all examples of knowing your limitations and acting accordingly...which is exactly what I'm suggesting be done.

I think it's very reasonable to expect a parent to push their kid to try and do everything he or she can to live a life that they see as fulfilling, and nothing less.

Agreed again. And I think my wording is being taken too literally which leads me to:

slithernoggin said:

Lord Gonchar, what you seem to be saying is "There, there, not-normal person....go sit in the corner while the rest of us have fun."

No. Not at all. Simply suggesting a 'not-normal' person (using your phrasing) know their limitations. Most of us avoid activities we're incapable of. It's kind of common sense. You don't do what you can't. Or, as in OhioStater's examples, you make personal changes or take personal responsibilty for your needs in order to be able to do things that might otherwise be difficult.

This lawsuit seems to say, "I can't wait in a line or deal with crowds so you need to do something about it."

A park is a place that inherently has lines and crowds. If there is no way you can possibly handle that situation, then unfortunately amusement parks may not be for you. In the specific case of this lawsuit, Disney even went beyond and offers an alternative, but these asshats are complaining that it's not enough.

Again, I can't rationalize the idea that someone with limitations doesn't understand they may be limited in some ways. I mean, it's right there in the description.

And then I guess my frustration is compounded by the fact that we're talking about amusement parks - something so far down the list of important things in life that the radar doesn't even pick it up. This isn't access to basic needs we're talking here - it's rollie coasters. Because if this was like access to food or health care or any number of things more important than thrill rides, then my stance would probably be a bit less rigid.

But there people are suing over amusement park rides...because they can't stand in line...even though Disney created a way for them to not stand in line...but it wasn't not standing in line enough...

...insane.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Monday, April 14, 2014 8:53 PM
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Monday, April 14, 2014 9:41 PM

OhioStater said:

What I'm really saying is, I don't think the attitude is "Let's try to get the world to bend around us". I think the attitude is more along the lines of "Let's try and change little aspects of the world to make it a better place for me and my kids".

This. Let's not lump these people in with the asshats who think Disney or whomever aren't going far enough. I don't understand why these kinds of reasonable views are viewed as... unreasonable.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 10:38 PM

I don't get what's 'unreasonable' with accepting the idea that people with limitations might be limited in what they can do. It doesn't mean we can't try to improve things, it doesn't mean they have to be excluded from everything, it doesn't mean there can't be lollipops and rainbows, it doesn't mean I'm an emotionless curmudgeon, it doesn't mean anything other that what it is - a realistic assessment of the situation.

We should most certainly work to erase those limitations wherever reasonable and possible, and it's nice to think we might someday erase those limitations, but...

If you have personal limitations, by definition you might be limited in the things you can do. To expect otherwise is what's truly unreasonable here.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 11:46 PM

Gonchar: I'm with you on declaring the people filing lawsuits asshats. Disney has developed a very reasonable accommodation; those suing are basically saying "Disney, you did not create a solution tailored to my specific needs."

But my take-away from your posts is that because you can't "see" autism in the way that you can see someone is in a wheelchair, or that someone is carrying a white cane with a red tip, you discount the disability.

You refer to it as people with autism having "problems" with crowds and standing in line. No. People with autism have a physical disability that prevents them from standing in a line.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Monday, April 14, 2014 11:46 PM
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Monday, April 14, 2014 11:59 PM

I think you're seeing what you want to see and not really looking at what Gonch is saying. Because he has a differing opinion, you're automatically putting a LOT of words in his mouth that he never said. That's not fair.

And autism is not a physical disability, which is why it is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

If you have a fear of loud noises, go. Just wear sound-proof headphones. If you have asthma and want to do marathons, learn how to control it, then run it. If you're blind, well...ok...maybe you should get a driver.

I think you summed up Gonch's (and if not, at least mine) position. He never said people just can't do something and that's that and no use in trying.

If you're limited in what you can do, then you either find a way to do what you want or you realize you can't do it. You don't sue someone to demand that they cow-tow to your (or your child's) needs when they make concessions for people with limitations, just because you don't like how they want it.

It's like demanding that a building with a wheelchair ramp install an elevator because the ramp isn't good enough.

If someone has limitations and can't wait in line or be around large crowds, then go on a less crowded day and do some research to find out when that is. Or get a Qbot (or whatever the park offers).

If the park ends up being busy, try to spread out a trip and do things that can be done on different days.

That's not writing someone off and saying they should be locked in a closet. No one mentioned that, no one suggested that, and to be honest, it's insulting that that was even brought up.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:12 AM

Autism is a physical disability. The autistic brain is physically different from the neuro-typical brain.

Again: to me it seems that because you can't look at someone with autism and "see" their disability as you can look at someone who is blind and see their white cane with a red tip, you discount the disability. You refer to it as a choice they make, not a disability they can't control.

As noted, I have no high opinion of the people filing suit against Disney; I think the company has made an excellent effort to accommodate those with different needs.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:29 AM

Autism Spectrum is NOT recognized as a physical disability. That is a verifiable, undisputed fact. Just like depression, schizophrenia, and many other disabilities that I can't see but believe are real.

Neither I nor Gonch ever said it was a choice or something they can control.

You're putting a lot of words out there that nobody said because you personally are affected.

If someone is blind, they can't drive a car. Does that mean they should just sit at home and never go anywhere? Absolutely not. They have to rely on someone to provide transportation.

If someone with autism can't wait in line does that mean they should just sit at home and not go anywhere? Absolutely not. They have to rely on doing the park in a different way so as to avoid doing something they're limited at or unable to do.

What about that do you not understand?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 1:15 AM

slithernoggin said:

But my take-away from your posts is that because you can't "see" autism in the way that you can see someone is in a wheelchair, or that someone is carrying a white cane with a red tip, you discount the disability.

Not at all. I'd tell the blind guy there are things he probably won't be able to do too. It's just that standing in line wouldn't be one of them based on his disability.

You refer to it as people with autism having "problems" with crowds and standing in line. No. People with autism have a physical disability that prevents them from standing in a line.

Read what you just typed.

Why would anyone expect to do things that their disability prevents them from doing?

If you have a condition that prevents you from standing in line, why would expect to be comfortable at a place that expects you to stand in a line for a majority of your visit?

And just to make the connection, why would the blind guy go to an art museum, for example? It makes no sense to partake in an activity that is dependent on your ability to see things for the duration of you visit if you are prevented from seeing.

I'm not discounting autism in any capacity. It's the same argument regardless of the disability - I don't understand why one would expect to partake in activites that their disability prevents them from partaking in...regardless of what the disability might be.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 1:16 AM
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 1:29 AM

slithernoggin said:

Again: to me it seems that because you can't look at someone with autism and "see" their disability as you can look at someone who is blind and see their white cane with a red tip, you discount the disability.

I'm not sure how it seems that Gonchar is discounting autism as a disability when his posts have consistently equated autism to other handicaps to make his point. Had he been arguing that autistic people shouldn't go to parks but blind people should be able to drive cars, then I could see your point.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 2:35 AM

They are not limited to not being able to ride, they are just limited to not being able to wait their turn for the ride. It's like saying that a blind guy can't drive, so he shouldn't be able to go shopping at the grocery store. (Working in retail a lot of my life, I can attest that even though they might need some help doing so, blind people can shop.)

Gonch, while I understand where you are coming from, I do find it strange that you are against letting people with Autism to the front of the line when you are not against letting the family with more disposable income be offered to pay to be allowed to cut to the front.

About the lawsuit, why is it a problem for these families to have scheduled return times instead of being allowed to cut to the front whenever they wish? This new system is just fine, is it not? It gives people with Autism a chance to ride, and puts a stop to the abuse of such a system.

It's the buttholes who rented disabled tour guides to get them to the front of line in the first place. It sucks that they screwed it up for everyone else, but that seems to happen a lot.

Last edited by LostKause, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 2:37 AM
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 6:46 AM

Since everyone is arguing over what Gonch is saying, I guess I'll jump in.

LostKause said:

Gonch, while I understand where you are coming from, I do find it strange that you are against letting people with Autism to the front of the line when you are not against letting the family with more disposable income be offered to pay to be allowed to cut to the front.

Those are two completely different situations that are only related by "front of the line." Also, I don't think he's against letting people with Autism to the front of the line, it's just that a) it's great if you find a place that does, just don't expect/demand/sue for it, and b) that issue is so far down the list of what's important that it's hardly worth discussing.

About the lawsuit, why is it a problem for these families to have scheduled return times instead of being allowed to cut to the front whenever they wish? This new system is just fine, is it not? It gives people with Autism a chance to ride, and puts a stop to the abuse of such a system.

I haven't read anyone here defend the lawsuit. Everyone is in agreement that it's frivolous.

Last edited by Bakeman31092, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 6:47 AM
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:54 AM

Bakeman31092 said:

I don't think he's against letting people with Autism to the front of the line, it's just that a) it's great if you find a place that does, just don't expect/demand/sue for it, and b) that issue is so far down the list of what's important that it's hardly worth discussing.

Seriously, some people here could be politicians, the way Gonch's words have been completely misunderstood, twisted, and/or taken out of context. Somehow, "people with limitations might be limited in what they can do" and "not everyone can do everything" have been taken to mean "Gonch has declared a war on autistic children!"

Last edited by Vater, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:55 AM
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:51 AM

I agree that the people suing are, as I believe they were referred to earlier, asshats.

I'm just not understanding the stance of, you can't wait in line, so you can't reasonably expect to ride Pirates. What I take away from what Gonchar is saying is just that: if you can't wait in line, you can't ride rides. Maybe I'm missing something.

Why would the blind guy to an art museum? I used to work near Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art; they often had exhibits that could be touched or listened to, not just seen. Why shouldn't the blind guy to an art museum and enjoy the art?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:55 AM

Tekwardo said:

If someone with autism can't wait in line does that mean they should just sit at home and not go anywhere? Absolutely not. They have to rely on doing the park in a different way so as to avoid doing something they're limited at or unable to do.

Here's something we agree on. Yes, exactly: they need to do the park differently. What I have been taking from Gonch's posts is that his position is that absent the ability to stand in a line, a person should not go to a place where there are lines.

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