A federal judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit that claimed Walt Disney World violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it changed its original policy on accommodating guests with disabilities.
U.S. District Judge Anne Conway ruled Thursday that Disney provided the plaintiff, a family with a child who has autism, with individual accommodations that met their needs and afforded them the same – or better – experience as other guests.
“Plaintiff was given an opportunity to experience Magic Kingdom in a similar manner as guests that do not need accommodations,” Conway wrote in her ruling.
The ruling is a big win for Disney – which is battling more than 30 similar federal lawsuits in Orlando filed by families with children with autism or other disabilities against Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Conway has ruled that each family’s circumstances are different.
A separate lawsuit from a collection of families is pending in Los Angeles federal court.
The suits claim some visitors with autism are unable to wait in line without having meltdowns. Thursday’s ruling was the first in all of these cases.
“The order is unsound, and we are evaluating our options and next steps,” said the plaintiffs Tampa-based attorney Andy Dogali, who is representing clients in at least some of the other cases.
The lawsuits stems from Disney’s current policy regarding how it accommodates disabled visitors at the parks.
Under Disney’s former policy, visitors with disabilities received a pass allowing them front-of-the-line access on most rides with their guests.
But Disney found some visitors abusing the policy – guests would hire disabled patrons as tour guides so they could skip the lines for some rides. Also, there were reports of disabled patrons selling their passes.
So beginning in October 2013, disabled guests must have their pictures taken to receive a Disability Access Service card that allows them and up to five guests an assigned time to board a ride.
“Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests, and we fully comply with all (American with Disabilities Act) requirements,” said Suzi Brown, a Disneyland spokeswoman.
Conway ruled that Disney can recover its legal costs from the plaintiff.