Disney recently announced changes to its Disability Access Service Program that will be implemented this fall.
The program continues to be available to Guests for whom a disability makes it difficult to wait in lines for attractions, such as Autism.
Changes to the program include allowing Guests with disabilities to register for services up to 30 days before they visit the parks online via a virtual meeting with a Cast Member and allowing the Guest to select up to two attractions per day in the parks that they would like to experience in advance of their trip, so long as the reservations are made at least 2 days before the Guest wants to access the reservation.
Although these changes sound positive to many people who find the program helpful for themselves or for a loved one, one legal expert says that the new changes may actually hurt Disney’s defense in ongoing lawsuits Guests have brought against Disney regarding its current Disability Access Service Program.
The first of nearly 60 cases filed by, or on behalf of, Guests with moderate to severe autism, was heard in February 2020. The plaintiff, Donna Lorman, isn’t suing for money. Rather, she wants Disney to allow her son, who has autism and is now 27, more access to rides at Walt Disney World.
Lorman says that before 2013, her son was automatically permitted to stand in the shorter FastPass line instead of waiting in the standby queue. Since the 2013 changes, Lorman says her son must request a return time for an attraction (like in a virtual queue) and return to wait in the FastPass line to experience the attraction.
Disney made changes to the program when it became aware of Guests hiring people with disabilities to visit the park with them so they didn’t have to wait in lines for rides and experiences.
Kevin Mintz, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Genetics and Genomics Center at Stanford University’s Center for Biomedical Ethics, says Disney’s defense arguments in the case filed by Lorman now sound questionable.
The court ruled in Disney’s favor in summer 2020, and the case is now on appeal.
Mintz says changes implemented within the DAS Program this fall will actually hurt Disney’s defense in the case because, he says, the things Disney said they could not do in these scenarios are being done with the new changes. Disney argued it could not offer the multiple FastPass selections to all Guests with disabilities in part because it would increase wait times for every Guest, thus driving away Guests. But part of the changes to the DAS program call for the option to make two FastPass selections (subject to availability) per day in the parks for any Guest with disabilities who registers with the parks and is deemed in need of the services.
The Eleventh District Court of Appeals will begin hearing oral arguments on September 22.
For more information about the Disability Access Service (DAS) Program, click here.