The families of children with disabilities have sued Walt Disney theme parks in Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim over a new policy for allowing guests with disabilities quick access to rides and attractions.
The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that the new policy that was put in place in October will discourage guests with disabilities from visiting the park.
Before October last year, visitors with disabilities and their family members were given a card that allowed them to go directly onto rides, skipping the long lines. Under the new policy, the guests are given a card to return to an attraction at a later time for faster access.
The policy change came about partly in response to reports that guests at Walt Disney World in Orlando were hiring disabled people to accompany them into the park to skip the lines.
But the lawsuit, which was filed by the Tampa-based Dogali Law Group, says the new policy makes it so difficult for guests with disabilities, especially autistic children, to get on a ride that it results in discouraging them from visiting the theme parks.
The suit says guests have to wait in line to be photographed for a "Disability Access Service" card under the new policy. And even when they return to an attraction at a scheduled time, the new policy does not guarantee that guests with disabilities can get on the attraction immediately, the suit charges.
The lawsuit suggests that Disney might have adopted the new policy to discourage families of autistic children from visiting the park because they may disrupt the "magical Disney experience enjoyed by Disney's nondisabled guests."
In a statement, Disney rejected the claims of the suit.
"Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all our guests. We fully comply with all [Americans With Disabilities Act] requirements and believe that the legal claims are without merit."
Disney officials said they also work one-on-one with guests who need special attention.