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Disney accused of discrimination against people with autism

Lana Bandoim's picture
disney and autism

Disney has been accused of discriminating against people who have autism, and there is an active lawsuit. Families have shared that the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts did not treat their autistic children fairly during visits. The lawsuit may be expanding to include other plaintiffs who have come forward with information about the company.


Walt Disney Parks and Resorts used to have a special Guest Assistance Card program for people with disabilities that allowed them to skip to the front of the line. However, Disney discovered the program was being exploited by people without disabilities and felt the need to change it. There were issues with some visitors paying people with a disability to stand in line for them. The fraud was widespread and seen in multiple locations.

Disney changed the Guest Assistance Card program to the Disability Access Service Card program and issued a fact sheet to explain the major differences. One of the main modifications has been the elimination of automatically giving people with disabilities the chance to be at the front of the line. Instead, they receive a return time for attractions, so they will know once the ride or other service is available.

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Families with autistic children claim the new Disability Access Service Card program discriminates against them and is creating problems. They point out it forces them to wait and does not accommodate their needs. In addition, they share that staff no longer gives special treatment to the kids with autism and has been rude to the families. There are 69 new plaintiffs trying to join the lawsuit against Disney with similar stories.

Children with autism can benefit from exploring the outside world and socializing with others, but it helps to have a controlled environment. Disney denies that it has discriminated against people with autism and is fighting the lawsuit.

Image: Massimop/Wikimedia Commons



So let me get this straight... Parents of autistic kids, whose battle cry is "Don't treat my child different", are now upset because they aren't getting preferential treatment? Ok, so they should change their motto to "Don't treat my child different, unless it works to our advantage." We are annual pass holders at DisneyWorld, and our son is currently undergoing chemotherapy for Leukemia. This puts him at risk for increased and possibly deadly infections due to his compromised immune system. We don't take him to the parks when his risk is elevated, but when we do, we still keep masks and sanitizer on hand, and do whatever we can to avoid long lines, because any 5 year old standing in line for an hour is going to touch every possible surface within reach. Disney's new program is more than accommodating. And we are very grateful that they extend us the ability to protect our son from the long lines, and no we don't get immediate front of line access, but that is a good thing for ANY child to learn, you don't always get what you want when you want it. It's Disney, not Burger King.
You don't understand the ramifications of dealing with a child with autism. It's not a matter of teaching , autistic children may not have the ability to wait and may cause serious injury to themselves. That is the nature of this particular disability. It's like asking a child with a peanut allergy to just eats peanuts. The unfortunate misuse by fraudulent people has limited the ability to accomodate individual disabilities. The blanket changes have impinged on the rights of all those with disabilities. Taking away rights is never the answer to dishonesty. The answers lies in catching those who abuse the rights given to those who need it. Disney choose the easy way out instead of enforcing the rules. They do the same with the nonsmoking policy in their resorts...take the easy way by not enforcing their own policies.
I was just planning to take my autistic son to Disneyland Paris !! You cannot go to a ride & be sent away to come back later - that is impossible , he would go crazy - I won't be going now - or until they change their policy . They obviously do not have knowledge of this condition - outrageous !!!!!
I totally agree. Taking rights away is no way to deal with dishonesty. Autistic children(and adults) have so many varying issues that deny them to enjoy so many things that typical children can. Noise alone can be an issue as well all the overwhelming sensory input. I have had a long standing issue with Disneys choice to not enforce their own policies.