Disney has yet another win in court. They won the case involving the property taxes on their Yacht and Beach Club and now they have a ruling in their favor over a disability suit involving the way they handle disability passes for attractions.
The lawsuit happened after Walt Disney World changed their policy for how those with disabilities that make line difficult wait for an attraction. Prior to 2013 guests and their party would go to the FastPass line and get “front-of-line” access with the Guided Assistance Card (GAC) pass. But this led to issues of abuse and there was even cases that came out where people were hiring disabled individuals to take them around the park and get them into the FastPass line for attractions. With popular attractions they would get to ride multiple times while other guests had to wait for one turn. There were stories that came out about wealthier New York City families passing around the idea of renting disabled people to skip the line. That kind of kicked off the entire issue.
During the trial, some examples were given of the system abuse:
Vice President of Transportation Operations at Walt Disney World, Alison Armor, testified that she “personally witnessed in Guest Relations a guest reading from a script on her cell phone to get a pass; the information a guest needed to present to get a GAC had become commonly known on the internet, blogs, and different websites.”
That wasn’t all. It was also brought up that people were creating counterfeit GAC passes and were advertising on sites like Craigslist offering “unauthorized tours” of Disney using their GAC passes or selling expired passes online. I know it really got bad when it was publicized in the main stream about people renting disabled people.
When Disney examined the data they found that some people with GAC passes would ride attractions over and over again. They found that they would ride attractions like Toy Story Mania, which was one of their most popular attractions at the time, “10 times more on average that guests” who were not using the disability system. What would happen is that they would ride several times and other guests had to wait longer to ride just once.
Disney then made changes to their policy to stop the abuse with front of line passes in 2013.
They created the Disability Access Service Card (DAS pass) that now allows people with disabilities to return to an attraction at a set time so they still have to wait for a turn, but don’t have to stand in line. Since a guest using the DAS pass would have to wait the same amount of time as other guests, it stopped the repeated front-of-line problem.
Then Came the Lawsuits
This change led to Donna Lorman, President of the Autism Society of Greater Orlando, to sue Disney in 2014. According to The Orlando Sentinel “..she wanted 10 passes to the Magic Kingdom so her son could ride his favorite attractions by going directly into the FastPass line.”
Otherwise, her son had to get an advance reservation to come back later. The extra waiting was hard for her son who didn’t understand the concept of time, his mother said, accusing the parks of not accommodating his disability.“
Disney took the stance that they aren’t required to provide unlimited, front-of-line access for every attraction under the Americans with Disabilities Act and they were still meeting requirements by making accommodations for individuals to not wait in long lines. By guests being allowed to have unlimited, front of line access, it was creating longer wait times for other guests and inflating wait times.
“If disabled guests got two more re-admission passes, the standby line at Magic Kingdom’s popular Seven Mine Train coaster would increase by 39 minutes, from 69 to 108 minutes, Disney argued in court documents.“
The Judge’s Ruling
U.S. District Judge Anne Conway ruled in favor of Disney saying it was “unreasonable” for Disney to give unlimited, front of line access to Lorman’s son, and it would lead to abuse of the system again.
Judge Conway stated:
“Requiring the modification, based on the history of the former system, would lead to fraud and overuse, lengthen the wait times significantly for non-disabled guests, and fundamentally alter Disney’s business model.“
The judge also pointed out that if they allowed Lorman’s son special access, others could demand it too and she also said that “Disney could “recover its cost of action.” It’s unclear how much Disney’s legal bills are, but the fight lasted for years.”
Disney being able to “recover cost of action” could dissuade other lawsuits from happening, but as of now, this is the first of many lawsuits that have been filed in regards to the change from the GAC pass to the DAS pass. There are about 60 similar civil suits that have been filed by Tampa attorney Andy Dogali in both Florida and California and those are still awaiting trial.
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Source: Orlando Sentinel