Click here to read Here & Now (Prologue): The Question of Autism In Amusement Parks Under the ADA
Click here for Here & Now (Pt. 1): Is Immediate Ride Boarding For Autistic Guests Really Necessary?
Click here for Here & Now (Pt. 2): Is Immediate, On-Demand Ride Access For Autistic Guests Reasonable?
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A recent lawsuit brought against the Walt Disney Company has brought into the public spotlight an issue that the amusement industry has struggled with for years: what accommodations are legally required for autistic guests and other guests with cognitive disabilities that cannot wait in line. Last year, Disney’s parks (along with several others, including the Cedar Fair parks) instituted a policy that dramatically changed the procedure for these guests. Rather than being granted on-demand, immediate boarding privileges upon arrival at a ride (as had been the practice for years), guests at these parks must now check-in, either at the ride or at a guest relations location (depending on the park), and make an appointment to return, at which time the guest and his party will be immediately boarded. The appointment time corresponds to the length of the line. So is this procedure acceptable under the Americans With Disabilities Act? The plaintiffs in the recent Disney lawsuit say it is not – that immediate, on-demand boarding is a required accommodation under the law. But is it?
The first two pieces of this series have looked at the questions of whether immediate, on-demand boarding on amusement rides is necessary (giventhat front-of-the-line access does not seem to be requested in any other publicaccommodation) and / or reasonable (given prior case law in the cruise shipcontext finding it is not). I’m ending this series by considering the third element of an ADA claim of this sort: Does allowing on-demand, immediate boarding “fundamentally alter the nature of” the amusement park experience? I believe it does – in dramatic fashion.