This lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company for allegedly failing to meet the minimum standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act required to accommodate blind visitors to its parks and websites has been working its way through the courts for a long time. However, the a Federal Judge has just certified a class action lawsuit against Disney clearing the way for the company to potentially face a lot more damages.
The chief complaints, mostly against the Parks & Resorts division are:
1) Disney does not provide schedules, menus and maps in formats which are accessible to blind persons, such as in Braille, large print, or electronic form;
2) Disney does not accommodate the needs of guide dogs;
3) Disney does not accommodate the needs of blind persons during live parades and shows;
4) Disney does not permit any discounted admission for sighted companions who must accompany and support blind persons in the theme parks; and
5) Disney’s websites do not accommodate blind persons who use screen reader programs to access information.
I’m not a lawyer, thus this is just my layman’s observation, so take it with a large grain of salt. I think Disney stands heads and shoulders above almost every other theme park in the USA. However, are they perfect when it comes to ADA compliance? No. As far as point #1, I think Disney can easily refute that (at least in Orlando) as they provide a great mobile tool that provides almost all of that (and there are definitely braille maps in the parks). For #2, while I’ve not had a guide dog myself, Disney has no issues at all with guide dogs in their parks, I see them all the time. There might be some safety reasons while a dog cannot accompany a rider on certain rides, but you have to put safety first. Plus certain rides will be grandfathered in where changes would change the nature of the attraction. As to #3, see #1. With regards to #4, if this is something the law requires, I would be surprised if Disney does not provide it. #5, this appears to be most valid complaint. But then again, it’s a complaint that’s valid against most every website. Targeting Disney is a high visibility move for the cause. I know Disney is rolling out an updated website for Disney.com, so perhaps that will be included then. So, yes, Disney does have room for improvement, but does it rise to the level of a lawsuit? I guess a Federal Judge thinks so.
The full text of the press release is below the jump:
On June 29, 2011, in the United States District Court Central District of California, Case No. CV 10-05810-DMG-FMO, Judge Dolly Gee certified a nationwide class of blind persons in a class action pending in Los Angeles. The blind plaintiffs in the case, represented by Andy Dogali of Forizs & Dogali, P.A. and Gene Feldman of Eugene Feldman, Attorney at Law do not seek money damages, but only seek an injunction requiring Disney to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by making its theme parks and websites accessible to persons with visual impairments.
Judge Gee certified five distinct classes who make the following allegations against Walt Disney Parks & Resorts: 1) Disney does not provide schedules, menus and maps in formats which are accessible to blind persons, such as in Braille, large print, or electronic form; 2) Disney does not accommodate the needs of guide dogs; 3) Disney does not accommodate the needs of blind persons during live parades and shows; 4) Disney does not permit any discounted admission for sighted companions who must accompany and support blind persons in the theme parks; and 5) Disney’s websites do not accommodate blind persons who use screen reader programs to access information.
Blind persons routinely use screen reader programs when surfing the internet. As the blind visitor tabs through or drags a cursor over elements of a webpage, screen reader programs read the content aloud. The plaintiffs allege that Disney’s websites unlawfully include information which is visible to sighted users but not to screen reader programs, as well as options which are available to sighted persons but not to blind persons, such as the ability to renew passes, make reservations, and download electronic tickets.
The three plaintiffs who have taken up this fight against Disney and who are now certified to represent blind persons across America are all women. Two reside in Southern California, the other in Wichita, Kansas. They are represented by class counsel Andy Dogali of Tampa, Florida and Gene Feldman of Los Angeles. Mr. Feldman, who operates a boutique disability law practice, said the ruling represents “an important victory for blind persons who otherwise enjoy the Disney experience but who seek simple fairness and equal treatment under the ADA”. The case is now set for trial in January, 2012. The 45-page certification order is available at http://www.forizs-dogali.com/pdf/Disney%20Certification%20Order.pdf.