The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations is a quickly-evolving topic in the aquatics/theme park industry. How do we best accommodate these guests and make their experience equal to those without a disability? Are we required to provide immediate access to a ride upon their arrival to the attraction or is it acceptable for them to wait in line for the same amount of time as everyone else? What if their disability makes it more difficult to wait in line? Each and every guest is very different and their needs required for accommodation will vary based upon their disability and the attraction or facility they would like to access. The most important thing to remember is that we must provide every reasonable accommodation we can to ensure an equal experience.
One of the most recent documented cases with regards to line or attraction policies is the A.L. v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc. case in which a guest with an Autism Spectrum Disorder claimed that he was unable to wait in line due to his disability and that he was not accommodated properly through immediate access to the rides. The park had recently changed their policy from immediate access to a program which asked them to register to receive a card granting them appointment times to access an attraction with a 10 minute reduced wait time compared to those waiting in the general line. In addition to the reduced wait time, depending on the disability, staff can use their discretion to grant a certain number of “on-demand, immediate access” passes for those in their party for rides in between their appointment times. For this particular case, the judge ruled that because the boy had the “on-demand, immediate access passes,” in conjunction with the appointment times, he was essentially able to walk onto all the attractions with only a 10-minute time wait, which he had been able to sustain comfortably during previous visits. If you would like a more detailed synopsis of the court decision, please visit “Disney’s Autism Policy Passes ADA Muster – But What Does That Mean For The Rest Of The Industry?” .
While not all parks will be able to provide such a complex, well-oiled program like Disney, it is important to determine the appropriate access program for your facility before you are approached by a guest with this request for accommodation. Some smaller parks are providing unlimited immediate access passes to their guests with disabilities and one additional person, who is typically a caregiver, but not the entire party. One of the most important aspects of complying with the ADA is proper training for your guest relations and ride operations staff. Staff should not ask what their diagnosis is, but rather, what accommodations their disability requires. This will provide guest relations staff with the information they need to properly accommodate the guest. Ride operators need to be familiar with the possible accommodations that the park will provide to allow them to incorporate the accommodation with as little disruption to the typical operations of the park as possible. While guests not requiring accommodation may become upset due to a slightly increased wait time, it is still your duty to find a reasonable accommodation for your guests. Overall, it is important to have these discussions with your management team and develop a program that best suits your facility and guests, providing an equal experience for all.