Last year, Walt Disney World Co. was sued in a class action claim filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit was brought on behalf of a purported class of disabled patrons, challenging Disney's prohibition against use of Segways by visitors to its resorts. Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations such as Disney to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled patrons to allow access to their facilities. The plaintiffs alleged that Disney's Segway ban violated this requirement.
Earlier this year, the parties reached a tentative settlement of the claim. Visitors to the resorts would not be allowed to use their personal Segways, but Disney would obtain and make available an agreed-upon number of Segways or alternative stand-up mobility vehicles for patrons. The federal Department of Justice appeared as an amicus party asking the federal judge to reject the settlement as inconsistent with federal interpretation and enforcement of Title III.
In early October, the judge agreed with the DOJ, overturning the settlement, and dismissing the lawsuit. The court accepted the DOJ's argument that the relief provided in the settlement agreement was unnecessary because all of the named plaintiffs in the suit were capable of using wheelchairs or scooters. Their preference to use stand-up vehicles such as Segways was not necessary to provide disabled persons access to the parks. In the absence of evidence of medical conditions that mandate the use of stand-up vehicles, the relief proposed was outside the scope of Title III.
Amusement parks, sports arenas, and other public accommodations that welcome large numbers of people have closely watched this case. Many businesses view Segways as presenting unacceptable risks of injury in crowded pedestrian areas due to their speed and weight. This decision provides such businesses with legal backing for policies that allow wheelchairs and scooters, but exclude faster and more dangerous means of transport.