The Walt Disney World Resort finally began making face masks optional in all indoor and outdoor areas on February 17, 2022. But it appears that during those nearly two years of enforcement, the mask mandate triggered a disability-discrimination suit that courts just revived.
According to the Orlando Sentinel,
An appeals court Wednesday revived a disability-discrimination complaint filed by a man who contended that Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts did not properly provide an exemption from its mask policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aaron Abadi filed the complaint at the Florida Commission on Human Relations under a state civil-rights law and said he had a disability that prevented him from wearing a mask or face shield, according to Wednesday’s ruling by a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal.
The lawsuit was originally thrown out by the commission due to the fact that Mr. Abadi never visited Disney World during the mask requirement’s tenure. But it appears that Disney’s refusal to grant Mr. Abadi–who is reportedly an annual visitor to The Most Magical Place On Earth–an exemption was the reason for his absence during that time, and that was enough to keep the case going.
“Appellant (Abadi) alleged that he visited appellee (Disney) on a yearly basis before the COVID pandemic; planned to visit appellee with his family in late September or early October 2021; and requested an exemption from appellee’s face-covering policy due to his disability, which was denied by appellee,” said the ruling by Judges Joseph Lewis, Ross Bilbrey, and Harvey Jay. “Because appellant plausibly alleged that he was aware of discriminatory conditions at appellee’s public accommodation and that the denial of his request for a modification deterred him from visiting or patronizing that accommodation, the commission improperly dismissed appellant’s complaint on an invalid ground.”
According to the Sentinel, the ruling did not specify Mr. Abadi’s disability. Disney did not appear to comment on the matter.
If the courts rule in Mr. Abadi’s favor, it could set a new precedent for mask-related (and perhaps vaccine-related) discrimination cases over the past two years. Who knows how many people were barred from usual travel–Disney-related or not–due to a company’s failure to provide disability-based exemptions? Disney Cruise Line and its arguably draconian face mask policy and vaccine mandate quickly jump to the front of this reporter’s speculating mind regarding that very question. But only time will tell how many discrimination cases like Mr. Abadi’s come to light as the world continues back to normal life.
In the meantime, we at Disney Fanatic will continue to monitor Disney Vacation-related news and update our readers as more stories and developments come to light.