This Agreement between Walt Disney World Co. (WDW) and the United States Department of Justice (Department) is the culmination of an on-going and mutually beneficial process to make WDW more accessible to persons with hearing impairments.
The background and procedure that has led to this agreement is both illuminating and instructive in terms of the benefits to be derived from collaborative efforts between private industry and the government. Prior to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its effective date in 1992, WDW was committed to meeting the needs of its guests with disabilities, and had been recognized as an innovator in that regard. With respect to hearing-related disabilities, WDW has offered to guests who are deaf or hard of hearing a variety of auxiliary aides, including assistive listening systems, TDD's, captioning on television, and written aides to communication at many of its shows and attractions.
Following enactment of the ADA, the Department advised WDW that some guests with hearing disabilities claimed that they were denied effective communication as required by the ADA. As a result of the concerns addressed by the Department which have since been resolved separately, the Department proceeded to investigate and began an ongoing discussion with WDW. Together, with the Department's assistance, WDW has undertaken a variety of innovative steps to better address the needs of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
While WDW is committed to continuing its exploration of new and improved methods and services, the following represents an agreement between WDW and the Department as to effective communication at this time:
- WDW agrees to continue to provide those auxiliary aids and services necessary for deaf and hearing-impaired individuals to enjoy the programs and services at the Walt Disney World Resort, in accordance with 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii). While methods of complying with the ADA will differ depending upon the particular attraction, such methods include, but are not limited to: captioning; sign language interpreters; assistive listening systems (ALS's); and written aids. This Agreement provides for specific auxiliary aids for each attraction at Walt Disney World as identified in Attachment A, which is incorporated in this Agreement by reference. WDW's efforts to develop other effective auxiliary aids will continue to evolve.
- WDW shall make interpreting services available at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney-MGM Studios on a rotating scheduled basis so that guests will know precisely when those services are available at the specific park. WDW's interpreters will be qualified sign language interpreters capable of oral or ASL interpretations. The schedule will alternate at each of the three parks in rotation so that one performance of each identified show will be interpreted on the day scheduled for interpreting, timed to permit guests to attend all the interpreted shows at that park on that day. Guests with hearing disabilities who wish to see those interpreted performances must notify WDW Guest Services at least fourteen (14) days prior to the day and date upon which services are to be scheduled. In special circumstances, such as a visit of three days or less when interpreting is not available at the guest's park of choice, WDW shall also make an effort to provide interpreter services on a day on which they are not regularly scheduled. It is the parties' hope and expectation that the two-week notice requirement will be reduced to one week, or less, no later than December 31, 1998, unless WDW informs the Department on or before November 1, 1998, that there is good cause for not being able to shorten the two week notice provision.
- Guests who wish to request interpreted performances of: (i) Epcot World Showcase street-type entertainers; (ii) America Gardens performances; or (iii) House of Invention, none of which will appear on the interpreter schedule must request the interpreter services at least 14 days prior to the date on which they would like the services. Among these events, which may change from time to time, are currently included: Voices of Liberty; Le Clown Gordoon; Jon Armstrong Magic Show; Pam Brody; World Showcase Players; Canadian Comedy Corps.
- Guests requiring interpreter services shall identify themselves to WDW personnel at the attraction scheduled for interpreting and the guest and one companion shall be provided seating that will permit them to see the interpreter without obstacles or interference during the attraction or event.
- WDW will of course impose no surcharge on persons with disabilities to cover the cost of providing any auxiliary aids, in accordance with 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12182(b)(2)(A)(i).
- Printed interpreter schedules will be available at all Guest Services locations. Interpreter information is also available from Guest Services by telephone and on the WDW site on the Internet.
- WDW has been working on developing discrete captioning for attractions at Walt Disney World for a number of years. As a result of those efforts and the Department's assistance, WDW can and will provide captioning services at various attractions as set forth on Attachment A. These services shall be available regardless of date or time and without advance notice requirements. Any guest may obtain information regarding captioning services and any auxiliary aids or devices at Guest Services locations.
- For those attractions at which interpreters or captioning are not currently provided under this Agreement, WDW will continue to evaluate and develop technologies or other methods of providing more effective communication for hard of hearing or deaf guests. In the interim, where written aids are the only auxiliary aid presently available, hard of hearing or deaf guests and a companion shall be allowed to experience the ride or attraction a second time promptly, being seated by WDW personnel at the next available performance or rotation of the attraction, if they identify themselves as a person with a hearing disability at the entrance to the ride or attraction.
- WDW shall promote the availability of its services for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing in print and other marketing media. The parties recognize that publication of the availability of the services for its deaf and hard of hearing guests, as well as the interpreter schedules, is essential to this Agreement. WDW agrees to make one distribution of information about the availability of its services for deaf and hard of hearing persons to major organizations for the deaf and hard of hearing communities, identified by the Department, within a reasonable time following the date of this Agreement.
- As the parties have discussed, as part of WDW's ongoing efforts, WDW shall continue to evaluate the effectiveness of auxiliary aids and explore methods and technologies in a wide variety of areas including those where WDW is, or will be, providing interpreters or captions. In that regard, WDW shall notify the Department every six months as to any changes and developments in the types of auxiliary aids provided until December 1, 2000, and the parties will cooperate towards determining whether captioning or interpreters are feasible and acceptable for any WDW attraction where they are not already provided on that date.
- WDW is expanding the scope and depth of employee training in disability awareness, etiquette, and services available, consistent with the employee's responsibilities. Such training includes, as applicable, treatment of guests with disabilities, the availability of services and auxiliary aids, and procedures and policies regarding guests with disabilities. WDW will continue to improve upon the training and training techniques and consider new and better ways of informing its' cast members in this area whenever possible. WDW shall provide training materials to the Department for periodic review, upon request from the Department.
- WDW will continue to provide a complaint procedure for guests including complaints regarding treatment of guests with hearing disabilities and availability of auxiliary aids. All WDW Guest Services employees located at any Guest Services location shall be trained to respond to questions or complaints about: current policies for addressing the needs of guests with disabilities, information about available transcripts, paper and pencil, and emergency procedures for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- WDW will conform the aids and services at the Disneyland attractions comparable to those at Walt Disney World identified on Attachment A.
- The parties understand that nothing contained in this Agreement limits in any way the Department's ability to enforce the ADA against WDW in the future should it not be in compliance with the ADA. Nor does it limit, in any way, WDW's ability to assert any legal defenses available to such claims. Also, by not seeking enforcement of any specific term of this Agreement, neither the Department nor WDW shall have waived its rights, to enforce any other portion of this Agreement. This Agreement does not compromise WDW's continuing obligation to comply with all aspects of the ADA.
- This Agreement is a public document. Copies of this document, attachments, exhibits, and any information contained in them may be made available to any person at any time. The Department shall provide copies of these documents to any person upon request.
- This Agreement fully and accurately reflects the agreement of the signers and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party that is not contained in this written agreement, shall be enforceable.
- This Agreement shall be effective as of the date set forth below, and it shall be binding on WDW and its successors in interest. WDW will notify any such successors in interest.
Walt Disney World Co.
by: Corporate Officer
DEVAL L. PATRICK
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
United States Department of Justice