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Disney Confirms Change To Special Needs Access


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Starting next month, Disney theme parks will change the policy that lets visitors with disabilities skip the long lines for attractions.

Instead of giving visitors with disabilities and their family members a card that allows them to go directly onto rides, the guests will be given a scheduled time period to return to get faster access to the attraction.

In essence, guests with disabilities and their families will get to use a new version of the Fastpass tickets offered for certain rides to all guests.

The new policy will begin Oct. 9.

“Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process so that it creates a more consistent experience for all our guests while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities,” said Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown.

The change in policy comes partly in response to reports this year that guests at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., were hiring people with disabilities to accompany them into the park to skip the lines.

A petition to ask Disney executives to reconsider the policy change has already generated more than 20,000 signatures with the progressive advocacy group

The petition says the policy change might make people with disabilities reconsider visiting Disney parks.

“My son is autistic and we have booked a trip to stay at Disneyland’s Paradise Pier Hotel for the Christmas holiday and this will change everything for him,” wrote a Morgan Hill, Calif., resident who signed the petition.

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Comments (22 Responses)

  1. Michelle Summers says:

    We have used this every time & wouldn’t have been able to provide the experience for our daughter or family without it. It is sad that the thoughtless ones who took advantage cause displacement for the ones who truly need accommodations! I’m not questioning whether people misused the pass but I do think this type of change will effect the children who benefited most from it. Parents who are already overwhelmed with trying to provide an experience in a positive way will be forced to strategically plan their day on top of needs of the child. It is most unfortunate that children with disabilities will be immediately effected & that their families will be the ones to suffer. It may not be the “happiest place on earth” anymore & quite honestly, it may be a deal breaker for many families who would have otherwise found solace in the assistance once provided! Let’s hope the fear of change will be outshined by their consistent history in making provisions for those with disabilities via a well designed plan which further enhances visitors experiences rather than deny them.

  2. Rylin Mariel says:

    I am an adult with Autism, but in all my life Disney is not somewhere I would want to go, as I think that they don’t really operate out of concern for all the values they espouse, but rather always for the profit motive first of all. In addition, their representations of female characters in their cinematic presentations is consistently marginalizing of women.

  3. yelena gerts says:

    Absolutely disgusting act!!!! Shame on you Disney!!!

  4. Carol Fanning says:

    Its a shame that some disabled people had to go and ruin something created to HELP them, but they did.
    So other disabled people (myself included) need to just DEAL WITH IT.
    Life is unfair so just get over it.
    Quit bitching about something you have not even tried yet!
    They are not taking away the fact that they will make it easier for us to use the park. They are just changing it a little. Its not Disney that did this, Its the dishonest disabled people who were profiting illegally from their dishonest acts and the jerk people who paid them.
    Direct your misplaced anger at them.
    Jeez, they change one little thing and everyone goes bloody insane.
    Its just stupid. Do you hear yourselves?
    You are all so negative and that cannot be good for you.
    Give it a try at least and THEN go back to your belly aching.
    This is why people hate disabled people like myself. The whiners and complainers give all of us a bad name!

  5. Donna L says:

    Please enlighten as to why people with disabilities need to be able to skip lines at amusement parks – I can understand why those with conditions that involve behavioral challenges may need it, but if that were the case, wouldn’t such an overstimulating environment be avoided altogether anyway? Also, I am not sure why a person with a physical disability who is in a wheelchair would need such an accommodation since they would be able to wait in a line – ? I must be missing something so any info to educate would be welcomed, thank you.

  6. marie camp says:

    I am so glad Disney came up to a wonderful solution. The people who were dishonest are truly unbelieveable,how low can you be. This is definite winner for people with disabilities and for the people who don’t thank you for understanding.

  7. Rosella A. Alm says:

    I used to purchase yearly Disneyland passes for my son, now 48 years old, with severe autism and the people who live in his home and provide care for him. I included a friend of my son’s who had a mild intellectual disability. NEVER AGAIN!!

    Without the special access that Disneyland provided, my son could cause injury to himself and others while waiting for an attraction that he wants. He is unusually strong, since he has been hyperactive all of his life, and all muscles have been exercised.

    It’s not worth the emotional stress to my son. Forget Disney.

  8. Lauralyn says:

    Did not use disability access in trips to Disney Parks and now going to skip Disney altogether.

  9. Debbie says:

    Some of us don’t have to try this to know it is going to make things much harder. We know our kids, we know how a typical day goes. I know this will make the trip I already booked for January much more difficult. Going to a ride and then having to return is very difficult for my child. What they should have done was require documentation from your doctor, perhaps have it sent in a month before the trip to get approval. There had to be a better way than this. The first time we went to Disney my son had “accidents” every 20-60 minutes and he hadn’t had accidents in many years. There is no where to buy larger size pull-ups at Disney. We hadn’t rented a car. I stayed up to 2 am doing laundry most nights and we carried most of the pants I had packed every day and had to change him frequently. The next trip went much better. This January is our 3rd trip. He is 16 now… still not good at waiting on line. If you are there and see us please don’t stare as he lays on the ground refusing to move because he is so sick of waiting.Our other older children have issues too, but won’t be on the trip. Life is very hectic… I was really looking forward to a break.. UGH!!

  10. Orinda Bernhart says:

    My 3 sons are quadriplegic. We love DisneyWorld because it gave them a place to do something “normal” We had season passes & traveled 1050 miles one way several times a year. We were allowed to enter through the fast pass or special entrance only to wait for a handicapped car. Many times we had to wait longer than the posted time. There is only one or 2 cars for wheelchairs. Then we would have to wait until son one got back for son 2 to ride & then wait for son 3. Then it would be med time. We would think it a great day if they got to ride 2 rides a day. Without getting to go in and wait for the wheelchair car will make it impossible to go to Disney.

  11. Laurie A. says:

    It looks like Disney is still giving special access, give them a break! My gosh, Disney has customers besides those who are disabled. They are making a change in an attempt to make things work for everyone! My husband has taken my 3 children without autism to Disney World two times. We are hoping one day to be able to take my son with autism. We haven’t tried it yet, even with the possibility of expedited access to the rides, because we know the experience will be too overwhelming for him (and us!). In the meantime, my son with autism is growing and learning (with lots of support and modifications in the intermediate steps) to do things like waiting and learning to function in uncertain environments.

  12. Ian says:


    There are a number of reasons for allowing people with limited mobility to skip lines. First, the waiting areas for many amusement rides feature steps, or are otherwise not accessible. For this reason, most parks allow guests in wheelchairs to enter through the exit. Second, it is very difficult to navigate a crowded, confined space with a mobility device. Third, wheelchair users have difficulty regulating tempurature, so waiting in line outside during the summer can be dangerous.

    Hope that helps.

  13. Sandi says:

    Dear Donna
    Please let me enlighten you, I am a parent of a child with a severe physical disability. When you have a child in a wheel chair your life takes longer, the normal things like going to the bathroom, eating your lunch, you require time to give medications. when it is compounded by a cognitive disability you have a 10 year old who has the ability to wait of a two year old, by the time you wait in line for am hour you now have to stop to give medications or to begin the process of tube feeding your child which again takes longer! you need to lift and transfer that 70-80 pound child into a seat you need to hold them and support them while in the ride, or on some wait for the chair to be fastened in, not all ride accomodate a wheelchair. We spent a fabulous day in Disneyland and it was the only time our family of five felt that life slowed down and we were able to enjoy the park without spending the whole day dictated by the extra ordinary needs of our disabled child! We experienced a “normal” family event! That is what Disneyland offered our family, the amazing experience of just being a family having fun together! Without the ability to skip the line our day would have been spent, feeding, giving medication, support our child in the bathroom and waiting in line for maybe two rides out of an entire day! It is absolutely terrible that people have taken advantage of something that was ment to support families caring for an extra ordinary child!

  14. Jan Molesky says:

    Considering that most special needs children cannot tolerate a full day at any amusement park and that their caregivers need a break as well, I say count your blessings as you stand in line with your typical child and find a way to encourage those families that are using that special access pass.

  15. Sally Hayes says:

    This is just an example of the communities reaction to the fact that people were abusing the policy and using the disability pass for their own gain or when they really did not need it. now it is lost to all. As parents of someone with a disability we need to policy our own so that they do not take advance of certain accommodations thereby losing them for all.

  16. kathy says:

    Not that we needed a shorter time in line, but the regular lines of the older rides could not aacomodate wheelchairs. Also some of the dark areas leading up to the ride (Mansion) did not work for us. My husband and I would split up because part of the Disney experience IS while waiting in line. I never wanted my daughter to feel entitles so if our family could go on line, we did.

  17. Nicole Okubanjo says:

    Reading this article l had a mix emotion. I totally understand both sides. In my eyes changes happen all the time what we all need to do is step back and look at both sides then make a decision what is best. I think reading the article and then reading comments ask yourself are you even consider to ask the children what is best for them instead of saying what is best for them yourself

  18. Donna DeSiano says:

    I think this is terribly unfair. As a disabled person, and mother of a special needs child, I feel we are being. Penalized for the actions of others!

  19. Grandmarolls says:

    I am a disabled person who over the years has travelled the gamut from being able-bodied, to a cane, to crutches, to a walker, and now a wheelchair. The first time we went to Disney World with our boys, we expected to stand in lines. We were happy to see the disabled be able to bypass the lines, but never, ever considered cheating so we could do the same. As my mobility has diminished, so has my ability to withstand temperature extremes (three or four degrees in my limit). Taking our grandchildren to Disney has been one of my dreams. Now they’re going to have to find their own way. No way I’m going to try the park again. We were planning to go to Disneyland in December too.

  20. Mike Eaton says:

    Why is everyone assuming all the people with disability knew that was what was going on. For all we know, someone acting nice walked up to a person with disability, said they would be their friend and gave them money. Then all day the person with the disability probably thought they found someone nice to hang out with. There are a lot of people who take advantage of people with disabilities. Our son has Down Syndrome and is fairly high functioning thank God. But if someone handed him money and said I like you and want to hang with you he would say “Oh thanks and call him a friend all day because he was hanging out with him. We should no assume all the people with disability knew what was truly going on.

  21. Rick T says:

    Being a person w/a disability. I use a wheelchair also. I’m tired of PWD complaining that they are not getting “SPECIAL” treatment. I feel if everyone else needs to wait 2 hours for a ride then I should. the difference is during my 2 hour wait I can enjoy other feature at Disney. i want equal treatment not “SPECIAL’

    Way to go Disney

  22. Julie Foxx says:

    If you don’t need the pass – don’t use it – it’s really that simple. Don’t slam others who need and use it. My son would never have been able to handle those lines and would have most likely injured himself and possible those around him when he would go into overload. By having the pass, we could ride the rides and then he’d get into the rented stroller with his headphones to decompress. At first I felt a bit guilty about the pass but then my husband I decided that our child has to struggle in the real world far too often, he deserved that break. He deserved a chance to enjoy the rides like the other kids. I’m just glad we got to experience it before they took the passes away. I don’t see us going back any time soon.

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