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Despite Pushback, Disney Firms Up New Disability Access Policy


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Disney is offering new details about changes to its policy for accommodating theme park visitors with disabilities.

Starting Wednesday, Disney parks in Florida and California will roll out a new pass known as the Disability Access Service Card for visitors with special needs who are not able to wait in traditional lines. It will replace the Guest Assistance Card.

Company officials said the change comes after its existing program — which often allowed visitors with disabilities and their guests to skip to the front of long lines for park attractions — was “abused and exploited.” Disney said the problems were “widespread and growing at an alarming rate.”

“After careful consideration, and with the needs of our guests with disabilities as our foremost concern, we are modifying the current program so that we will be able to continue to serve those guests for whom the program is intended,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, in a statement.

Under the new program, those with disabilities will not have to wait in line, but will instead be given a return time for each ride based on current wait times. Visitors will then be able to return at the designated time or anytime after, but will only be allowed a return time for one attraction at a time.

In order to obtain the new Disability Access Service Card, guests will have their photo taken and the individual for whom the pass was provided must be among those who board each ride at the designated return time, officials said.

Visitors to Disneyland will be able to reserve return times for attractions at guest relations kiosks located throughout the park. At Walt Disney World, however, return times will be scheduled at attractions.

As in the past, Disney said no doctor’s note or other proof of a person’s disability will be required to obtain a pass, with the company citing legal restrictions around asking for such information.

Since news of the changes first went public, more than 34,000 people signed an online petition calling for Disney to reconsider, arguing that the new approach is unreasonable for at least some with special needs.

Crofton said Disney is sensitive to those concerns and worked to reassure visitors.

“Our commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all our guests has not changed,” she said. “We have long recognized that people may have different needs, and we will continue to work individually with our guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.”

Visitors who need special accommodations should visit guest relations to discuss their individual needs, the company said.

In addition to the new pass, Disney will also be offering a “Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities” to explain how individuals with special needs can best enjoy the parks. It is expected to be available online in mid-October.

The new Disability Access Service Card is for people with disabilities — both visible and invisible — who are unable to wait in lines. The pass is not necessary for those who need accommodations strictly for a wheelchair or scooter.

A separate program is in place for children with life-threatening conditions visiting through wish-granting organizations, Disney said.

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Comments (68 Responses)

  1. Carol Brown says:

    We are currently at Disneyland Paris with two young ladies with learning disabilities. We had a VIP Fast pass and we’re not going to get a disabled access pass as we were going to get on each ride more quickly. What a waste of money! As soon as the cast member saw our party they told us that they could not allow them to go on the ride without an access card and that, due to Health and Safety requirements, should the ride need to be evacuated, they were not allowed to go on the ride together! One would have to wait until the other got off before they could go on! These two dear friends were distraught at not being able to enjoy the ride together. And so it went on throughout our stay! Disgraceful Disney. We do not want preferential treatment, although that sometimes helps. We want equal treatment. The whole issue smacks of discrimination and Disney need to watch their backs!

  2. clara says:

    well being a type one diabetic and hearing all this hate “its not your childs personal playground” or “they need to stop whining and plan” really bothers me. yes people with disabilities are mad but 4 a good reason! I would brag and brag to my friends I get to skip all the lines att Disney! my friends were in awe. Now this is reaaally annoying because the couple of good things of having this disease is gone. If I get a low in the line I will sit down and probably agrivate other line standers or a high and ill be umpleasnt to be around. and when people without diasabilities are annoyed … >:(. Needless to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Disney is taking the magic away!!!!!!!!!!!! of the only good thing that I get. :( -a soon at Disney 14 year old .

  3. kristina says:

    We went last weekend and was disgusted. Our wait times ended up being longer!!!! We get a return time then waited 15 min in the “fast Pass” line! And because you can only do 1 ride at a time we were left sitting around for hours at a time doing nothing. We tried to get fast passes – the regular ones with our tickets but rides like Test Track were already gone!!!! So we were not allowed to go on test track because we had a 70 min wait for Soarin and they would not sign the card because only 1 ride is allowed on the card at a time!!!!!! So basically all this pass does is remove you from the line to go and deal with your childs issues elsewhere. Nice help. I asked guest services about test track since that is all my child wanted and was told tough that is how it is. So if regular fast passes are gone for rides you are totally out of luck. This policy wouldn’t be so bad if 2 rides were allowed at a time- not 1!!!!!

  4. Jan J. Bedell says:

    My wife and I went to Disneyland in Anaheim this past Monday. I have no problem with people with disabilities going to the front of the line. What I do have a problem with is the Fast Pass program. I understand it comes with an additional cost to get the pass, but I don’t think its fair to those less fortunate that can’t afford the additional cost over the hundred dollars ( or there abouts, I won free tickets) entrance fee. A lot of others whom we were standing in lines with felt the same way.

  5. Gale says:

    Jay, Fastpasses at Disney are FREE whether you stay at Disney or not. The new system doesn’t work for my son who has dual disabilities and is in tremendous pain. A long day is 5 hours in the parks, but we can expect only 3 a day. He said he felt unwelcome and disregarded and didn’t want to go back after our trip in November. Disney was the one place that gave you a bit of a break from the disability, and it was stress relieving magic. Now my son felt more disabled, that it stuck out to him even more how much he misses out on because he saw the healthy people able to go through the lines. By the time the 90 min window opened to go to the one ride, his pain level was too high. We had to walk away and get him back to the condo soaking in a warm tub. Disney used to set the standard. Now they do the very least they can get by with, and call it fairness. It will be fair when other guests have to tour with a pain level of 7 out of 10, autism, and unable to walk from arthritis. I want those execs to meet my son, look him in the eye, and try to rationalize this new lack of access.

  6. Justina Bradley says:

    I’m austic, and I’ve always had a problem with the GAC. I mean, I liked it, but it was so annoying that my parents were able to abuse it simply by me running through the line and then pretending to “chicken out” at the end even when I had no intention of going on the ride from the first point. They got on the ride while I got nothing by annoyances. And they spent the whole day at the park and I couldn’t leave. So they ended up on many more rides then everybody else.
    I’m a rule follower who doesn’t like taking advantage and I hated my parents actions, and I am excited for this change. I feel as if I’ll have more fun with the new system then with the old.

  7. Jordan says:

    I’m appalled at the complaining here. Your disabled child doesn’t have to stand in line, but need to wait the same amount of time as everyone else. One ride at a time like everyone else. And your needs are accommodated by not having to stand in the queue. What’s the problem?

  8. Emmanuel Mejia says:

    Where can I obtain a disability access service card? I have a visitors with cerebral palsy, diabetes, learning disability . He shouldn’t walk to much or be out in the sun to long due to his conditions.

  9. Kristine Reed says:

    Unfortunately there is a lot of abuse with the disability access card.It’s always the honest people w/the disability who are more inconvenienced.I have spinal stenosis and severe sciatica and cannot stand or sit for more than 20 min.I think each disability is different.I do understand that Disney cannot ask what the disability is,but please don’t lump all disability restrictions together.My daughter has MS and her needs are TOTALLY different than mine.It would be so hard for me to try to race her back to a ride with her wheelchair.I hope Disney changes this service to the way it was before. Thank you
    We are going to Disney world again in Nov.I hope I have the great expierence I had with her last May.

  10. paul giddings says:

    i have a child with special needs and we are going to florida in oct ,how do we obtain a disability access card

  11. Susan says:

    As an adult with disabilities planning a Disney trip, I am uncertain as to how to get services I will need. My mom will be with me as well and she uses a walker. I honestly think that Disney needs to have a form just like the DMV which those who need accommodations can get signed by our doctors and then get a disability pass. But with all the negatives, Disney may just stop providing any accommodations that are not for physical handicap, blindness, deafness, or food allergies which is really the only thing that they are required to do by law.

  12. lisa Vecchio says:

    I think this is unfair. Teens with special needs now have to take a picture to say that I have special needs. My children have anxiety disorder and PDD…they seem ok but a theme park meant for fun could become a nightmare. It is embarrassing for them to take a picture. It is unfair that because of exploitation of this accommodation ..we now have to suffer. It is hard enough for these children. I think you should require a doctors note. Those who have issues will have no problem getting a note that says so.

  13. D. David says:

    I visited Disneyland with my family several times between 12/12 and 12/13. We had annual passes. It was the one thing I wanted to do after open heart surgery 6 weeks on a ventilator, and near death from a number of complications. I survived and was discharged after a more than two month hospitalization. There has been many bumps on the road to Recovery. I need a scooter to get around and 24 hr. oxygen for hypoxia. If not for all of the care and concern demonstrated by the Disneyland staff, I would have missed out on the these visits to this truly magical place, where for a few hours, we can leave our troubles at the gate and share the excitement of the atmosphere. I am left with balance problems, but because certain rides can be stopped momentarily, I can get on them, too. Some rides can even accommodate my scooter. I think Disneyland has done a great deal more than all of the other amusement parks to make sure all of their visitors have fun. It must be difficult to weed out those who really need some special accommodations from those who are just working the system. We are going to Disneyland Monday and can’t begin my adventure.

  14. Terri Maxwell says:

    Im very worried about having to wait to get on rides. If the lines are 15 mins. I will have to wait 1 hr to ride it?And only one ride while you wait? Why cant I just take my schooter in the reg wait lines? Its sad that all honest people has to wait longer. Due to this. What if there is no waiting? We still have to get an come back time? I have no problems getting a note from my dr. It’s not fair to punish us due to healty violaters.

  15. Mindy Beverin says:

    Is anyone at Disney reading these post from people with disabilities that limit their ability to stay on grounds for more than a very few hours at a time? My husband has Parkinson’s and the form he has is not only depilating physically but also causes extreme exhaustion and limited ‘up’ time. I agree with other people who posted below, we will be happy to bring something from his doctor to explain his situation so that he will have the opportunity to enjoy time with his grandchildren. Please reconsider your decision… it is not fair to those who are truly disabled!

  16. Carrie says:

    Wow Jordan – clearly you don’t have any kids, friends or family with disabilities. For a child with autism to go to the ride and then turn back and have to pass an hour doing more nothing is really not helpful – waiting in general just doesn’t go down well for my 2 kids on the spectrum, and it is traumatic for everyone around them too. And just to be clear, I’m pretty sure every child would trade their disability to be “normal” (and no parent wishes it on any child) rather than have a unique ability to queue jump for a few days of their life.

  17. Alfonso Diaz says:

    At first I was upset that we had another change, in the disability policies that we have to go through then I said ok I’ll give this a try and I actually welcomed the change. I know were the first to feel attacked we get from regional centers, schools, agencies that are receiving monies to help us but there’s never money or help we have each other that’s the truth. Maybe I’m tired of fighting or maybe I just don’t feel it’s worth it, my experience with the folks at disney have been better that what I’ve faced with the California schools, and agencies that are out there in place to help us with federal funds. I will continue to I joy the days I spend with my son were I can watch him smile and imagine what he must be thinking as he watches his movies come to life no one else can make this happen better that the people that work at the park he loves to visit.

  18. Bob chimel says:

    I am disabled, with multiple handicapping conditions. I appreciate that the old, fifteen years ago, policy was badly abused. Many times, parents placed their children in wheelchairs and that was fine, but they did not require handicap services, that they often received, simply because they had someone in a wheelchair. No policy is perfect, but Disney keeps trying to accommodate everyone.

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