Disney Making Changes To Disability Access At Theme Parks
Big changes are coming once again to Disney’s system for providing accommodations to people with disabilities at its theme parks.
The company said this month that it is “making some enhancements” to what’s known as the Disability Access Service, or DAS, program. The move comes nearly eight years after a revamp of Disney’s access policies that prompted lawsuits from families of those with developmental disabilities.
The Disability Access Service program allows people with disabilities who have trouble tolerating long waits to obtain a return time for rides and other attractions so that they do not have to physically remain in a line.
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Visitors have had to wait until arriving at Disney World or Disneyland to seek the accommodations. However, with the changes rolling out this fall, Disney says that people will be able to enroll up to 30 days before their arrival through a live video chat with a cast member. At that time, individuals will also be able to select two experiences per day through the DAS Advance planning option and they will get a one-hour return window for those activities on the day of their visit.
In addition, the Disability Access Service program will be tweaked to allow visitors to get a return time for rides and other experiences via an app rather than having to go to each attraction or a kiosk.
The updates are part of a broader overhaul happening at Disney World and Disneyland this fall. The company is doing away with its FastPass system, a free offering that allows visitors to skip the line for a limited number of attractions, in favor of a fee-based model.
Disney is also launching a digital tool called Disney Genie that’s designed to offer a personalized itinerary complete with current and expected wait times for attractions.
Disney made major changes to its disability access system in 2013. Previously, theme park visitors with disabilities were able to receive a Guest Assistance Card that often allowed them to skip to the front of lines for rides. Disney said it ended that option because it was “abused and exploited.”
The Disability Access Service was implemented in its place. That led to lawsuits from dozens of families of children with autism and other disabilities who claimed that the more restricted access was a violation of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The first of the lawsuits went to trial last year and a federal judge ruled in favor of Disney.