Despite pushback, Disney is pressing ahead with major changes to its process for providing disability accommodations at its theme parks amid concerns about rampant abuse of the program.

New policies for Disney’s Disability Access Service will take effect Monday at Walt Disney World in Florida and June 18 at Disneyland in California.

The program allows people with disabilities to request a return time for one attraction at a time in order to avoid physically waiting in line. However, in the last five years, Disney said that use of the Disability Access Service program has tripled, becoming the most widely-requested service at its parks and far exceeding the population for which it was intended. Overuse has meant longer waits for the people who legitimately need the accommodation, the company said.

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As a result, Disney announced in April that it would rework the Disability Access Service, emphasizing that it’s meant to accommodate individuals “who, due to a developmental disability like autism or similar, are unable to wait in a conventional queue for an extended period of time.”

Under the new system, Disney said it is adding cast members and investing in specialized training to help individuals with disabilities understand and identify accommodations based on their needs. The company is also working with a third party, Inspire Health Alliance, which will provide certified health professionals trained in psychology or behavioral health to help Disney cast members determine if people qualify for the Disability Access Service program. These decisions will be based on personalized conversations focused on questions about individual needs.

Disney said that those with disabilities who are ineligible for the Disability Access Service program may be offered other accommodations like the line-return option for those who need to visit the restroom frequently or wheelchair access and location return times for people using mobility devices.

The company also plans to take a hard line against those who try to skirt the rules.

“If it is determined that any of the statements a guest made in the process of obtaining DAS are not true, the guest will be permanently barred from entering the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort, and any previously purchased Annual Passes, Magic Key passes, tickets and other park products and services will be forfeited and not refunded,” Disney says on its website.

The new approach has some people with disabilities feeling left out. A group known as DAS Defenders said that the needs of people with a wide array of conditions ranging from cancer and multiple sclerosis to long COVID and rare diseases cannot properly be met under the revised policies and will lead to discrimination.

“By limiting the DAS program to developmental disabilities only, Disney is effectively telling us that we are not welcome or recognized in their parks anymore,” the group wrote in a letter asking Disney’s leadership to rethink the new policy.

A DAS Defenders petition opposing the changes has more than 13,000 signatures.

That has not dissuaded Disney, however, with park officials saying they will proceed with the changes as planned.

To participate in the Disability Access Service under the updated policies, Disney recommends that visitors use its virtual video chat system to speak with a member of the accessibility team before arriving at Disneyland or Disney World. Guests can also request access in person at Disneyland by visiting the designated windows at the esplanade between the main entrances. At Disney World, guests can do a virtual chat on-site.

Enrollment in the updated Disability Access Service is valid for 120 days, Disney said. However, it will now be limited to the immediate family of the individual who qualifies or up to four people.

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