the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Disneyland Makes Big Changes to Access Policy, the Disability Community Reacts

Ashton Rosin

Disneyland and Walt Disneyworld’s programs for people with disabilities have seen a major change over the last month. In the wake of widespread exploitation of its previous policy, the theme parks have adopted a new approach to eliminate this reported abuse.

Previously, people with disabilities were allowed to cut lines or gain back door access to reduce their wait times by entering a ride through its exit. However, abuse of the policy has grown. Able bodied individuals have been observed renting wheelchairs to gain access to the shorter wait times. Disney theme parks have seen a dramatic increase in “disabled tour guides”, individuals paid by the hour to accompany able bodied patrons. Privacy laws prohibit the theme parks from requiring proof of disability, making abuse of the previous system almost effortless.

The new policy, which went into effect on October 9th, introduced the Disability Access Service Card to individuals who are not able to wait in traditional lines. These individuals will be issued tickets with a return time based on current wait times at various rides. Mirroring Disney’s FastPass system, people with disabilities will not have to wait in line after they sign a form and take their photograph to receive the Service Card. Additionally, Disney is offering a Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities, to provide people with disabilities suggestions on how best to enjoy the park.

The new restaurant-type reservation system might cause difficulties for people with disabilities. Some families feel that it is almost impossible to visit the park and are disappointed in the change. Individuals with cognitive, sensory, social, emotional, or physical challenges may not have the capacity to endure some of these potential waits when surrounded by extensive stimuli in the park. 

Disney consulted with Autism Speaks, an organization notoriously lacking consumer control, in the creation of this new policy, which neglects to accommodate individuals with disabilities beyond mobility issues, including people with mental, cognitive, and developmental disabilities.

Since the unveiling of Disney’s changed policy, the disability community has put together several petitions that have garnered over 40,000 signatures to date. The petitions point out some of the new program’s problems, including the fact that individuals who have the Disability Access Service Card can only reserve a time slot for one ride at a time. Overall, the petitions call for Disney to reconsider because their new approach is unreasonable for individuals with certain disabilities. You can sign the petitions at and

In a Disney statement park officials noted that, “Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process to create a more consistent experience for all our guests”.

As the policy is enforced, we will begin to see how individuals with disabilities are affected. The question remains whether people with disabilities will be able to have a “consistent” experience as a result of these new policies.

Speak Your Mind