The Cinderella Castle is seen at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in July 2023, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. John Raoux/Associated Press, file

Disney will soon change its policies for theme park visitors with disabilities, restricting eligibility for services that help some people avoid waiting in line for rides.

The updates, which the company posted on park websites this week, have created a wave of uncertainty among fans, who are left wondering whether they’ll be able to continue using the disability access service known as DAS. The shift comes as Disney acknowledges that some customers have misused the program; the company has already taken some steps to crack down on abuse.

According to Disney, disability access has become the most widely requested service at the parks, with use more than tripling over the past five years.

“The system has always had some level of questionable use if not abuse,” Len Testa, president of the planning site Touring Plans and co-author of the Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, said in an email.

The changes at the Florida and California theme parks include updates on who is allowed to use DAS, how many people can join them in receiving benefits, how to apply for it and ways they can use it.

The free service lets guests reserve a time to show up for a ride with a comparable wait to the in-person queue at the time they request it. For example, if someone wants to ride Space Mountain and the wait is 45 minutes long, they can request a slot 45 minutes later. They don’t have to stay in line while they wait, and they can use an expedited lane when they show up.


Under the new guidelines posted online this week, the disability access program is “intended to accommodate a small percentage of Guests who, due to a developmental disability like autism or similar, are unable to wait in a conventional queue for an extended period of time.” The changes go into effect on May 20 at Walt Disney World and on June 18 at Disneyland.

The service has always been meant for those visitors described in the new policy, Disney told The Washington Post, but the program did not use such specific language in the past and was granted to users with other needs.

Disney did not answer specific questions about what options would be available for people with disabilities other than those laid out in the new policy. The company said visitors should check the updated websites to explore the “suite of services for guests with disabilities that match their needs” and follow up with employees for an individual conversation if needed.

Disney is also adding options for people who might have difficulty with lines, including a “return to queue” process that has not yet been fully detailed for people who need frequent restroom access. Disney will have more workers, called cast members, available and trained to help direct guests to the options they need; health professionals from Inspire Health Alliance will help Disney employees determine eligibility as needed. They will not require documentation, unlike the services at other theme park companies including Universal and Six Flags.

That recent growth in DAS users coincides with the 2021 introduction of Genie Plus, a paid service that lets people skip long lines. On Thursday, the add-on cost was between $17 and $27 a person at Walt Disney World, depending on which of the four parks people were visiting.

“We knew that the system was under more stress than it could handle,” Testa said.


On forums for Disney fans, social media and blogs, people who said they or family members have used the service in the past for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, anxiety, breathing issues and Crohn’s disease expressed concern about what the changes would mean for them. Some said they saw the update as a way to force people to purchase Genie Plus if they wanted to avoid long lines. Many said they felt disappointed that a formerly safe and accommodating vacation spot suddenly seemed like it would be more difficult to navigate.

At Disneyland, visitors will be able to use a virtual video chat ahead of a trip or talk to someone in person at the parks. In Florida, visitors will only have the option of a virtual video chat, but it will be available ahead of time or on-site.

“Disney is dedicated to providing a great experience for all Guests, including those with disabilities, which is why we are so committed to delivering a wide range of innovative support services aimed at helping our Guests with disabilities have a wonderful time when visiting our theme parks,” the company said in a statement.

Stacey Crane, a frequent Disney visitor from Kentucky who posts Disney content on YouTube, said she has qualified for the disability service because of stomach issues. She’s not sure how her next trip in July will go and wondered how the “return to queue” system would work.

“There’s so many other health issues that may be affected by this,” she said. “I’m just nervous to see how it’s going to pan out.”

She said that on a recent trip, even with the disability service, she needed to leave an expedited lane quickly and found it difficult.


“If I need to leave, I need to leave; I don’t need to take my time, I need to go,” she said. “It makes it a lot easier for us right now.”

The current system has been in place since 2013 when it replaced a previous version that granted visitors with disabilities a card that let them skip lines for rides. The New York Post reported that year that some wealthy New York City families were hiring guides with disabilities to usher them to the front of the lines.

In recent years, some have called out social media users for allegedly promoting misuse of the disability access service. When Disney abruptly banned third-party tour guides from operating in its parks last year, the company said it was in part because of inappropriate use of the program for disabled visitors.

Testa said he was recently at Epcot in Florida with family members and overheard one man recommend the DAS program to another, explaining that it let his family maximize the number of rides they could get on. When the other man said his child didn’t really have a disability, the first one assured him that no one asked many questions.

“I’m looking at this like, ‘This is why we don’t have nice things,’” Testa said. “It took every fiber of my being not to jump into the conversation and say ‘Just don’t do that.’” When guests in the park are telling other guests how to game the system, something has to change.”

The company said that in part because of misuse, the program has become unwieldy and that changes were needed to preserve it for the people for whom it was intended. The new policy says the service will be available for the individual who needs it and immediate family only, or no more than four people total if they aren’t immediate family members. Under the program that’s changing, it is good for a party of six.

Disney warns – as it did before – that there are steep consequences for making false statements to get the disability service.

“The Guest will be permanently barred from entering 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,” the website says.

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