DeSantis Unveils $2.2 Billion Expanded Disability Support Funding, Impacting Thousands of Walt Disney World Guests

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A collage showing a Ron DeSantis waving, the Cinderella castle under a blue sky in Disney World, and a smiling woman with a young boy in a wheelchair, enjoying a sunny day at Magic Kingdom.

Credit: Inside The Magic

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is still working hard to mend his severed ties with Walt Disney World Resort (WDW). A new budget for folks with disabilities is set to impact thousands of Disney World guests.

With Disney changing its DAS program and DeSantis now at peace with the House of Mouse, some significant shifts are coming for select Disney guests.

An image of the Cinderella fairytale castle in Disney World at sunset with a bright sunburst in the background and a blue "das" logo with a circular arrow on the right side.
Credit: Becky Burkett/Disney/Canva

Disney and Its Recent Shakeup of the Disability Access Service

Effective May 20, 2024, Disney World’s Disability Access Service (DAS) program has undergone several updates to improve the experience for eligible guests. One notable change is the refinement of eligibility criteria, with DAS now exclusively available to guests with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, who find it challenging to endure prolonged wait times in regular attraction lines.

Moreover, the program now restricts party size, allowing a maximum of four individuals, including the DAS guest and up to three accompanying immediate family members, to utilize the service. Notably, the registration process has been revamped, eliminating the option for in-person registration at theme park Guest Relations locations.

Instead, guests can pre-register or engage in live video conferencing with a cast member via iPads while within the park premises. Additionally, the validity period of the DAS entitlement has been clarified, with the service remaining valid for a maximum of 120 days or for the duration of the ticket, whichever is shorter.

An array of empty wheelchairs parked outdoors in a row, featuring metal frames and blue fabric seats, with greenery in the background, illustrating accessibility around the Disney World parks.
Credit: Disability at Disney

The Florida Governor Promises $2.2 Billion for Persons With Disability, WDW Guests to Be Impacted

Furthermore, to ensure equitable access to attractions, guests must now wait 10 minutes after scanning into an attraction before requesting another return time slot. These adjustments reflect Disney World’s commitment to enhancing accessibility services, facilitating a more efficient and accommodating experience for guests with developmental disabilities.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis convened a press conference in Jupiter on Monday morning, focusing on novel avenues to support youths confronting distinctive educational challenges. Present alongside the governor were Taylor Hatch, Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the esteemed founders of the Els Center of Excellence, Ernie and Liesel Els.

The DeSantis campaign is no longer aimed at gender identity but rather towards the Florida department of Disabilities. It also seems his fight is no longer against Fox News, NBC News, CBS News, the Washington Post, President Biden or any other political affiliations, at least for now.

Notably coinciding with World Autism Month, Governor DeSantis took the opportunity during the press conference to disclose a significant allocation within this year’s budget. “That is the highest amount ever appropriated in the history of Florida by a country mile,” remarked Governor DeSantis, emphasizing the noteworthy sum of over $2.2 billion designated for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

A collage of two images: on the left, a close-up of a person in a wheelchair, focusing on the wheel, and on the right, a scenic view of Cinderella's Castle at Disney.
Image Credit: Inside The Magic

How Ron DeSantis Will Assist Those With Disabilities at WDW

The allocation of over $2.2 billion to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) underlines a significant commitment to enhancing services tailored to this demographic statewide. One area of notable impact is the Disney Disability Access Service (DAS) program, which has recently undergone restructuring. The injection of substantial funds into the APD suggests a concerted effort to enhance resources and support systems for individuals with disabilities throughout Florida.

While the primary focus remains on education, the ripple effect extends to various aspects of life for those with disabilities, including their experiences at Walt Disney World. As part of this broader initiative, the DAS program revamp promises improved accessibility for guests with developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder. Accommodations such as reduced wait times and alternate queue access aim to make theme park attractions more accessible.

However, the efficacy of these enhancements depends heavily on the resources available within the broader disability services framework. The increased funding for the APD not only augurs well for the quality and scope of disability services but also holds the potential to benefit Disney World guests utilizing the DAS program indirectly.

A more robust infrastructure, expanded support networks, and heightened advocacy efforts facilitated by the bolstered APD budget could provide a more seamless and enriching experience for individuals with disabilities visiting Walt Disney World.

Ron DeSantis waving with a smile, superimposed over an image of the colorful entrance to walt disney world, suggests a greeting or a celebratory moment at the renowned theme park.
Image Credit: Inside The Magic

Moreover, Governor DeSantis’s allocation underscores a broader societal recognition and prioritization of disability support initiatives. This shift may foster a culture of inclusivity and accessibility across various sectors, including hospitality and entertainment. Consequently, theme parks like Walt Disney World may be compelled to continuously reassess and refine their accessibility offerings to remain responsive to the evolving needs of guests with disabilities.

In essence, while Governor DeSantis’s educational initiatives may not directly target Walt Disney World guests, the significant funding allocated to disability services holds immense potential to positively impact the experiences of thousands of individuals currently navigating disabilities and engaging with the reimagined DAS program at the theme park.

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