Disabled Guests Battling ‘Exclusion,’ ‘Elimination’ From Disney World Parks, 20,000 Respond

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A torn image reveals three girls in Disney princess costumes, one in a wheelchair, smiling in front of a castle. To the left, a digital screen reads "Access Denied" in red letters, creating a stark contrast between the joyful scene and the message.

Credit: Inside The Magic

The disabled community within the Walt Disney World Resort parks is speaking out about the “exclusion” and “elimination” they feel from the company after the new Disney Disability Acess Service (DAS) policy rule changes were made. These changes make it harder for guests with disabilities to access shorter wait times and lines.

An image of a fairytale castle at a theme park 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

Nearly 20,000 Disney Guests Sign Petition Fighting Against New DAS Program Policies

Disney’s updated Disability Access Service (DAS) began at Walt Disney World earlier this month and will launch at Disneyland Resort on June 18. These updates aim to curb the misuse of the service by non-disabled guests but have left many disabled visitors feeling excluded. The group DAS Defenders started a petition titled “Stop excluding disabled people from Disneyland and Disney World with new policy,” which has garnered 16,000 signatures as of Thursday.

In a press release, DAS Defenders stated, “The updated DAS program now primarily caters to developmental disabilities, but troublingly, it has even excluded individuals with Autism. This new policy neglects a wide range of disabled individuals, including those with cancer, PTSD, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, seizures, heart conditions, and many other visible and invisible disabilities.” Disney suggests those denied DAS can ask Cast Members at each ride for a return time or restroom assistance.

However, DAS Defenders argue that this solution is impractical and often unhelpful due to inadequate cast member training. In a letter to Disney executives, they described these suggestions as “impractical and insensitive.”

“Requiring guests with medical conditions to leave and return to the line could lead to discriminatory hate, harassment, potentially violent situations, and unnecessary negative attention from fellow park-goers who are not aware of, and shouldn’t have to be aware of, one’s condition. This will add even more unnecessary and humiliating challenges for those with disabilities,” the letter said.

A digital flyer featuring a night sky background with sparkles and fireworks on the left, and text on the right detailing an event on "service america policy" with a list of speakers and topics.
Credit: DAS Defenders

Additionally, DAS Defenders highlighted that the new policy does not consider disabled guests traveling alone, with other disabled individuals, or with a caregiver who must remain with them at all times. They also criticized the limitation on the number of guests attached to a DAS pass, which can be particularly burdensome for families with disabled members who rely on the assistance of multiple family members.

“Additionally, the limits on family size can pose an additional burden on families that rely on the assistance of family members to care for a disabled child and can create distress for a disabled child who may not understand why certain family members are excluded,” the letter continued.

During virtual calls with supposedly trained Cast Members and medical professionals, disabled individuals reported receiving insensitive and ableist comments. Some were told that Lupus is not a disability, that they should avoid theme parks altogether, or purchase the paid Genie+ pass instead of receiving any disability accommodation. These issues raise serious concerns about Disney’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

DAS Defenders also criticized the requirement for guests to purchase non-refundable Disney Parks tickets or passes before applying for DAS, arguing that it forces families to spend money without guaranteeing that their disability accommodation needs will be met.

They pointed out that Disney’s new policy contradicts the company’s ethos of ensuring happy endings and fairness for all. One suggestion by Disney is for disabled guests to purchase Genie+.

However, DAS Defenders note that Genie+ “sells out, costs extra, doesn’t include all rides, and penalizes disabled individuals if they miss their allocated time, whereas DAS offers more flexibility.” They also suggest guests rent scooters or wheelchairs, but these options do not accommodate everyone with mobility issues and add financial strain.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse, dressed in colorful costumes, are standing in front of a castle with the Disney Das logo overlaid, accompanied by a Cast Member.
Credit: Inside the Magic

DAS Defenders shared numerous stories from guests who were no longer eligible for the service. For instance, Cindy from Florida shared that her husband, a military veteran with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, can no longer visit Disney World without DAS.

Jennifer from Florida, who has stage 4 breast cancer, explained that DAS allows her to enjoy the park at her own pace despite her fatigue and treatment side effects.

In response to non-disabled guests abusing the system, DAS Defenders argue that punishing disabled individuals is not a solution.

They have requested that Disney revise the DAS program to include a broader range of disabilities, provide documentation options, offer free or low-cost accommodations, train Cast Members in anti-ableism and invisible disabilities, consider party sizes on a case-by-case basis, reduce prices on Genie+, and meet with disabled park guests to better understand their needs before implementing new policies.

The updated Disability Access Service (DAS) policy at Disney World has sparked significant backlash from disabled guests and advocacy groups, who feel excluded and discriminated against by the changes.

This controversy is terrible news for Disney World, as it tarnishes the company’s reputation for inclusivity and guest satisfaction, potentially deterring disabled visitors who now face impractical and insensitive accommodation alternatives. The widespread discontent, highlighted by a petition with 16,000 signatures, underscores the urgent need for Disney to address these concerns and ensure fair treatment for all guests, regardless of their disabilities.

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