Disneyland and California Adventure are changing the way people with disabilities get on rides, with park officials saying the new rules, which go into effect next month, are the result of growing abuse of the system.
“After careful consideration, we will be replacing the Guest Assistance Card with the new Disability Access Service card on Oct. 9 to create a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities,” Disney says in a statement.
Currently, people with disabilities unable to wait in lines can get an assistance card that covers everyone in their party. When they get to a ride, they present the card to a Disneyland or California Adventure staff member and often board through the exit.
Under the change, visitors will be issued tickets with a specific return time and a shorter wait similar to the Fastpass system that’s offered to everyone.
Full details of how this will work won’t be released until after park employees are briefed and trained on the new rules, Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown said.
She emphasized that Disneyland worked with organizations in setting up the new process, including Autism Speaks, which she said was instrumental in providing feedback as we developed this new process.
“We’re not making this decision in a vacuum without looking at the needs of that community and others” with special needs, Brown said.
“We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all Guests. 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 while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities.”
Brown added that the new procedure is in line with what other major theme parks do for their guests with disabilities.
The move was a response to the phenomenon of disabled “tour guides” who charge money, sometimes hundreds of dollars, to accompany able-bodied guests and allow them to avoid long lines. The park said others who don’t have a disability have been able to get an assistance card since no proof of disability is required.
Some families of children with disabilities criticized the change on the website micechat.com, saying some kids’ disabilities don’t allow them to wait in standard lines.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the program, Brown said, and offered answers to the following frequently asked questions:
How will the new program work?
The Disability Access Service Card will offer Guests with disabilities a return time for an attraction based on the current wait time. So guests with physical or cognitive disabilities who cannot wait in lines will not be required to.
Why are you doing this?
Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process so that it creates a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities.
Who will be eligible for a Disability Access Service Card?
Our goal is to accommodate Guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).
What should Guests do if they have concerns?
Guests should contact Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.