This spring, PeterGreenberg.com was one of the first outlets to report on the dirty secret to cutting Walt Disney World lines. Rumors began to fly after The New York Post learned that a wealthy Manhattan moms were hiring a disabled guide to bypass the main lines at Disney. Dream Tours Florida, an organization founded to help families with special needs through the park, had turned into a front for Upper East Side moms paying $1,040 a day to access rides through the disability access lane.
NBC’s Today confirmed Disney disability pass abuse in an undercover report on the Anaheim park.
Starting this fall, Disney is taking action against any guests who might be profiting from the disability program. On October 9, the Disney access program is transitioning from the Guest Assistance Card to the Disability Access Card. The parks will still make accommodations for guests with disabilities, but the program is no longer the answer to cutting lines.
Under Disneyland’s original guest access program, visitors needed to request a personalized Guest Assistance Card and no proof of disability was required. Each card admitted up to five guests and it offered unlimited access to most rides. With the new Access service card, the parks will be issuing out tickets that will have a return time to the attraction with a shorter wait time for disabled guests. The new policy is very similar to the FastPass program that is offered to all guests.
Walt Disney World Resort Communications Manager Kathleen Prihoda addressed the need for disability policy changes, without acknowledging the line-cutting rumors.
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.
Not all parents are happy about this change. On the Huffington Post Jess Wilson spoke out for parents with children on the autism spectrum felt “taken for a ride” with the policy change. Prihoda briefly addressed these claims, when she affirmed that despite the policy changes, Disney is dedicated to its guests with special needs, including those with autism.
We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests. We engaged disability groups, such as Autism Speaks, to develop this new process, which is in line with the rest of our industry.
PeterGreenberg.com also gained access to the cast member announcement for the new program that provided a bit more insight into which guests will and won’t have access to this program. According to the email announcement, The Disability Access Service Card, ”is to accommodate Guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).” But the program will not be enforced for guests visiting through wish-granting organizations will have access through a separate program.
Then on Friday afternoon, President of Disney Parks and Resort Operations Meg Crofton released the following statement acknowledging the abuse of the disability program as the reason for the revamp:
In addition to these programs, Disney parks offers many different services for guests with disabilities. There are special accommodations for service animals, guests with lighting or magnetic field sensitivity, as well as those with mobility, hearing and visual disabilities. The parks also provides wheelchair rentals, electric conveyance vehicle rental and special parking passes.
By Camilla Rambaldi for PeterGreenberg.com