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DAS Defenders Challenge Disney’s Controversial Disability Changes

DAS Defenders challenge Disney disability changes
Credit: Disney

On April 9, Disney shocked and angered thousands of guests when it announced that big changes were coming to its Disability Access Service (DAS) program at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Every day, hundreds — if not thousands — of guests utilized the program, and many of them needed it. However, the changes Disney was planning on making would make many of those guests ineligible to receive the life-saving service.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom with Walt and Mickey Partners Statue

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Just Told Thousands of Disabled Guests That They Don’t Count

Disney’s current DAS program allows most people with a disability to use its service. However, beginning May 20 at Walt Disney World and June 18 at Disneyland, only guests with cognitive disabilities like autism will be granted a DAS pass. Disney said that the changes were being made due to the extensive abuse of its DAS program.

However, even with the changes being made, Disney will still not require guests to show any medical proof or even a doctor’s note for those wanting to use the DAS system.

Disney changes Disability Pass Access System

Credit: Disney

Related: Guests Seethe as Disney Makes Controversial Changes to Disability Program

Now, one group is fighting back and hoping to convince Disney to change its mind.

DAS Defenders is a group of activists who are “members or allies” of the disabled community. They are fighting for those who feel Disney has ignored and discriminated against them. They sent a four-page letter to Disney, asking them to reconsider the new policy because of how many people are discriminated against.

You can read the entire letter sent to Disney HERE.

disneyland radiator springs racers

Credit: Disney Parks

They also started a Change.org petition, which reads:

Disney magic should be for everyone but Disney’s recent modifications to the Disability Access Service (DAS) program have excluded many members of the disabled community and their families. For years, Disney has been a beacon of inclusivity and joy for disabled individuals, offering a safe haven where they could enjoy moments of connection and adventure while having their accessibility needs met.

By limiting the DAS program to developmental disabilities only, Disney has left out a wide array of disabled individuals, including cancer patients, veterans with PTSD, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, those with rare diseases and more. As one of the world’s biggest companies, boasting a value exceeding 200 billion dollars, Disney should not be discriminating.

By excluding a diverse range of disabilities and implementing impractical solutions such as bathroom return lines and rider switches, Disney is putting disabled individuals at risk and subjecting them to unnecessary challenges and humiliation.

These policies not only undermine the principles of fairness and inclusivity but also perpetuate discriminatory practices that prevent disabled individuals from fully participating in the Disney experience.

Immediate action is essential to address the harmful implications of Disney’s revised DAS program and uphold the company’s values of inclusivity and accessibility. Disney is a dream destination for countless families and children worldwide. By excluding many disabled individuals from these cherished experiences, Disney not only perpetuates discrimination but also sends a clear message that the rights and needs of the disabled community can be overlooked. Such actions set a dangerous precedent, allowing corporate giants to trample on the rights and dignity of marginalized groups without consequence. It is imperative that Disney recognizes the broad-reaching impact of its decisions and takes immediate steps to rectify this injustice.

slinky dog dash

Credit: Patrick Konior, Unsplash

In its letter to Disney, it asked for Disney to consider the following actions:

  • “Disney revises its Disability Access Service (DAS) program to include a diverse range of disabilities, not just developmental disabilities, incorporating the option to provide documentation.”
  • “Devices and programs that are offered as an “accommodation” must be free or low cost, abundantly available, and only given to those who will truly benefit from them.”
  • “Train all cast members in anti-ableism and invisible disabilities.”
  • “Party size should be considered on a case-by-case basis.”
  • “Reduce prices on Genie+ and offer guests a limited number of free passes for certain attractions to reduce pressure for people to cheat the system in the first place.”
  • “Additional disability-friendly accommodations should be added to the park including return times for character meet-and-greets with long lines and increased parade and nighttime spectacular viewing areas for disabled guests who cannot stand.”
  • “Meet with us, a group of actually disabled park guests, to learn about the true needs of disabled guests before new policies are introduced.”
guests visiting living with the land behind the seeds tour

Credit: Disney

Related: Thank You For Your Service: Disney’s New Disability Policy Could Alienate One Important Group

Many guests have repeatedly asked Disney to simply require medical proof of a disability to use the program. Both Universal Studios Hollywood and the Universal Orlando Resort require guests to register with IBCCES and then speak to a Universal team member to get a DAS pass, which is good for a year.

Disney has not said why they will still not require guests to submit proof of a disability. Disney World and Disneyland are the ONLY Disney Resorts that do not require proof to obtain a DAS pass. Tokyo Disney, Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disney all require medical proof.

tower of terror level 13 ride experience

Credit: Tokyo DisneySea

One of the biggest issues people have with the changes Disney has made is that the company has not addressed how it will handle people with other disabilities that are not cognitive. Disney has indicated that there will be a system guests with other medical disabilities can use, but they have not given any details about how the program will work.

Many guests have also stated that they think Disney will face lawsuits once the changes to its DAS program are implemented. The Americans With Disabilities Act does not define a disability as only cognitive. So, by Disney narrowing the definition of a disability to only cognitive ones appears to be a violation of the ADA.

Disney has not responded to the petition, nor the letter sent by DAS Defenders.

Do you think Disney needs to reconsider the changes it is planning on making to its DAS program? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

13 comments

  1. this change is due to disney wanting more money and not interested in the consumer
    or disabled
    the gennie system is proof and they are trying to remove the person who is taking groups to disney and fast pass servide

  2. this change is due to disney wanting more money and not interested in the consumer
    or disabled
    the gennie system is proof and they are trying to remove the person who is taking groups to disney and fast pass servide

  3. Theme parks are required to be ADA compliant. Disney goes above and beyond that. No one knows for sure what the new requirements will look like. But these ridiculous ‘media outlets’ continuing to publish nonsense on social media and allowing posts with no concrete facts is the biggest part of the problem. Everything is speculation until it comes directly from Disney. They are a business. While there will be some changes,hopefully for the better, I don’t think they will actually eliminate the ability for a significant group of people to visit.

  4. This is so wrong. I have a couple of things wrong that I can NOT stand in lines for any length of time and I can NOT be closed in like sardines. I take medication for this and have proof. But with the new rules I will not be able to go. I also take my immediate family with cause I can not travel alone. Thia is just so wrong.

  5. Although my husband has a cognitive disability (Tourette syndrome) he looks totally normal and for the most part his tics are mild. Waiting in lines in such tight places cause his tics to become more prevalent and at times uncomfortable. You would not believe the looks we encounter when he has used the DAS Pass. It makes me so angry! We have even had snarky people ask!

    • So unfair to customers who have true disabilities that hinder them waiting in long lines. Why won’t they at least try requiring doctors documentation. There may still be cheaters but no where near as many.

  6. My granddaughter has POTS and I have Rheumatoid arthritis and take a lot of drugs that cause me to overheat. I only use DAS when the heat is overwhelming but granddaughter can’t wait in packed lines. If they don’t change policy we.will probably change where we vacation

  7. I will not be able to enjoy Disneyland with my Grandkids if this policy continues. No need to renew our passes as I would become a burden to my family.

  8. I am undergoing cancer treatments. I have severe neuropathy in my feet and hands. Standing for long periods of time can be very painful. I also am not allowed to be out in the sun with the chemo medicine. People ask why are you going if you are sick but that is the exact reason. Who knows how long I will be around. I want to make memories with my kids. The DAS pass allows me to at least get 1/2 day on rides with them before I have to head back to the hotel to rest. I am hoping I will only need the pass temporarily because I’d much rather be healthy then having to use this extra assistance.

  9. We are annual passholders, and my husband is quite disabled. He has had four strokes with seizures, the last one leaving him legally blind. He has also had two heart attacks and has congestive heart failure. He uses an electronic wheelchair and he also wears braces on both legs so he is able to walk very short distances. Using the DAS has allowed us to continue enjoying Disney World. If we can no longer use the disability program, we will have to give up our annual passes and his enjoyment.

  10. I am saddened by Disneys decision to take this action against those with bonfire disabilities. Please advise if there is a link to join a class action lawsuit to protect and change the DAS position at Disney.

  11. Gladys Legrand

    I will be 72 when we attend Disney World in October. I have neuropathy in my feet & legs & cannot walk much distance as well as stand for any length of time. I require a wheel chair for the above stated reasons. I do have my own personal chair that I bring with me. I also would join a class action lawsuit or would gladly bring a Dr’s note.i

  12. I also have disabilities that cause me to use the DAS system. I understand Disney’s point that many people abuse the system; however, they have now discriminated against so many people who have true disabilities and who truly needed it. When I called, they had a “suggestion” for every symptom I had. Finally they told me if I was that bad off, I should either change my plans to come when I was having a good day or to buy Genie +. Based on their callous attitude and discriminatory practices, I would love to join a class action lawsuit. I am a passholder who loves Disney and have never had an issue with DAS before. Now I am sadly rethinking my loyalty to the company.

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