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Tempers Flare as Disney World’s Disability Changes Begin

Two women, one who is in a wheelchair, enjoy a Disney World water feature
Credit: Disney

Since April 9, Disney has been dealing with the fallout of the controversial changes made to its Disability Access Service (DAS) system at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. Since its inception, guests with a wide range of physical, medical, and cognitive disabilities have been able to use the DAS service and wait in a shorter line.

Now, that has all changed.

Three girls in princess costumes, one in a wheelchair, joyfully playing outdoors at sunset, with lush greenery in the background.

Credit: Disney

Disney announced that only those with cognitive disabilities, such as autism, will be able to take advantage of the DAS program. Those with other disabilities will have to wait in the regular queue and exit when necessary. The changes to DAS went into effect at Walt Disney World Resort on May 20. They will go into effect at the Disneyland Resort beginning June 18.

Since the changes to the DAS program are now in effect, frustrated guests have been taking to social media to share their stories of being turned down, even though they desperately need the service.

A child with Down syndrome joyfully interacts with a person in a Mickey Mouse costume on a colorful street. The child is wearing a red T-shirt and smiling broadly, creating a heartwarming scene in what appears to be a theme park. Disney Disability Pass

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Just Told Thousands of People With Disabilities That They Don’t Count

X (formerly Twitter) user Bluey Christine Heeler said that she has a medical condition that is triggered by heat, crowding, and overstimulation. Those problems can cause her to faint in line. She was allegedly told by a cast member that she should find a shaded area to sit, which does not help when it comes to actually standing in a long line.

guests, family visiting magic kingdom

Credit: Disney

Unfortunately, the professional employed by Disney told her that she no longer qualified for Disney’s disability program. A theme park cast member then told her that she could always pay for Disney Genie+.

the professional apologized & disconnected and the CM suggested finding shaded/secluded areas to avoid overstimulation. i said i’m already accustomed to doing this but this does nothing to help me experience attractions w/ my disability, which is supposedly the purpose of DAS

shocker, her final suggestion was to pay for genie + and lightning lane

Related: DAS Defenders Challenge Disney’s Controversial Disability Changes

X user Izzy commented that she had actually seen someone with epilepsy get turned down. The reason the guest was given? They will have some symptoms before the seizures appear, which should allow them to get out of line, deal with their seizure, and then get back in line.

someone with epilepsy was turned down because they have auras…the CM told them to leave the line and go to first aid when they have an aura, have a seizure there, and then go back in line 💀💀

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

X user Fern commented that DAS did not give people with disabilities preferential treatment; it simply allowed them to enjoy Disney theme parks and made them more accessible.

Please explain what about the DAS gives disabled ppl “preferred access” bc all it did was make the park more accessible

Ive been to Disney twice; I am disabled and have a sister who is disabled. DAS allowed us to actually enjoy the park without worrying that one of us would suffer.

User AlternativeAnt7677 shared their disappointing experience with the DAS changes on Reddit. They have a tissue disorder, as well as ADHD, but were told to use a wheelchair and noise-canceling headphones.

For the record, I have qualified for DAS for years. I got started with the DAS process bright and early this morning to see exactly how it worked, and while I hoped the wording on the first post was just poor, I could not be more wrong.

I have a tissue disorder that affects muscle tone globally. Without going into too much detail, my heart overcompensates its pulse when exposed to certain triggers like prolonged heat and exertion, causing pain across my body. My doctor has directed for me to recognize the beginnings of these attacks and find a cold place to sit to return to stability.

The representative told me to use ice packs and cooling towels as well as bring a wheelchair into the queue. The towels I can understand, but for someone with muscle issues, carrying around a wheelchair all day when I often visit alone is more likely to accelerate my attacks than prevent them.

She also brought up the queue reentry system, which, as others have said, seems more complicated than anything. I asked if this is the same solution for conditions like ADHD (which I have), with triggers like sensory overload around crowds. The solution to this was acquiring noise-canceling headphones — for purchase, of course, so not an accommodation by definition — within the park. Other sensory concerns were not addressed.

I don’t know who DAS is for now, but it’s not for disabled people. I implore you not to give into buying Genie+ or ILL if you don’t qualify under the new rules. Do not let them profit off of your disability.

My experience with the new DAS system
byu/AlternativeAnt7677 inWaltDisneyWorld

Some even claim that Disney is telling people with multiple disabilities not to go to the theme parks at all.

@WaltDisneyWorld Do better. I had a friend be told this today
She had a doctor from the DAS department tell her husband if you have that many issues maybe you shouldn’t be going to the parks.

Wow Disney how inclusive is that ????

When changes to the DAS program were announced, Disney said that it was because of the uptick in abuse of the program. More people are using DAS than ever before, although that could be because there is no longer a free FastPass system.

With so many guests in need being denied accessibility services, it seems unlikely that Disney will be able to avoid a bevy of lawsuits. Many believe that Disney is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires businesses to provide reasonable accommodations for guests with a wide variety of disabilities.

tiana with guest, magic kingdom

Credit: Disney

A lot of guests do not think that telling someone to climb over others to get out of line, only to go back into that same line later, or forcing them to purchase Disney+, is not providing reasonable accommodation.

It is important to note that Disney is making those who do manage to be approved for a DAS pass agree not to file a class action lawsuit. So it appears that the company is well aware of the issues it may face.

Do you think Disney is now discriminating against too many guests with disabilities? 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!

18 comments

  1. I have been on the DAS system since its inception. DAS does not allow people to just walk on the ride when they get their, you still have to wait your turn but you can do it somewhere you won’t get hurt or, in my case, hurt someone else. I am visually impaired and in low light areas, such as the queue, I have bumped into others and caused them to fall and I do use a white cane, not only for my own benefit but for people around me. If asked to sign a Class Action Law Suit, I would not hesitate to do so. I have been going to Disney since it opened in 1971, we have been there more than 100 ties over the years and have spent over $250,000.00 over that time as I am sure other have spent that much and probable more.

  2. Yes, they most certainly are discriminating!! There are more disabilities than just cognitive disabilities!! And how dare they tell people that they should purchase Genie+ and lightning lanes!! They already charge too much just to enter park and then on top of that you have to purchase more just to get on rides, it’s ridiculous. Universal Studios has a great system,I’ll most likely be visiting them more and good bye to Disney!!

  3. Everyone knows it is all about the almighty DOLLAR(S) for those at the top and they do not care about anyone with a disability. As some have said, Disney now recommends they pay even more for Genie + and lightening lane which equals more of the $$$ for them.

    • I’m a 100% disabled veteran with ptsd as well as a bunch of other issues my wife has lupus and a bunch of other issues but we are annual pass holders and have never had a problem with the former das system even though there were still a couple rides we couldn’t go on like space mountain and pirates because we had now one to push a wheelchair and our scooters weren’t allowed but now we will be unable to go at all as no one will be there to hold our place and we would never be able to take the scooter out and back in anyway

  4. This is a money issue and if you use it you still had to wait for the current estimated time before you could go so it’s not short but allowed for the person to go through a line which is not hours long so they can go to bathrooms andbe. Better at standing in line without having a fit. Disney’s greed has become more evident

  5. They are saying to use a wheel chair I use an electric scooter because I have no one to push me how are you going to get a scooter on and out of line?

  6. My wife is 70 and has progressive M.S. for years we had no problem getting in short line for disabled. We’ve been to Disney World over 500 times since our honeymoon in 1974. It’s sad that their new policy hampers the disabled and dims the Disney experience. Our 50th anniversary is in 3 weeks. We’re going to Disney for Dinner and staying overnight. No parks unfortunately. They’ve made it too difficult for my wheelchair bound wife.

  7. My wife and I are passholders and have been for quite some time. We would not have purchased our annual passes had we known that my disability access would be snatched away in an attempt by Disney to develop yet another revenue stream, in this case selling Genie+ to those who have been thrown off disability access. What I would like to know is this…Will Disney refund the cost of my annual pass since I will no longer be using it due to this sudden and unfair change in policy? The agreements under which the annual pass was purchased no longer apply. Goodbye Disney, hello Universal.

  8. Instead of dismantling the system because of misuse, how about certified letter from a doctor?

    • I couldn’t agree more. I have so much proof of disability and used to bring it but they stopped using it. Years ago they would briefly look at a dr letter, no more. Hence people taking advantage like crazy. I don’t mind proving Autism if it’s not visible to others, I get it is not always. Demanding proof eliminates some of the fakers.

    • I agree 100%! Those of us who really need DAS that I’ve communicated with are more than happy to provide documentation of our disability(s). Telling us to rent a scooter or buy Genie+ and ILL is illegal. It’s saying that we need to spend more money because of our disability(s). I’m scheduled to go in the fall, but am questioning it now.

  9. Yes! This is awful. My daughter and I have been using DAS for many years due to POTs and EDS. We are avid Disney fans however this may change the way we visit Disney. Disney you must do better than this! There has to be a way to effectively manage the abusers and allow those who truly need this service to access. I foresee a lot of people dumping Disney and going to Universal since they seem to be much more accomodating. And yes so much for your inclusivity!!

  10. This is not the right way to handle misuse. People will always try to beat the system. Let disabled people enjoy the rides. I’m sure that no one would ever want to walk in their shoes for a hot minute. Create a form document that requires a medical professional to submit electronically to the company The form can be uploaded to a database. When a person enters a park, they can go to customer service and there to check the status of eligibility and get a pass. The pass can be made to expire in one day. Fix this mess before it bites the Mouse really hard.

  11. I’ve been using DAS and before that the program that had (which was truly unfair allowing us to line cut). Asking us to sign something that says we won’t sue before we even find out if we’re approved is insanity. I wish I had the money to sue myself, but unless there is a class action suit, I’m stuck. If they would simply ask for documentation (which several of my doctors would gladly provide), it seems like this would more easily be solved for a lot of us. I’ve heard they’re telling people to wait elsewhere while their party remains in line. First of all, it’s vacation… family time and who wants to be alone while their party waits in line? Personally, it’s just me and my husband and we don’t want to spend half of our vacations separated! I’ve ranted about this to several people. I just really wish someone who has the means would sue them. It’s clearly illegal asking us to spend money on a scooter or Genie+/ILL because of a disability they used to accommodate. Also, with a scooter, it’s not good for many of us to sit all day long and it’s not as if we can leave the scooter somewhere to come back later and use it again for a bit – rinse and repeat. The whole thing makes my blood pressure go up!

  12. I am concerned about my upcoming trip in late June. I had a severe medical condition begin in July of 2023 that left me hospitalized for a week and with permanent damage. I also get overwhelmed and sick when exposed to heat, overstimulation, and crowds. I was planning to apply for the DAS, prior to Disney changing the policy. I am never someone who would have normally asked for this. I am in good shape and very able bodied. But I am really scared that I may get sick and ruin my family’s vacation. I wanted the reassurance that I would have an accommodation if I should need it. (My initial episode of this medical condition in which I was hospitalized for a week occurred on our family vacation last year to another location. I really don’t want to repeat.) I think Disney can do better and I am disappointed in the company.

    • My decision is simple, I really won’t go back. After more than 40 vacations to Disney world I have no intrest to return. I will try some of the other parks that Florida has to offer. I have said this before that the magic is slowing going away. We didn’t just jump the line but we’re given a place (time) to return back. Now it seems what Disney wants is for us to purchase the lightning lane to give them more money. What a joke.

  13. The governor of Florida should step in and say they are disobeying the disabilities act and shut the parks down. Disney doesn’t deserve to be in business. And Eager still receives his 32,000,000+ paycheck

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