Disabled Disney fans will no longer skip to the front of snaking lines at Disneyland and Walt Disney World because too many able-bodied visitors have been cheating the system. Currently, visitors with special needs can get backdoor access to rides or go through the exit and wait in a shorter line.
But the legendary theme park claims that approach has been ‘problematic’ and will now issue tickets with a return time and a shorter wait, similar to a restaurant reservation, to park-goers unable to join regular lines.
The past few years has seen the rise of disabled ‘tour guides’ who charge sometimes hundreds of dollars to accompany able-bodied guests so they can cut queues.
The phenomenon is partly behind Disney’s decision to crackdown on fakers.
Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register ‘we wanted to curb some of the abuse of this system.’
Brown added: ‘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.’
The park said those legitimately accompanying a disabled visitor can continue to get an assistance card.
Families of children with autism and epilepsy criticized the change.
Weekly Disneyland-goer Rebecca Goddard says her sons, age 4 and 6, have autism and the condition makes them aggressive if they stand in line to long.
‘My boys don’t have the cognition to understand why it’s going to be a long wait,’ Goddard told the Register. ‘There are so few things for my boys that bring them utter joy and happiness – to mess with it just makes me sad.’
Disney consulted with disability groups including Autism Speaks on the change, which they say brings them ‘in line with the rest of our industry.’
Autism Speaks Southern California executive director Matt Asner said he understood the current policy wasn’t working.
‘Change is difficult,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want it to change, but I understand there was an issue that needed to be dealt with.’