New Disney disability rule goes into effect

Change comes after guests paid handicapped tour guides to avoid long lines

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Disney on Wednesday implemented a major change to its policy for guests with disabilities.

Disney says the change will make sure its disabled guests aren't exploited and are treated fairly.

The rule was supposed to help people with disabilities and allow them to zip to the front of long lines at Disney parks, but some without disabilities were cheating the system.

Months ago, a New York Post report revealed wealthy families had been hiring handicapped tour guides to help them jump the lines. In a letter, Disney said,  "Unfortunately, our current program for providing access to attractions for guests with disabilities has been abused and exploited to such an extent that we are no longer able to effectively sustain it in its present form."

The new program will work more like a Fast Pass.  Families will now get a return time instead of being escorted to the front of the line. Some fear that people with disabilities are being punished thanks to the cheaters.

The new Disability Access Card rules are broken down on the Disney website as follows:

  • The DAS card is designed to accommodate guests who aren't able to wait in a conventional queue due to a disability.
  • People in wheelchairs will not be issued DAS cards
  • The DAS card will be issued at Guest Relations. Guests must register and get their photo taken. The DAS is good for up to 14 days. The card will also indicate how many people are in the travel party. Disney is forbidden by law from asking for proof of disability and will take guests at their word.
  • The DAS-holder or any member of their party must take the card to an attraction entrance to receive a return time based on the attraction's current wait time.
  • The DAS-holder must be present to ride, along with any members of their travel party
  • DAS-holders have all day to ride after their return time. However, they cannot be issued a new ride time until the previous one arrives.
  • DAS-holders can also use the regular Fastpass system
  • Guests in wheelchairs do NOT need a DAS card. If the attraction has a wheelchair-accessible queue, they must wait with everyone else, otherwise they will be issued a return time based on the current attraction wait time.
  • These rules will not apply to wish-granting organizations that coordinate trips for children with life-threatening illnesses

"Waiting in the line, being in the heat, it just creates way too many challenges and puts a lot more work for the people who have disabilities," said Sue Ventura, President of Easter Seals Florida.

Easter Seals organization helps people with disabilities. Ventura said that she is happy Disney is addressing the abuse, but says there are flaws.

"That problem needs to be addressed and it's wonderful that they have but it is definitely a work in progress," said Ventura.

"It's not necessarily fair, but if it's needed to stop people from abusing the system, then that's fair enough, I suppose," said Aaron Ward, a Disney guest.

The letter also says Disney will be fine-tuning the new program to mitigate the current abuse and each disability will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

"I think people take advantage of the system, but when I heard about people hiring people with disabilities, I was appalled," said Theresa Tenace who said she often visits Disney.

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