Disneyland clamps down on visitors who pretend to be disabled to jump queues

The popular Sleeping Beauty Castle attraction in Disneyland, California
Disneyland California's Disability Access Service scheme will be tightened to limit abuse - AaronP/Bauer-Griffin

Disneyland has announced it is overhauling its rules because visitors are abusing the system by pretending to be disabled in order to skip lengthy queues.

The theme park’s Disability Access Service (DAS), which handles the accessibility needs of guests, is rolling out new procedures. These will require disabled guests to go through a more rigorous registration process and will limit which disabilities qualify for quicker access to rides.

In the past five years, the number of Disneyland-goers who have requested help from DAS has tripled, the park said.

Len Testa, the president of the trip planning website Touring Plans and co-author of the Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, told The Washington Post: “The system has always had some level of questionable use, if not abuse.”

The system currently allows guests to reserve a time to arrive at a ride and to skip the queue when they get there, avoiding waits that can be more than an hour.

Until now, the programme granted access to those with a breadth of needs and was not explicit in its wording. Disney said it was intended for “guests who have difficulty tolerating extended waits in a conventional queue environment due to a disability”.

Crowds attend Disneyland for the opening of a new attraction in 2020
Disneyland's new disability rules will be introduced on May 20 at Walt Disney World in Florida and on June 18 at Disneyland in California, pictured - Jeff Gritchen/Getty Images

But the new guidelines, posted this week, say that the disability access program is “intended to accommodate a small percentage of guests who, due to a developmental disability like autism or similar, are unable to wait in a conventional queue for an extended period or time”.

Mr Testa said that Disney “knew that the system was under more stress than it could handle”.

He referenced an incident where he overheard a man recommend DAS to a friend, reassuring him that Disney did not ask guests requesting the service too many questions. “This is why we don’t have nice things,” Mr Testa said.

Disney has warned that there will be consequences for those caught misusing the DAS programme.

“The guest will be permanently barred from entering Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort, and any previously purchased annual passes, magic key passes, tickets and other park products and services will be forfeited and not refunded,” its website said.

California and Florida

Disney’s California and Florida parks are both tweaking their disability access programmes.

The benefits of DAS will be limited to a guest’s “immediate family”, or a group of no more than four unrelated people, according to Disney’s website. Previously, up to six guests, including the person with the disability, were allowed to use one pass to move to the front of the queue for rides.

Park officials will now require guests to attend a virtual video meeting with Inspire Health Alliance experts ahead of their trip in order to enrol in the programme.

Health professionals will then evaluate whether the guest meets the requirements for a DAS pass.

The rules will be introduced on May 20 at Walt Disney World in Florida and on June 18 at Disneyland in California.

Disney said that visitors should check their website to explore the “suite of services for guests with disabilities that match their needs”.

Easy access to toilets

The parks will also introduce options for those who might struggle with staying in lines, such as a “return to queue” process for those who need quick and easy access to toilet facilities.

More Disney staff members will be on hand to guide guests in need of assistance. They are likely to include sign language interpreters, as well as handheld devices that provide visual descriptions for guests and braille guidebooks and maps.

Unlike other theme parks in the US, including Six Flags, disabled visitors will not need documentation to verify their status, but will be assessed by health professionals from Inspire Health Alliance.