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Disney Changes Its Disabled Guest Access Policy

In light of abuse by disabled "tour guides," guests with special needs will now wait in somewhat shorter lines than able bodies guests.

Chris Queen


September 24, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Long line at It's A Small World.

Not long ago, I reported on the abuse of Disney Parks’ disabled guest access policy. Under the policy in place, able bodied guests hired disabled “tour guides” to get them to the front of lines. Disney has reviewed the policy, and they are making changes effective October 9:

Under the change, visitors will be issued tickets with a return time and a shorter wait similar to the FastPass system that’s offered to everyone.

Currently, visitors unable to wait in the regular line can get backdoor access to rides or go through the exit and wait in a shorter line.

The system “certainly has been problematic, and we wanted to curb some of the abuse of this system,” Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register.

The move was a response to the phenomenon of disabled “tour guides” who charge money, sometimes hundreds of dollars, to accompany able-bodied guests and allow them to avoid long lines. Others who don’t have a disability have been able to get an assistance card since no proof of disability is required.

“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,” Brown said in a statement.

This news comes as a welcome development to those of us longtime Disney fans who have witnessed such abuses. However, the policy has upset some parents of children with special needs.

Rebecca Goddard said she takes her sons, ages 4 and 6, to Disneyland once a week. They have autism and can’t stand in lines longer than a few minutes before they start pushing other people.

“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.”

Advocacy organizations are taking more of a wait-and-see approach to the change.

The advocacy group Autism Speaks consulted with Walt Disney Co. officials on the change and urged parents to see how it unfolds.

“Change is difficult,” said Matt Asner, executive director of the Southern California chapter. “I didn’t want it to change, but I understand there was an issue that needed to be dealt with.”

I for one am glad to see Disney take steps to combat the abuse. I’ll be at Walt Disney World the week the changes take effect, and I will be watching to see how if affects the daily operations at the parks.

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered office manager for an IT managed services provider, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website,

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All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
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Wonder if there will be any affect when you hire a paid Disney employee as your tour guide. They run you right to the front of the line, and know if there is a problem or delay almost instantly. No way can any of the disabled guides plug into that system.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmmm....a mother has two boys with autism who push people if they have to it me or is something suspect about her story? Sounds to me like she may have a discipline problem she's avoiding and instead medicating and coddling. Or maybe she does have two autistic children, I'm not an expert on autism but I have seen mothers blame behavioral problems on "social disorders" or the widely diagnosed "ADD" or "autism". This is what happens when doctors diagnose everyone with a disease...people stop believing you.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
As the father of a child with autism and someone's who active in the local autism community, I find her story perfectly plausible. I couldn't take my son to Disney because he couldn't tolerate the lines and sensory overload.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
WTB an edit button...As the father of a child with autism and someone who's active in the local autism community....
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps they DO have autism...if that's the case, I'd question the wisdom of taking them to Disneyland EVERY WEEK, especially if waiting in lines (which let's face it, is what you DO there) is that much of a problem. I'd suggest the mother find a different-but-similar venue with fewer lines. She might save a few dollars, too. Every week would get mighty pricey.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know what Disneyland is like, but when I lived in Orlando, you could get a annual pass for Disney World for about $400.00 which included free parking. Going weekly for a resident is not out of the ordinary.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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