Disney Halts Program That Allows Disabled Guests to Cut in Line

Disneyland Ride Mickey - H 2013
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Disneyland Ride Mickey - H 2013

Officials have reworked access for handicapped visitors to Disneyland and Walt Disney World after a New York Post investigation revealed wealthy Manhattanites abusing the practice.

Disney is revamping the way guests with disabilities can access rides at its theme parks, four months after a splashy New York Post investigation revealed wealthy Manhattan moms were hiring disabled “guides” to accompany them on their trips to Disney World.

The guides, some hired through agencies for up to $1,000 per day, would pose as family members, enabling an entire group of people to go to the head of the line.

“This is how the 1 percent does Disney,” one woman who employed the practice told the Post.  The day after the Post piece was published, Disney said it was “thoroughly reviewing the situation” and vowed to take “appropriate steps to deter” the activity.

As of Oct. 9, handicapped guests will no longer be able to use "Guest Assistance Cards” to immediately skip ahead of others in long lines at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. A Disney insider acknowledged to THR that the program is being scrapped due to "abuse of the system," and that in devising a new plan Disney sought the guidance of various organizations that represent handicapped citizens.

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The new program will assign reserved times that will be based on the length of the lines at the various attractions, loosely based on the popular Fastpass system that is available to all park-goers -- though not at all attractions.

Under the new plan, each special-needs guest will be issued a "Disability Access Service Card" to be used at kiosks throughout the park to make reservations at all rides and attractions. If the wait at Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, is one hour, the guest can reserve a slot at the head of the line 60 minutes in the future. As with the old system, the guest can then board the attraction through a backdoor entrance.

"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," Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said. "We engaged disability groups, such as Autism Speaks, to develop this new process, which is in line with the rest of our industry."

E-mail: paul.bond@thr.com