When creating Disneyland, and later Walt Disney World, Walt wanted a place adults could enjoy alongside children. Where the fun would be enjoyed by everyone. One of the keystones of Disney has always been inclusion. In keeping with that ethos Disney tries hard to accommodate all guests and in particular those with a disability. Of course even Disney can struggle to deliver on this every time and in every situation. The important thing is their intention to try to achieve inclusion. Trying to provide a magical place for those guests with a range of disabilities should be and is a priority for Disney. Help for disabled guests is varied and sometimes tailored to suit individual needs. For this week’s post I thought I would share our personal experience of using the Disabled Access Pass at Disney World.
For most visitors to Disney World disabled access provision isn’t a consideration. But for some of us it is essential. Planning a Disney holiday whatever your personal circumstances is an absolute must. Effective planning ensures you get the most out of what is generally an expensive holiday. This is especially true for visitors with disabilities.
When planning a vacation with a disabled guest it’s important to contact Disney and discuss any concerns or questions you may have in advance. Each person is unique and their requirements differ. Disney are there to help and try hard to do so. Contacting them in advance and discussing specific requirements will really be of benefit. In my experience, and from talking to others, both Disney World and Disney Cruises offer specific support which can be easily accessed on request to ensure you have the best vacation.
Wheelchair and mobility scooter provision and access support on rides, attractions and transportation is in place, well organised and considered. My son does not use a wheelchair so we don’t have first hand experience but we’ve talked to other disabled guests whose overall experience is generally positive.
Disabled Access Pass
Disney also recently introduced a Disabled Access Pass. The Access Pass helps visitors whose disabilities mean they struggle to wait in a conventional queue. The disabled access system was brought in because the previous system was being abused. It’s hard to fathom that some people would abuse a system dedicated to helping disabled people but unfortunately they did.
How it Works
The new disabled access card, though at Disney World it can be a card or added to your Magicband, is available at Guest Services at any park. The disabled access system gives the disabled person the opportunity to visit a chosen attraction and request a return time. The return time is determined by the stand-by wait time at the chosen attraction. The disabled guest can then return to the attraction and join the fast pass queue at the stated return time or anytime afterwards. Only one return time can be requested for one attraction at a time. But the attraction can be switched and a new wait time requested for an alternative.
To help disabled guests further a return time can be requested by any member of the family or accompanying friend. It does not have to be the disabled guest. In order to ride the attraction the disabled guest must be with the returning party.
Guests wanting to utilise the Disabled Access Pass are not required to provide medical evidence of their disability. They are required to discuss their condition with guest services to help ensure the Access Pass is appropriate for them. The guest wanting to use the Disabled Access Pass also needs to be photographed. If this is a problem alternative registration without the photo is possible.
The disabled access system in my opinion is excellent. We have a child with cerebral palsy who can walk and who refuses to use a wheelchair. The system, which was thoughtfully processed and added to our magicband at guest services, allowed our son to be accommodated but not treated differently. He has problems standing in queues, it is really tiring and stressful for him. The return time allows him to sit and wait his turn close by. It does enough to accommodate disabled guests but doesn’t single them out.
The cast members were also really discreet and thoughtful in dealing with us. I was very impressed with the system, though I admit to being sceptical in advance. I had read conflicting reports online. Some reviews were from guests who had experienced the old system and felt the new was not as practical. We did not experience the old system but felt the revised disabled access system was appropriate for our needs. We also used the fastpass system, planning them in advance, and combined it with the disabled access system.
The only area we really did struggle with was in meeting characters. Where queues were long we just had to miss out on those opportunities. I would really encourage Disney to find a way to include the disabled access return time at character meet and greet queues. The character meetings are such a big part of a Disney visit it seems a shame that this isn’t already the case.