Disneyland’s plan to cut down on disability cheats


Disney theme parks have seen the use of their disability services program skyrocket in the last five years. Is it because cheaters are making use of the program to avoid what the majority of park-goers simply endure — the ride queue?

For years, park-goers have aired suspicions online about the program being abused. And now Disney seems to be responding.

This week, the company “reset” elements of the Disability Access Services system, whose use has tripled since 2019, a Disney spokesperson confirmed to The Times.

Shannon McEvoy says she knows some people have tried to misuse the system.

Over the last four years, the Florida-based travel agent has booked specialized vacations for families and individuals with a variety of disabilities and needs.

McEvoy has become a go-to resource for Orlando-area trips, particularly Disney World, planning about 100 or so vacations annually, she said.

She added that she knows Disney’s Disability Access Service “inside and out” and works with clients who have mobility impairments, autism spectrum disorders, celiac disease and other issues.

The typical questions McEnvoy receives from clients center on the use of scooters and wagons, strollers and DAS passes, which cut down on wait times at the park for special-needs visitors.

The work is particularly fulfilling, said McEvoy, who suffers from gluten intolerance and knows the rigor of planning meals at theme parks where pizza and churros are king.

McEvoy’s success, however, has attracted recent “troubling requests” from would-be clients.

“I’ve had healthy people reach out and ask how they can get a DAS service pass and guest pass, and they don’t have a particular disability,” McEvoy said. “It’s sad these people are trying to game a system that is near and dear to my heart.”

On Tuesday, Disney also seemed to acknowledge something was amiss as it incorporated changes in the 11-year-old program that, according to the Disney spokesperson, has become the most popular at its parks in Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim.

The announced changes will go into effect May 20 at Disney World and June 18 at Disneyland.

They include:

  • The parks will hire more cast members overall and provide more training so additional workers can help guests better understand Disney’s accessibility offerings.
  • Disney will work with health professionals from Health Alliance, a health insurer, as needed to determine the eligibility of DAS applicants.
  • The DAS verification will be extended, with passes expiring in 120 days instead of 60.
  • Pass party sizes will be limited to three people plus the pass holder.

The DAS program is “intended to accommodate a small percentage” of park-goers with developmental disabilities and who are unable to wait in line, according to Disneyland Guest Services.

A number of media reports about the changes in the DAS program rules have pointed to the punishment for people who make false claims when applying for a DAS pass: a permanent ban from Disneyland and Disney World, with tickets, annual passes and other park services immediately revoked.

That policy is not new, however, and is already in effect. It’s explained in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of Disney’s Disability Access Service webpage.

A DAS pass doesn’t automatically place the recipient at the front of the line. Instead, it provides guests with a return time for an attraction, where they’ll be placed in the line with those who have paid extra to skip normal wait times.

Currently, Disneyland guests wanting a DAS pass have two methods for applying: They can speak online with a park representative two to 30 days before arrival, or a guest relations employee can meet with an applicant in person.

The Disney spokesperson, who declined to give specific numbers on the growth in the use of DAS passes, said that the rise “is tricky.”

Since the program’s introduction, park-goers have griped on Reddit and Disney forums about people whom they suspected of abusing the system, while debates have raged over the merits of extending DAS passes to people suffering from health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and nerve pain.

Some people who’ve obtained DAS passes, however, worry about the revised approach.

McEvoy said she was concerned Disney would begin to deny passes to some people with disabilities who’ve relied on them. She also said that park officials had been unclear about the steps they would employ to crack down on abuse.

“I’m worried they’re going to take a hard stance and enforce what’s on their website, which is only for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities,” she said. “That’s not fair for people with multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy or something along those lines, where waiting in a traditional line will certainly diminish an experience.”

A Disneyland spokesperson said park personnel “wouldn’t speculate about an individual’s eligibility,” while also acknowledging “not all accessibility services will be available to all people with disabilities.”

Midwesterner Sydney C., who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retaliation from Disney fans, says she is a frequent Disneyland and Disney World guest.

Sydney, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, chronicles her experiences using the DAS system on TikTok.

She said she was grateful Disney was extending the verification validation process to 120 days, which “cuts down on the anxiety faced” by people with disabilities in having to continually apply.

One change that bothers Sydney is the looming reduction in the party size allowed to escort a DAS passholder in line. She said Disney “allowed for five or six people to accompany” a DAS passholder previously.

The Disney spokesperson said the company would accommodate everyone in an immediate family and that the reduction was meant to trim the number of friends and non-nuclear family members in line.

Sydney said that some of the backlash Disney parks had been facing over the last couple of days had come from its inability to “properly communicate what’s been changed.”

Alterations to the DAS program surprised Boulder, Colo., resident Lauren Rosenberg.

In November 2022, Rosenberg and her husband flew with their 5-year-old daughter, Sophie, for a dream Disney World three-day stay.

The highlight for Sophie was the Frozen Ever After ride at EPCOT modeled after the smash animation hit “Frozen,” according to Rosenberg.

Sophie, a fan of characters Elsa and Olaf, was a recipient of the DAS pass. The young girl was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis in March 2020. The disease is a type of arthritis that can cause “persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness” in children, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Rosenberg said the arthritis has affected Sophie’s bones and kidneys, which leads her to fatigue quickly.

“When I think back to that trip,” Rosenberg said, “there’s no way Sophie could have done this without the pass.”

Rosenberg said any changes to her child’s eligibility would likely make her “reconsider” a return trip.

“It was a magical vacation, one we’ll never forget,” she said. “I hope the pass will continue to help others to enjoy their magic moments.”


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