Columbians upset with changes to Disney’s policy on disability passes


Rising above: This ornate monument to the world of Disney towers above Disneyland. The park recently announced that they will no longer provide disability passes.

Guest Author

Rising above: This ornate monument to the world of Disney towers above Disneyland. The park recently announced that they will no longer provide disability passes.
This ornate monument to the world of Disney towers above Disneyland. The park recently announced that they will no longer provide disability passes. Photo courtesy of Alex Schroeder
More than 35,000 people have signed a recent petition opposing a new disability assistance policy in Disney Parks, enacted Oct. 9.  Guests will now receive a Disability Access Service Card, which “allows guests with disabilities—as well as an allotted number of people from his or her party—to schedule a return time at a specific attraction that is comparable to the wait time when they first arrive,” according to the Walt Disney World website.
In the past, customers with disabilities could receive a Guest Assistance Card (GAC), giving them the opportunity to enter the attraction through an alternate entrance with shorter wait times and easier accessibility. In a recent letter to disability advocacy groups, Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations in the United States and France, explained the reason for the change.
“Unfortunately,” Crofton wrote, “our current program for providing access to attractions for guests with disabilities has been abused and exploited to such an extent that we are no longer able to effectively sustain it in its present form.”
Specifically, this change comes after a group of Manhattan moms hired disabled tour guides to take them through the parks and use their GACs to bypass the regular lines. The New York Post quotes one mom as saying, “You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge. This is how the one percent does Disney.”
Despite the decreased potential for abuse, Columbia parents are upset about the implementation of the new passes. Lisa Kent, who has a daughter that benefited from the old program, said while she believes the new policy sounds helpful, it simply won’t work out for many families with special situations.
“It just puts so much restriction on it,” Kent said. “It doesn’t seem like really a whole lot of extra benefit anyway.”
Kent isn’t the only one upset with the change. Though Nicole Morris, a chairperson for the Columbia division of the PTA, isn’t affected by the new passes, she still believes the changes will do more harm than good. But she doesn’t believe the new policy will necessarily prevent the misuse of passes in the future, either.
“I think it is a shame that Disney has had to come to a decision such as this,” Morris said. “It will make it more difficult for those who are abusing the system, but at the expense of those whom the program was developed to enjoy the magical experience. They should not be the ones paying the price.”
According to Inside the Magic, a website that provides information on Disney Parks and Resorts, many disability advocacy groups such as Autism Speaks have also voiced opinions on the new policy, saying it will hinder guests with special needs’ abilities to enjoy the parks. Laura Rod, a special education teacher at Gentry Middle School, said she doubted many of her students would be able to handle the long lines that they would now have to face in Disney Parks.
“I think it’s wrong, but I think there’s got to be a way that you could… make sure the person that’s disabled really belongs with that [family],” Rod said. “I mean… there’s always gonna be people out there trying to get away with something. Maybe with the peer pressure… those people might think twice about what they did.”
One of Rod’s former students now attends RBHS as a freshman. Dan Nemec said he used the old policy in the past. The lines “were very long,” he said. “I liked the short lines [better].”
His mother, Mary Nemec, agreed, saying she doesn’t believe the new policy would be able to help her son like the old policy did. There are still those at RBHS who see the new change as a positive one. Leah Maxey, a sophomore, said she believes the change in the program will make queue lines fair and hopefully help with the recent abuse.
“Just because they have a disability that doesn’t mean they can’t wait in [longer] lines,” Maxey said. “I think [the new passes] will be better since you can’t really abuse them.”
A Disneyland Resort spokeswoman told The Rock that along with the new policy, Disney Parks will continue to provide services to ensure guest’s individual needs are met. If a family believes the new passes won’t be able to accommodate their specific needs, the source said Disney will work especially with them to design a new plan in order to better provide for that family.
By Nicole Schroeder