Have a Disability? Disney World Says Get In Line

Wednesday is the first day of Walt Disney World and Disneyland's new handicap-access policy. Under the previous policy, visitors with disabilities were granted guest assistance cards that they could use to more quickly access rides, often by bypassing the lines. However, after publicized reports of able-bodied people abusing this policy by hiring disabled people to pose as family members, Disney decided to change its tact.

Under the new system, guests with disability access cards will be issued tickets at attractions with the specific time they can enter based on the anticipated wait time. They may then return to the attraction at the scheduled time and bypass the queue. The system will hopefully dissuade those who have abused the policy while still allowing easy access to handicapped guests.

This new policy, however, still raises many questions. For example, why did Disney not keep its original policy and demand proof of disability? According to spokeswoman Suzi Brown, confidentiality laws prevent Disney from requiring visitors to provide such information. Brown said, "We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests. 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." [For more on Disney's accommodations for guests with disabilities, click here.]

Some guests support changing the policy to reduce abuse. However, many are still concerned about the challenges this policy creates for the disabled. Many guests cite scheduling as a primary concern. Some regular guests have suggested that they will likely visit less frequently because of the increased strain and pre-meditated planning involved.

Visitors are waiting to see the new policy in action. According to blogger Ellen Seidman who writes about having children with special needs, "Disney has an admirable history of accommodating guests with special needs. There are wheelchairs and Electric Convenience Vehicles available for rent, special dietary offerings at most restaurants, designated relief areas for service animals, plus options for guests with hearing and visual impairment. I can't imagine that Disney would ever leave kids with special needs in the (pixie) dust."

Disney's heart seems to be in the right place. The company wants to simplify access for those who really need the help, while preventing people from taking advantage of the system and of handicapped people. However, Disney must be careful that in trying to create a parity of experience, it doesn't dampen the experience of its handicapped customers.

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