DAS Defenders Petition Reaches 16K Signatures as Disabled Individuals Feel Excluded From Disney Parks

Shannen Ace

Partners Statue at Magic Kingdom

DAS Defenders Petition Reaches 16K Signatures as Disabled Individuals Feel Excluded From Disney Parks

Disney’s updated Disability Access Service (DAS) went into effect at Walt Disney World earlier this month and will go into effect at Disneyland Resort on June 18. Updates to DAS were ostensibly to prevent non-disabled guests from taking advantage of it after “overuse” of the service in the past few years, but disabled individuals are sharing how they now feel excluded from Disney Parks.

DAS Troubles at Walt Disney World

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. A crowd of guests is in front of the castle, some holding Mickey balloons. A petition for Disney to revise their DAS updates now has 16,000 signatures.

A group called DAS Defenders started a petition against the updates when they were announced. The petition, called “Stop excluding disabled people from Disneyland and Disney World with new policy,” has now reached 16,000 signatures (as of Thursday).

In a press release, DAS Defenders wrote, “The updated DAS program now primarily caters to developmental disabilities, but troublingly, it has even excluded individuals with Autism. This new policy neglects a wide range of disabled individuals, including those with cancer, PTSD, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, seizures, heart conditions, and many other visible and invisible disabilities.”

Disney’s suggestions to those denied DAS include asking Cast Members at each ride for a return time or restroom assistance. This leaves decisions up to Cast Members who frequently lack adequate training and, according to DAS Defenders, guests have sometimes not been able to find Cast for help.

Colorful amusement park ride with rocket-shaped vehicles in the foreground and a fairytale castle with blue turrets in the background under a clear blue sky, capturing the magic of Disneyland, where summer discounts offer an even more enchanting experience.

DAS Defenders calls suggestions like these “impractical and insensitive” in a letter to Disney executives Bob Iger, CEO; Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Experiences; Ken Potrock, President, Disneyland Resort; Jeff Vahle, President, Walt Disney World Resort; Alannah Hall-Smith, Executive Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs; and Tami Garcia, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion.

Requiring guests with medical conditions to leave and return to the line could lead to discriminatory hate, harassment, potentially violent situations, and unnecessary negative attention from fellow park-goers who are not aware of, and shouldn’t have to be aware of, one’s personal condition. This will add even more unnecessary and humiliating challenges for those with disabilities.

Letter to Disney

DAS Defenders also noted that suggesting rider switch doesn’t consider disabled guests traveling alone, with other disabled individuals, or with a carer who should be with them at all times. Rider switch can also “further isolate disabled people from group and family experiences in a world where we are already frequently left out and alienated.”

DAS Defenders calls out the limits on the number of guests that can be attached to someone’s DAS pass. The limit is now three guests in addition to the disabled individual, with some exceptions made for minors and immediate family members.

Additionally, the limits on family size can pose an additional burden on families that rely on the assistance of family members to care for a disabled child and can create distress for a disabled child who may not understand why certain family members are excluded.

Letter to Disney

During their virtual calls with supposedly trained Cast Members and medical professionals, disabled individuals have received insensitive and ableist comments.

Additionally, guests have received insensitive advice, such as being told Lupus is not a disability, that they should not go to theme parks at all, or that they should buy the paid Genie+ pass instead of receiving any disability accommodation. These issues highlight serious flaws in the system, raising concerns about Disney World’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

DAS Defenders press release

DAS Defenders says in their letter that “working with health professionals seems like a step in the right direction because it takes some of the onus away from cast members with less specialized knowledge” but this “also opens the door to discriminatory judgments based on race, gender, weight, and more, as the medical system is known to have bias.”

DAS does not require guests to provide medical documentation proving their conditions or symptoms like the IBCCES Accessibility Card used by Universal Orlando Resort and other theme parks. But DAS Defenders is asking for this option, writing, “This would better assist those with multiple, rare, and complex conditions in getting needed accommodations while also deterring fraudulent claims.”

Close-up of a hand holding a Mickey Mouse-themed Disney World annual pass, with the blurry Cinderella Castle in the background.

Guests are required to purchase non-refundable Disney Parks tickets or passes before applying for DAS, which “forces families to spend money without any guarantee that their disability accommodation needs will be met.”

Disney has taught us that in the face of injustice, one must fight back until there’s a happy ending, that good always wins. Yet, the recent revisions to the DAS program stand as a stark contradiction to this ethos. Excluding individuals with disabilities beyond developmental ones, such as cancer patients (including childhood cancers), veterans and survivors with PTSD, narcoleptics, POTS sufferers, multiple sclerosis patients, individuals with Parkinson’s, ALS, immune disorders, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, low-vision individuals, panic disorders, oxygen tank users, and those with brain, heart, or lung conditions, and rare diseases, among others, is not only exclusionary but discriminatory. By excluding a broad range of disabilities that cannot tolerate lines for medical reasons, Disney is putting individuals in jeopardizing situations.

Letter to Disney

Another frequent suggestion by Disney is for disabled guests to purchase Genie+. DAS Defenders notes that Genie+ “sells out, costs extra, doesn’t include all rides, and penalizes disabled individuals if they miss their allocated time, whereas DAS offers more flexibility.” They also suggest guests rent scooters or wheelchairs.

Further, disabled individuals already face higher living expenses compared to their able-bodied counterparts. Why should accommodations at Disney parks come with an additional financial strain? By requiring disabled individuals to pay extra for accommodations like Genie+ or a scooter rental, Disney is placing an unfair and disproportionate burden on those with disabilities.

Letter to Disney

DAS Defenders continues to add that scooters and wheelchairs don’t accommodate everyone with mobility issues, as some “conditions necessitate a combination of walking and resting to manage, making the act of sitting for extended periods just as harmful as standing for too long.”

These aids also don’t accommodate issues like heat and sun sensitivity, severe allergies, PTSD, and POTS. And, like Genie+, scooters cost extra and often sell out. DAS Defenders states, “If scooters are to be considered a legitimate accommodation, they should be provided free of charge or at a low rate and readily available to those who truly benefit from them.”

DAS Defenders shared dozens of stories by guests who are no longer eligible for the service. Read a few below.

My husband served in the military for 20 years and received a traumatic brain injury. He was classified by the VA as 100% disabled. He experiences PTSD as well as severe and constant memory loss. There are very few places he is comfortable going as crowds, banging noises, etc. scare him and he can’t go places alone. I am his constant caregiver. One of the few places he gets enjoyment out of these days is Disney World. It has always been his safe place, his comfort zone. Without DAS he won’t be able to go anymore. He can’t stand in lines. He can’t be in close quarters with people. Their new option of someone standing in line while he stays out won’t work. This man served this country for 20 years putting his life on the line more times than anyone can imagine and Disney now says it doesn’t matter and he is not disabled enough to use DAS. It’s unfair, it’s disheartening and out right offensive.

Cindy, Florida

I have been in treatment and living with stage 4 breast cancer for almost 6 years. I certainly don’t look sick. Upon the advice of other women also in treatment, I obtained a DAS pass. In my two years now as a frequent visitor, I would never enjoy the park without it. Treatment causes a myriad of side effects, and the most difficult to deal with is fatigue. I don’t do full days in the park. With DAS, I am able to plan rides in a logical order and show up when I’m feeling good. Sometimes I will leave the park to take a nap, or find a cool place in the park to sit and drink water. With DAS, I can enjoy the park at my own pace. I have good days and bad days, but my Disney days are the best. Without DAS, my Disney days are over.

Jennifer, Florida
Guests lined up in a room of silver decorations and purple light, part of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind queue

The “health professional” was very robotic. I noted I have a handicap decal and the accessibility pass at both Universal and Seaworld. I told them that I had fallen in the Lightning Lane at Guardians because I started to faint. I noted that once an episode starts, I cannot stop it. It happened before I had DAS and my heart rate was 196 and remained that high for 2 hours. I was denied the DAS pass and offered to leave the line. At the end of the call I was told I can always purchase Genie+.

Alexandra, Florida

We had a doctor from the DAS department tell my husband “if you have issues that bad maybe you have no business being at a theme park”

Private group

I was passed to a “medical professional” who in less words told me adults can’t be on the spectrum and my disabilities were not valid for DAS, which I have had for years. I only spoke to the medical professional for 5 min [sic], I was very shaken up, and it may sound stupid but being told the things I have battled my entire life are not valid was very demeaning. The cast member told me when I calm down (I was rapidly spiraling to a meltdown) to call back and ask for a coordinator. I reached back out and spoke to a coordinator — just to give feedback on the process — and after talking to the coordinator she approved my DAS (I never asked for it, or demanded it — I just explained my interactions and said as a guest I would rather submit documentation from MY doctor than have some random person disregard my medical history in a five minute one sided conversation. My feeling was the 3rd party medical team is being overly harsh and seem to imply in interactions that adults can’t possibly have sensory or other processing issues.


I tried to ask what happens if I buy the park tickets for my family and don’t qualify thus meaning I can’t go. I was told the tickets are non refundable but could be changed to a different day. When I mentioned changing them to a different day wouldn’t help because I would still have the same disabilities then she disconnected the chat

Private group

In regards to able-bodied guests abusing the system, DAS Defenders writes that “punishing disabled individuals for the actions of able-bodied individuals who abuse the system is not a solution.”

They request the following from Disney:

  • “Disney revises its Disability Access Service (DAS) program to include a diverse range of disabilities, not just developmental disabilities, incorporating the option to provide documentation.”
  • “Devices and programs that are offered as an “accommodation” must be free or low cost, abundantly available, and only given to those who will truly benefit from them.”
  • “Train all cast members in anti-ableism and invisible disabilities.”
  • “Party size should be considered on a case-by-case basis.”
  • “Reduce prices on Genie+ and offer guests a limited number of free passes for certain attractions to reduce pressure for people to cheat the system in the first place.”
  • “Additional disability-friendly accommodations should be added to the park including return times for character meet-and-greets with long lines and increased parade and nighttime spectacular viewing areas for disabled guests who cannot stand.”
  • “Meet with us, a group of actually disabled park guests, to learn about the true needs of disabled guests before new policies are introduced.”

Read DAS Defenders’ full press release, their letter to Disney executives, and over 50 stories of disability exclusion.

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