Published September 24, 2013
Disney theme parks are cracking down on illegal line jumpers.
People with disabilities will no longer go straight to the front of lines at Disneyland and Walt Disney World after growing abuse of the system, park officials said.
Under the change, visitors will be issued tickets at Guest Relations with a return time and a shorter wait similar to the FastPass system that's offered to everyone. Only one reservation can be made at a time.
The system "certainly has been problematic, and we wanted to curb some of the abuse of this system," Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register.
Currently, visitors unable to wait in the regular line or those who need a wheelchair or motorized scooter can bring up to six friends or family members to a special entrance. No proof of disability is required -- either with the old or new system -- because confidentiality laws allow Disney to ask visitors a limited amount of questions.
The move was a response to the use of disabled "tour guides" who charge money to accompany able-bodied guests and allow them to avoid long lines. In May, the New York Post reported that some paid up to $1000 a day to hire a motorized scooter-bound guide to pose as a family member so they and their kids can jump to the front of the lines.
"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," Brown said in a statement.
The change takes effect Oct. 9 for guests with park-issued disability cards. Disney officials said more details will be released after park employees are briefed on the new rules.
Some families of children with epilepsy and autism criticized the change, saying some kids' disabilities just don't allow them to wait in standard lines.
Rebecca Goddard said she takes her sons, ages 4 and 6, to Disneyland once a week. They have autism and can't stand in lines longer than a few minutes before they start pushing other people.
"My boys don't have the cognition to understand why it's going to be a long wait," Goddard told the Register. "There are so few things for my boys that bring them utter joy and happiness — to mess with it just makes me sad."
An online petition, started by Kim McClain, a mom whose daughter has special needs, calls on Disney to keep its current policy and has already received over 22,000 signatures.
The advocacy group Autism Speaks consulted with Walt Disney Co. officials on the change and urged parents to see how it unfolds.
"Change is difficult," said Matt Asner, executive director of the Southern California chapter. "I didn't want it to change, but I understand there was an issue that needed to be dealt with."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.