Everything to Know About Disney's Disability Access Service Changes — and Why They're Dividing Fans

The updates to the DAS program will go into effect on May 20 at Walt Disney World and June 18 at Disneyland

<p>David Roark/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty </p> Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

David Roark/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty

Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

Disney is updating its Disability Access Services (DAS), and reactions to the change from fans have been mixed.

On April 9, the company announced changes to their policies for guests using DAS, which has historically allowed guests with various disabilities to avoid waiting in long lines that may be difficult for them while visiting the parks. The changes will take effect on May 20 at Walt Disney World and June 18 at Disneyland.

According to Disney's website, DAS passes will now be reserved for "guests who, due to a developmental disability like autism or similar conditions, are unable to wait in a conventional queue for an extended period of time." They've also reduced the number of people who can accompany a guest using DAS to skip the line. Parties must be made up of immediate family members only and a maximum of 4 individuals.

While the change means DAS will be automatically availability to a much more limited group of people, Disney says it is simultaneously expanding other support options for guests who require assistance navigating attraction queues. One of those updates is extending the DAS enrollment period for eligible guests from 60 days to 120 days prior to a visit to the parks.

Disney is also planning to work with a team of specially trained health professionals from Inspire Health Alliance to assist Cast Members, when necessary, with the conversations needed to determine a guest’s eligibility for DAS on a case by case basis.

Disneyland officials told PEOPLE last week, "Disney is dedicated to providing a great experience for all Guests, including those with disabilities, which is why we are committed to delivering a wide range of innovative support services aimed at helping our Guests with disabilities have a wonderful time when visiting our theme parks."

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<p>Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg via Getty</p> Stock image of Walt Disney World theme park and resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg via Getty

Stock image of Walt Disney World theme park and resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Related: Disney Fan with Eye Disorder Says She No Longer Feels 'Welcomed' at Park After Disability Guidelines Change (Exclusive)

Since the announcement, people have taken to social media to share their thoughts on the news.

One content creator and accessibility advocate, Natasha Caudill, who was born with a rare eye disorder called achromatopsia, told PEOPLE that while these changes won't stop her from going to the parks, they've affected her view of the company. According to the Cleveland Clinic, her condition limits people's ability to see color vision and also causes other vision issues, such as rapid eye movements. Caudill says she struggles to be in bright light for any period of time and used DAS to wait for rides indoors or in darkened areas.

"I feel like it’s still a little unclear why Disney changed the DAS pass," Caudill, 26, says. "People are speculating that too many people are lying to use the service,"

"I wish Disney was more upfront about the change. Disney World offers such a welcoming atmosphere, but as a disabled person, I just don’t feel as welcome now," she continues.

Hannah Culp also took to TikTok to speak about how the changes will affect her family.

In her video, Culp explains how she uses DAS for her postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which according to the Mayo Clinic causes symptoms including dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

"Now they're saying that because I have a physical limitation due to my POTS and I pass out from standing for long periods of time, I just need a wheelchair.

"That's not an accommodation," she adds. "An accommodation is removing a barrier for access. Telling me to get a wheelchair is telling me to spend $60 on an EVC because there is no way that my puny little biceps that have never pushed a manual wheelchair in their life are going to be able to push it around for 12 miles a day for five days."

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort via Getty Stock image of Disneyland.
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort via Getty Stock image of Disneyland.

Related: Tammy Slaton Posts Throwback Video from When Disney World Was on Her Bucket List: 'I Made It'

Another frequent user of DAS, Jessica Kiss — a doctor and mother of 2 kids with disabilities — shared her complicated thoughts on the updates on TikTok.

Kiss says she feels park-goers who may be abusing the DAS system have made it "almost impossible" for families like hers to use the resource effectively. For instance, for her daughter who has autism.

"The needs of autism can be really complex. Let's say for my older daughter, we have worked up to the fact that we are going to do this thing specifically," Kiss says. "We've primed about how long it's going to be until we get to do those things...we've even talked about the fact that we won't get to go right on the ride," Kiss adds. "But then if we get to the line and we know it's going to be too much for her to handle, now we have to deal with the tantrum or the meltdown."

"I know there's no easy fix to this problem, but it's not unique to our family," she continues.

Kiss is hopeful the DAS changes will help people with autism, but she also expressed her concern about how they will affect those with invisible disabilities. "It sounds like they will still accommodate those things, but it's not clear how," she says. "Potentially, it's making it very difficult for those types of accommodations."

Once the new policy is officially launched, Disney's website will feature a range of tools that guests can utilize to plan their visit, enhance their experience, and identify the services they need.

Leading up to the release date, Disney says it encourages guests to explore the website, where they can prepare for every aspect of their visit, including planning in advance, understanding parking and transportation options, selecting mobility devices, accessing attractions, exploring hotel services, and more.

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