'DAS Defenders' group hopes Disney reverses changes to its Disability Access Service policy

A newly formed group of people with disabilities and their allies is calling on Disney to reverse changes the company announced last week to its Disability Access Service. 

The group, called DAS Defenders, wrote a letter addressed to The Walt Disney Company's top leaders, and a petition supporting the group's demands has received more than 3,700 signatures as of Tuesday. 


Disney to tighten disability access service rules to prevent line skipping at its theme parks

Disney said the service is intended for those with a developmental disability like Autism. Theme park experts said the goal of the changes to the accessibility service is to cut down on abuse.

"It's really heartbreaking to feel like entire sections of the disabled community have been pushed out of this program," Katie Reilly, one of the group's founders, told FOX 35 via Zoom. 

Starting May 20, Disney World is offering its free D.A.S. pass, as some call it, only to guests with "a developmental disability like autism or similar," according to the company's web page on the topic.

The pass is meant for those who can't wait in long lines. It works by allowing its user to essentially skip the long standby lines by offering a later return time and access to the Lightning Lanes. 

"It used to say that it was for guests with a disability who were unable to wait in a traditional queue because of that disability. That language was inclusive of any type of disability that met those requirements," Reilly said.

However, some argue that Disney's old policy was too lax and was often abused by people who didn't truly need accommodation. The company said last week its Disability Access Service was its most requested service at Disney World, and the volume of requests nearly tripled in the past several years. 


Reilly and her peers argue the new policy may be going too far. 

"I agree with Disney that something did need to be changed, but it seems to me like they are vastly over-correcting and excluding a lot of the people who genuinely did need and benefit from the program," she said.

You can read the group's letter and list of demands below:

The group hopes to get the attention of Disney's top brass. 

"We are a group of actual disabled people who go to the parks and are passionate about them, and we'd like to have the opportunity to talk to them, to find some common ground solutions that will work for everyone," Reilly said.

FOX 35 contacted Walt Disney World to comment on the letter and petition but has not yet received a response.