Vacationing at Disneyland with Special Needs
UPDATE OCTOBER 4, 2013: As of October 9, 2013, the Guest Assistance Card, one of Disney's programs to assist guests with disabilities at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, is being discontinued. The program, which provides access to attractions for guests with disabilities, is being modified to help serve the guests who truly need it, as well as control abuse with the current program. The new Disability Access Service (DAS) Card will replace the Guest Assistance Card. Guests will be able to request a Disability Access Service Card at Guest Relations, and they will receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. Guests can still visit Guest Relations to discuss their individual situations for assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances. Meg Crofton, president Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France, recently shared a letter of reassurance and continuing commitment to organizations representing the autism and disabled communities. Click here to visit Disney's official site for additional information about the new program.
Disneyland provides a variety of services and facilities for guests with special needs. These include mobility issues, vision and hearing impairment, autism and ADHD and also special dietary restrictions.
For guests with disabilities, Disneyland has a published guide book that is available on their web site. As the title implies, it covers issues related more to physical disabilities, such as parking and service animals, and the availability of visual and auditory aids. There is some specific information on attraction accessibility and restrictions.
If you or someone in your party requires special assistance, your first stop on entering the parks should be Guest Relations. In Disneyland Park, that is City Hall, and in Disney California Adventure it is the Chamber of Commerce, located to the left just inside the turnstiles. They will do their best to assist you with any special needs, including braille guides, assistive listening devices, restaurant information (related to special diets) and Guest Assistance Cards (described below).
Guest Assistance Cards
Guest Assistance Cards are available to those who have limitations that are not apparent, such as autism, ADHD, sun or heat sensitivity, or heart conditions. Please be prepared to describe the type of special accommodations requested, such as a quiet place to wait, or someplace that is out of the sun. The Cast Member will give you a Guest Assistance Card that has been stamped with the appropriate symbol(s) to indicate to Cast Members at the attractions what accommodations should be made. This card is good at both parks for the duration of your visit.
Guests in wheelchairs or ECVs are not required to obtain a Guest Assistance Card, unless they have some other restriction for which the use of the regular handicapped waiting areas is not sufficient.
Wheelchairs and ECVs
Most attractions are accessible to those using a wheelchair or ECV via the regular queue, though an alternate entrance is necessary for some of them. Some attractions will require the guest to transfer out of the wheelchair or ECV to ride. These are noted on the park's guide map as well as in the Guide Book for Guests with Disabilities.
For those attractions which do not have accessible queues, see a cast member or the Guide. In some cases you will directed to access the attraction via the exit route. While this sometimes will result in a shorter wait, on many rides it will result in significantly longer wait times. This is typically caused when only one ride vehicle per cycle accommodates an accessibility-limited guest.
If renting a wheelchair or ECV from Disney, at the time of rental you should be provided with a guide listing the wheelchair/ECV procedures for each attraction. If you bring your own into the park, the Cast Member at the entry turnstile should offer one to you as you enter the park. And if you're not sure, you can always ask a Cast Member at the attraction for assistance.
Special Dietary Considerations
Disney excels at accommodating those with special dietary needs. Some of the chefs seem to view it as a welcome challenge. Most table service restaurants at the Disneyland Resort can accommodate special diets, including kosher, vegetarian, allergies and medical diets. You should request this service at least 72 hours in advance, or at the time you make your Priority Seating, by calling 714-781-DINE (3463). Be sure to mention it when you check in at the podium, and again to your server. You are also welcome to ask to speak to a chef. If you encounter a situation where a cast member says that something cannot be accommodated, be sure to ask to speak to the chef.
City Hall at Disneyland Park and the Chamber of Commerce at Disney California Adventure can provide you with a list of restaurants that are able to accommodate certain diets, such as Kosher and Gluten-Free. These include some counter service restaurants. For vegetarian meals, most restaurants offer some vegetarian options, and others that can be made vegetarian (or vegan) upon request. Check out the menus pages on AllEars.net to get an idea of what is available.
You can read about one family's experience with Gluten-Free dining at Disneyland HERE.
This page is a work in progress. If you have additional information to provide, or would like to share your experiences with others, please contact us. Thank you.