Ultimate Guide to Disneyland for Guests with Disabilities

Disney is all about inclusivity.  Disney’s main goal is to ensure that each guest leaving today to enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy has the most magical experience that they will remember forever.  They offer a wide range of features and services to guarantee that all of their guests are comfortable, all needs and requests are met, and have the most memorable day possible.  It is their goal to make sure that everyone is treated equally and that no one feels left out including those guests with disabilities.

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From wheelchair accessible Small World boats to FASTPASS type tickets for those who can’t wait in long lines to handheld captioning devices, Disney goes out of their way to make sure that each and every guest is well taken care of and delighted throughout their stay at the resort.  “We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests” states Disney spokesperson Suzi Brown when discussing their disability policies with CNN’s Katia Hetter.  Disney has a long history of accommodating all people with special needs and making sure all are well considered.  Don’t forget to follow a good morning strategy along with this guide to make your day as magical as possible.

General Information for Guests with Disabilities

Family with child in lap of a man in a wheelchair.

Wheelchair and Electronic Conveyance Vehicle (ECV) Rentals

The Disneyland Park Resort offers both manual wheelchairs and Electronic Conveyance Vehicles (ECV) for guests with disabilities that do not have one to bring.  A manual wheelchair has a cost of $12.00 for the day with a $20.00 refundable deposit. An ECV has a cost of $50.00 plus tax for the day with a $20.00 refundable deposit. You will rent these items on the Disneyland side of the resort on the east end closest to the location of the Toy Story lot buses. Once rented, the wheelchair or ECV can go with you to either park.

They are first come, first serve with a limited quantity. If you are staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, some of them offer manual wheelchairs for rent. Please check with your specific hotel to see if they offer the rental at that location. You can find more information about the wheelchair and ECV rentals for guests with disabilities on the Disneyland website.

Rider Switch

Park guests who have more than 2 people in their party can utilize Disney’s “Rider Switch” option.  In the “Rider Switch” option, one of the guests in your party waits outside of the attraction with the guest who is not interested in riding or is unable to ride.  Once the rest of your party has gone on the ride, you will use the “Rider Switch” option where you will get to enjoy the attraction through the exit entrance.  This allows you to have the same experience and yet not wait in the long line a second time around.  When exiting the ride, simply talk to a Cast Member and let them know that you want to do a “rider switch.”  They will instruct you on who to speak to and where to go for your switch.  Having used this option a few times myself, I can tell you that it is a very easy process.  It really beats making your family wait double the time so all can enjoy.

Accessibility on Attractions

Guests in wheelchair getting ready to board Jungle Cruise

Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks have plenty of attractions for those with disabilities to ride.  Each attraction has varying degrees of accessibility from staying in one’s wheelchair on an accessible boat on “It’s a Small World” to going through the exit to avoid the stairs throughout the line for “Splash Mountain” and everything in between.  You can find out how each attraction works by obtaining one of the “Guests with Disabilities” park maps at either park.  These can be found at any of the guest services locations throughout the parks or the main location of City Hall in Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce in Disney California Adventure.

The maps detail specific mobility access for each attraction.  On each map, you will find symbols for things like “guest must transfer from wheelchair” or “guest may remain in wheelchair” in the map’s legend which are attached to the name of each ride.  In addition to mobility access information, there’s information on the maps about visual and hearing disabilities as well.  For a sneak peak and to plan out your day, you can find the Disneyland map here and the Disney California Adventure map here.

DAS – Disability Access Service for Attractions for those with mobility disabilities

Cast member waving with giant Mickey hand

DAS is a tool that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have provided its guests for those who cannot wait in a normal line queue for various reasons.  It allows you to obtain a return time for any attraction, one at a time, and ride the attraction without waiting in the line queue.  Both parks have been working to make their line queues wheelchair accessible.  Guests who are using an ECV or a manual wheelchair do not need to obtain DAS on their ticket or annual pass.  Instead, head directly to the attraction you are interested in riding.  If the line is wheelchair accessible, you will wait in the normal line queue.

However, if the line is not wheelchair accessible, a Cast Member at attraction will provide you with a return time based on the current wait time.  DAS is a good option for someone who cannot stand for long periods of time, cannot manage stairs or uphill/downhill slopes, or those with a cognitive disability that prohibits him/her from waiting in the everyday line. (For more information on DAS for cognitive disabilities, please see below)  For more information on how to obtain DAS for your ticket or annual pass, you can read this information guide from Disney.

Dietary Accommodations

Disneyland is aware that all guests could have special needs and they’ve truly covered all their bases.  Each dining location within both parks have options to accommodate those with dietary restrictions.  From calling a chef over to make you a special menu for your needs to ensuring that all locations have something on their menu to please all people, Disney goes beyond expectations.  You can read all about how Disney accommodates dietary restrictions and needs by checking out our comprehensive guide.

Parking

Picture of red ToonTown car

Both the Mickey and Friends parking structure and the Toy Story lot off of Harbor Blvd. can accommodate guests with disability placards.  You must have a valid placard in order to be directed to the designated disability parking locations.  When you stop at the toll booth to pay for your parking, you can inquire within where they would like you to park and show the Cast Member your placard.  They will be extremely helpful in directing you to the right location.  Additional information can be found on this Disney page.

Getting from the Parking Structure/Lot to the Disneyland Entrance

Child taking picture of father in wheelchair at Disneyland

Disney offers transportation from all of its designated parking areas to the Disney parks entrance. Depending on where you park, your accessible experience may vary.

Accessible Trams and Buses

From the Toy Story lot, one will board a bus while there are trams to and from the Mickey and Friends structure.  Both the bus and the tram are accessible for those with disabilities.  On the tram, the first row in the front of the tram and the last row in the back of the tram are larger and wider.  Typically you will see a lot of strollers in these lines because you don’t have to breakdown the stroller in order to ride the tram in this section.  These two spots on the tram can also be utilized for wheelchairs or ECVs as well.  Understand that with the tram and bus transportation options, one must transfer from the ECV, Stroller, or Wheelchair and onto the regular seat.

Mickey Vans

At the Mickey and Friends parking structure, an additional transportation vehicle called the “Mickey Van” is available.  This van has a wheelchair lift that allows those in a wheelchair or ECV to go up the lift and directly into the van.  The wheelchair or ECV must be able to securely fastened with the provided restraints in order to be safe enough to drive to and from the parking structure.  Please note that the “Mickey Van” does leave you a bit further away from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure’s entrance.  This air-conditioned van is an excellent choice for those who cannot transfer from wheelchair, ECV, or stroller to the seat.

In addition, the Cast Members will allow your party and your loved one on the “Mickey Van” so you can all board together.  Just note that typically, there are only 2-3 “Mickey Vans” transporting guests at any given time so your wait may be longer than the tram.  Ask a Cast Member at the tram loading area where you are supposed to go to wait for the “Mickey Van.”

Service Animals

Pluto next to guest with service dog wearing Mickie ears

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure both welcome your furry loved ones with open arms.  Service animals even enjoy meeting their favorite characters, especially Pluto.  Disney defines a service animal as “any dog or miniature horse trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability” as stated on their website.  Who knew that a miniature horse had such abilities?  All service animals must be on a leash at all times but can enjoy most of the attractions with you.

For a list of restricted areas for your service animal, you can read this information guide from Disney’s website.  Thankfully, Disney has also set up Service Animal Relief Areas throughout the parks.  One of my favorite spots to see the pups roaming around on the grass and enjoying a break from the heat is the relief area just off of Main Street U.S.A. as you head toward Alice in Wonderland near Pixie Hollow.  There is a small patch of gated grass that looks just like every other planter area; however, there is a small gate that opens up and allows you to take your service animal.  Every once in a while, you can catch an extremely cute pup with ears on enjoying a run around the grass.  The list of other relief areas is listed in the information guide above.

Companion and Accessible Restrooms

Close up image of restroom bathroom sign in Fantasyland

One of my favorite things about Disney parks is the fact that the restrooms are always well stocked and clean.  There’s nothing worse than trying to find a restroom and happening upon one that is dirty or lacking toilet paper.  In addition to the clean restrooms, Disney parks offer multiple companion restroom locations.  These locations are single rooms that are larger in order to accommodate a family or multiple people.  They have changing tables and open space areas that can fit a wheelchair/ECV, stroller, or even both.

Below is a list of the companion restrooms in each park.  A favorite spot of mine is the first aid locations in each park.  They have extra large restrooms that have a cot in them.  They are always very clean and typically empty.  The only downfall of these two locations is that they are a far walk from the farthest points in the park.  However, they are definitely worth the walk, or ride, if you need the extra space.

Companion Restroom Locations

  • Disneyland Park

    • Main Street, U.S.A. – To the left of City Hall you will find a companion restroom
    • Main Street, U.S.A. – At the First Aid location behind the Little Red Wagon Corn Dog car toward the end of Main Street
    • Critter Country – Inside the bottom floor of the Hungry Bear Restaurant
    • Fantasyland – Directly outside of the Fantasyland Theater near the Troubadour Tavern across from both “It’s a Small World” and the Toontown Depot Train Station
    • Tomorrowland – Just past the Autopia entrance behind the “Autopia Winner’s Circle” shop you will find two companion restrooms
  • Disney California Adventure

    • Buena Vista Street – At the First Aid location next to the Chamber of Commerce directly to the left right after you walk through the gates
    • “A Bug’s Land” – Near Flik’s Fun Fair and directly across from the “Princess Dot Puddle Park” splash pad, you will find two companion restrooms
    • Cars Land – Right outside of Flo’s V8 Café
    • Paradise Gardens Park – Near the Ariel ride, “The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure,” you will find two companion restrooms. If you’re walking toward the “Grizzly River Run” attraction, there is a small hallway on the right hand side.
    • Pacific Wharf – Near the restaurant “Lucky Fortune Cookery”

Guests with Cognitive Disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Disneyland has gone above and beyond recognizing that guests with cognitive disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), have special needs.  They have trained their employees to specifically be able to help all guests including those with special needs.  I am always impressed at the Cast Members who go out of their way to guarantee that a magical day is had by all from knowing when a guest needs to find a “break area” when they have become over-stimulated to allowing guests to have a return time instead of stand in long lines that can cause stress and anxiety.

In fact, Disneyland has put together an entire guide with tips as well as an attraction guide that will tell you exactly what to expect on each ride.  These are a few additional ways that you can help your loved one have a truly magical experience.

Break Areas

Snow White's grotto in Fantasyland: Disneyland Guide for Guests with Disabilities

There are areas throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA) that provide a quieter area should your loved one become over-stimulated or need some down time.  These areas can give your loved one a place to take a break so that they can continue to enjoy their day.  Although these areas can fluctuate with the busy season and park attendance, they allow you the opportunity to step out of the excitement of the day and relax your body.  The Disneyland Resort Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities lists out a few options for both parks; however, they are missing a few that I have found.

Disneyland Park

Close up of Golden Horseshoe sign

  • Snow White Grotto.
    • Located just off of Main Street U.S.A. to the East side of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, you’ll find a serene location with a cascading waterfall. There you will find a wishing well where the money collected from guests is donated to various children’s charities.  On the top of the waterfall, you’ll find Snow White along with the seven dwarfs and a few woodland creatures.  It is a good distance off of Main Street and is typically very quiet with very few guests visiting the area.
  • The Golden Horseshoe.
    • Decorated as an old time saloon, this restaurant is normally less busy than other venues.  It offers a stage show that is fun and entertaining.  You can even enjoy the Golden Horseshoe Root Beer Float, currently being served in the Woody Boot for Pixar Fest, or loaded potato skins while you enjoy some down time.  Although this spot isn’t necessarily “quiet,” it does allow you to remove yourself from the outside world of Disneyland park
  • Park in Toontown
    • Located next to Goofy’s Playhouse, there is a very small, circular “park” that is full of shade, benches, and quiet time. Even though you are in the bustling area of Toontown with plenty of little kids running around, this area seems far removed from the rest of the Disney world.  It is usually very empty and, especially on a hot day, gives a cooler area to relax.  Goofy’s Freeze cart is located directly outside the “park” where they serve ice cold frozen lemonade.  A perfect time to enjoy a frozen lemonade and take a breath.
  • Shaded Area near Small World Promenade
    • Located Across from the Matterhorn line queue and directly behind Edelweiss Snacks, you’ll find a strip of covered patio on top of the little lake where the old boat ride once was located. Disneyland has provided tables and chairs in this area where you can go to enjoy some quiet time.  You can even catch a glimpse of one of the many duck families that live on Disney property swimming around the lake.  It’s a very calm area where you will often find people taking five, resting their feet, or escaping from the heat.  Usually pretty empty, this location is a wonderful time for quality family bonding with your loved ones.

Disney California Adventure (DCA)

Inside of Sorcerer's Workshop at CA

  • Grizzly Peak Airfield
    • Located on the west end of the building for Soarin’ Around the World is an area that is often times quiet and empty. Although this location doesn’t house any tables or chairs, or even much shade, this will provide an area to stretch out or even let your littles runs around for a few minutes.  There’s an old plane where you can sometimes find Pluto doing a Character Meet and Greet.
  • Sorcerer’s Workshop inside the Disney Animation Building
    • In this destination you can find several possible areas to take a breath and experience Disney magic in a calmer way. When you first enter the Disney Animation Building, you will find Disney movie clips and still pictures as well as music playing.  There is a large open area where people will queue for Turtle Talk with Crush or the Animation Academy.  You can find a couple small benches or pull up a spot on the floor and enjoy the clips and pictures.  Once you are through the entrance, you can continue through to the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you will find a much quieter location inside of Beast’s Library.  These locations are not areas that you can sit and relax; however, they are smaller, less visited attractions that you can enjoy.  Be aware that these two locations are a bit on the darker side if your loved one is sensitive to dark spaces.
  • Grizzly River Run Viewing Area
    • If you walk from the Pixar Pier/Ariel’s Undersea Adventure toward Grizzly River Run, you will find the smoking area on the right hand side. Although walking through the smoking area can bother some guests, if you continue to follow the path up and around the back side of Grizzly River Run, you will find a small area where you can watch the rafts come down the slope and around the corner.  It is typically less crowded than the actual viewing area where you can get wet while you watch the rafts plummet to the bottom of the slope.  It offers a shady area for you and your family.

Strollers as Wheelchairs

Disneyland understands that guests have certain needs and accommodations.  In order to help those guests who need to stay in their stroller while in line, Disney provides a “Stroller as Wheelchair” tag that can be placed on your personal or rented stroller.  This bright red tag will allow your loved one to stay in the stroller and move throughout the queues without question.  For those queues that do not have enough space for the stroller and/or wheelchair, speaking to a Cast Member will help direct you to the appropriate line.

DAS – Disability Access Service for Attractions for those with cognitive disabilities

Cast members talking to guests

The DAS system is not only for those guests who cannot physically stand in line due to a disability, but also for those who cannot tolerate extreme wait times or the confines of enclosed line queues due to a cognitive disability.  Your loved one can enjoy the attractions without having the added stress of waiting in line.

In order to obtain DAS, you must first visit Guest Relations at City Hall in Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce in Disney California Adventure.  Once you meet with a Guest Relations Cast Member, your ticket or annual pass will have DAS attached to the barcode.  (For those with annual passes, DAS will stay active on your loved one’s pass for 60 days)  DAS gives your loved one and your party, up to 6 additional guests, a return time based on the current wait of the attraction.  This works for all attractions even those without a FASTPASS.  Unlike a FASTPASS, the DAS pass never runs out throughout the day and does not expire until the closing of the park that day.  You can only have one DAS return time at a time; however, as soon as you finish riding that attraction, you can quickly get return time for a different attraction.  Return times can be received from various locations throughout both parks.

Thankfully, you don’t need to go back to City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce each time.  Listed below, you will find the available Guest Relations booths that can give you a return time for the chosen attraction.  Lastly, DAS can be used in addition to the FASTPASS system.  You can find more information on DAS direct from Disney on this information guide.

Disneyland Guest Services Locations

  • City Hall on Main Street, U.S.A. (Main Location)
  • Umbrella Near Jolly Holiday Bakery at the end of Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Umbrella just outside the exit of Haunted Mansion near the Harbour Galley hut in Critter Country
  • Umbrella next to the entrance to the Dumbo line queue and in front of Storybook Land Canal Boats in Fantasyland
  • Umbrella near Star Tours in Tomorrowland

Disney California Adventure

  • Chamber of Commerce on Buena Vista Street (Main Location)
  • Umbrella located near the pick up for the Red Car Trolley at the end of Buena Vista Street
  • Umbrella at the entrance to Cars Land across from the Blue Sky Cellar
  • Umbrella across from the Incredicoaster entrance on Pixar Pier

Guests with Hearing Disabilities

Cast member signing to another guest

Disneyland offers a variety of devices for those guests with hearing disabilities.  From assistive listening systems to handheld captioning devices, guests with hearing disabilities will enjoy Disneyland equally as much.  The assistive listening systems amplify the sound of a particular attraction.  Although these devices will help those with a more mild hearing loss, they don’t work at all attractions.

Where the assistive listening systems won’t work, the handheld captioning device is your best friend.  Used on most attractions, this device will caption the words to songs or dialogue happening on the attraction.  It is a wireless receiver and will display text as you move about the ride.

Family watching dad use the assistive headphones provided by Disneyland

Both the assistive listening systems and handheld captioning devices require a $25.00 refundable deposit and can be acquired from a guest relations location within either park.  They must be returned at the end of each day for your full refund.  For a list of which attractions support which device, you can read Disneyland’s information guide here.  In addition to these two devices, Disneyland Resort also offers Sign Language interpretation, reflective captioning for two attractions, video-captioning at select attractions, and text typewriter telephones.  Additional information on the schedule for Sign Language interpretation and the other services, you can read the Disneyland information guide linked above.

Guests with Visual Disabilities

Guests with Disabilities: Disneyland guests smiling as they watch a show

Did you know that Disneyland provides an audio description for most attractions with an interactive audio menu?  These devices provides additional information about each attraction including narration so that guests with visual disabilities can also enjoy the joy and excitement in each ride.  It also gives information on outdoor areas so that guests with visual disabilities can get a picture of the beauty in their surroundings.

In addition, Disney Resort offers a limited number of Braille guidebooks.  These books have information on attractions and even the store locations.  It also includes descriptions of the restaurants within the parks.  Both options can be procured though a guest relations location with a refundable deposit of $25.00.  For more information on these devices, please visit Disneyland’s information guide here.

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