It’s difficult for me to think of a theme park company that goes farther than the Walt Disney Company to accommodate guests with disabilities. That said, there is always room for improvement. Disneyland has now added ‘Audio Description’ to many of its attractions, a service Walt Disney World has been offering for a bit more than a year now.
Disneyland Resort Guests with visual disabilities can now be more fully immersed into Disney attractions and storytelling through a new Audio Description service created by Disney engineers. The service, which launched Nov. 1, is enabled through wireless technology via a handheld device available to Guests visiting the Resort.
“The Disneyland Resort welcomes millions of diverse visitors each year, and we are committed to making the Disney tradition of rich storytelling available to everyone,” said Betty Appleton, who oversees the Resort’s Guests with Disabilities program. “Audio Description supports our longstanding commitment to providing outstanding services to all Guests as it enables our visitors who are blind or have low vision to more fully enjoy our attractions.”
Audio Description provides narrated audio for Guests with visual disabilities by describing visual attraction elements such as actions, settings and scene changes. It works seamlessly with existing show audio, enhancing each attraction with rich detail and immediately involving Guests into the experience. This service is available at nearly 20 attractions at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, including favorites such as Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s Tough to be a Bug and Haunted Mansion.
A Guest experiencing Haunted Mansion would hear the following after boarding a ride vehicle: “Our doom buggy rotates and we face backward. To our left, a knight’s armor guards an endless hallway. On our right, wilted flower arrangements surround a coffin. An eerie light escapes as bony hands push up the lid.”
CastABLE and Diversity Resource Groups
As part of the testing process, Audio Description service was evaluated by members of CastABLE, a Diversity Resource Group (DRG) composed of Resort Cast Members with disabilities.
“Experiencing the Audio Description service almost brought me to tears,” said Brenda Woodrum, a reservation sales agent at the Walt Disney Travel Company in Anaheim and CastABLE member who has been visually impaired since 1996. “For me it was an emotional experience, especially when I got onto Pirates of the Caribbean. It brought back memories of all the rich detail that I could see when I was younger. There was so much magic that I was missing, but this new technology it brings it all to you.”
As part of its ongoing commitment to fostering an inclusive work environment, the Disneyland Resort supports six DRGs, which have combined memberships of approximately 1,500 Cast Members. The DRGs exist to make Cast feel welcomed, appreciated and valued while providing enrichment, awareness and education. DRGs also serve as thought partners, providing valuable feedback and insight to business leaders on products and services currently in development.
Services For Guests with Hearing Disabilities
Audio Description joins two existing services available on Disney’s Handheld Device, a palm-sized wireless device originally developed in 2002 by Disney engineers. In addition to Audio Description, the device offers services to Guests with hearing disabilities, including Assistive Listening, which was added in August and provides amplified audio at several attractions, and Handheld Captioning, which displays text in specific attractions and areas.
Disney’s Handheld Device is available at no cost for daily Guest use by visiting Guest Relations at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure on a first-come, first-served basis. A fully refundable deposit is required.
The following attractions offer Audio Description: Enchanted Tiki Room, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, ‘it’s a small world’, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Disneyland Railroad, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, It’s Tough to be a Bug!, Turtle Talk with Crush, Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and Muppet*Vision 3D.