I suffer from an immune system disorder called Anklosing Spondylitis (AS). It doesn’t stop me living my life (and it certainly doesn’t stop me from travelling) but it does cause widespread pain, particularly in my back and spine, which is exacerbated by standing still for long periods of time (I can walk for miles but my body doesn’t like being upright without movement!) For this reason, when we visit Disneyland Paris (and many other theme parks in the UK and overseas) I am eligible for a disability pass to make our trip a little gentler on my body. You can see the official accessibility guide to Disneyland Paris here, but I thought it would be helpful to share my personal ‘real life’ experience of visiting Disneyland Paris as a disabled guest, and my experience of using this pass.
How to Get a Green Pass or Disability Pass in Disneyland Paris
I have always applied for or renewed my Green Pass at City Hall on Main Street in the Disneyland Paris park. You can also do this at the Donald Duck office just outside the park, and if you apply for an Annual Pass here then they will give you your Disability Pass at the same time, and this pass will run for the full year that your Annual Pass does, meaning that you won’t have to go through the hassle of renewing it every time. As we are Annual Pass holders, this is how we usually get our pass and it is so helpful to know you only have to do this once a year, but it also only takes around 20 minutes to go through all the paperwork at Main Street, so don’t let losing time in the park put you off applying! If you’re staying in a Disney hotel then the concierge desk at your hotel reception will also be able to help you secure your Disability Pass, according to the official Disability Guide, although I have no experience of doing this.
The Green Pass can be used by the disabled person who is eligible for it and up to four guests that they are travelling with for rides and meet and greets: ideal if you’re a family of up to five (it works for us as we are a family of four) but I know that this can be difficult for larger families. For parades and show spots it is for the disabled person and two guests. There is no flexibility with this: When watching the parade in the disabled spot on a crowded day because I didn’t want to get knocked in the crowd (another thing that can be very painful for me) I took the two boys with me, and my husband had to stand on the other side of the rope alone. This is because space in these areas can be very limited, and Disney don’t want to have to turn a disabled person who needs the space away (which is totally understandable!)
When you arrive at City Hall you will need to have all of your relevant paperwork ready to go, as this will speed up the process. The cast members here are very helpful and speak English as well as French, if your French is a little rusty. I used a letter from my hospital consultant detailing that my condition made standing for long periods of time difficult; this had to be signed, stamped, and dated within the past 3 months to meet Disney’s criteria. I also carry an Alert card for my medication, which I needed to show as supporting evidence. I am not officially registered as disabled (because my mobility is not affected by my condition to the extend that I need to be) but if you are then you could also use your Blue Badge, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) letter, or PIP letter. If you don’t have this evidence, or you want to use a doctors letter but your letter is not dated and stamped, then you will not be given a pass: again, there is no flexibility to the rules here.
The green pass is literally just a green piece of paper: treat it like gold dust! If it becomes damaged, folded so that any of the details can’t be read, or lost then you will have to go all the way back to City Hall to apply for a new pass, which can be a real pain as the City Hall queues can get quite big as the day goes on.
Tip: I picked up a plastic iPhone holder on a lanyard before I arrived in Paris, and it is the perfect time to fit the Green Pass in, preventing damage and meaning you can wear it around your neck so don’t have to get your pass in and out of your pocket every time you need it, and you will need it for every ride or meet and greet you want to do!
Using the Green Pass on Rides
Access to the rides is incredibly simple once you have secured your Green Pass. Almost all of the rides will have their own separate disability queue line or entrance. For Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, this is along the side of the ride exit whilst for It’s a Small World (shown above) this is at the front of the ride, with disabled guests boarding from the other side of the boats to the ‘regular’ guests. This means that you won’t get to see any of the pre-show/back story that is often included in the queue area of Disney Parks, but it will mean that you won’t have to stand in these long queue areas.
Once you have located the accessible queue, the cast member will ask to see your Green Pass and will ask about your mobility; will you be able to transfer (if you are a wheelchair user) or could you walk down a dozen stairs if the ride broke down, for example. If you can’t transfer then there are some rides that, sadly, won’t be available to you; full details of this can be found here.
On certain rides there is only one carriage or gondola suitable for disabled guests. These are usually rides where there are moving walkways or where you have to get onto the ride whilst it’s still moving. You may find that you wait slightly longer than the people in the ‘regular’ queue for these rides, but it is worth it to be able to access the ride safely! Generally though, it is fair to say that the ride times in the accessible queues are much shorter than the regular queues, meaning that you won’t have to stand for long periods of time.
Using the Green Pass For Character Meets and Greets
Meeting characters is the boys favourite thing to do in Disneyland Paris, and having the Green Pass certainly makes that easier BUT it is a misconception that people with a Green Pass can push the queue: and often you can’t use your Green Pass to see the characters at all.
So how do you meet characters with the Green Pass? At each official character meet and greet you will see a cast member accompanying them and carrying a big black leather folder: that’s who you’re looking for. You should aim to get to the Meet and Greet as it starts (or even before it starts if it’s a busy park day/popular character) and the way it works is this: for each 10 minute period, there is 1 disabled meet and greet slot available. To put that into context, if the character is there for 2 hours, only 12 people with Green Passes will get to meet them. For some characters these slots are available at 5 minute intervals, but 10 minutes is a good rule of thumb to work to. You ask the cast member if a slot is available, and if it is they will give you a card with the next available return time on it; you are then free to sit and wait elsewhere (whatever and wherever is comfortable for you) until that time comes around. So, disabled people AREN’T queue jumping to meet the characters: they’re just queuing elsewhere.
If all the available slots are gone (which often happens soon after the meet and greet begins)? Then you either get in the regular queue or you don’t get to do the meet and greet; it’s as simple as that.
Disney are Great, But You Can’t Control Other Guests
I have now been on dozens of Disneyland Paris trips using the Green Pass scheme, and now i’ve developed a super-thick skin, but when I first started to use the pass I was often too nervous to use it at all. When you access a ride or character queue in front of them, some people can be incredibly rude, and this is particularly true because I am young(ish) and healthy looking- I don’t look the way many people expect a person with a disability to look. So we have had people saying rude and abusive things about us being ‘fakers’ and ‘queue pushers’ or, and I find this much more hurtful, trying to guess (loudly) which of our children were using the pass and for what reason, or what they might be dying of.
Like I say, this is not something that Disney can control, so it is not a complaint. But it is something to be aware of if you’re new to the Pass and of a sensitive disposition. Now I try not to even notice, and remind myself that I would happily stand in a queue if it meant I didn’t have to live with the pain of my condition.
If you’re planning a trip to Disney, you can also ready my guide to visiting Disneyland Paris at Christmas. I have also written about all the benefits of having a Disneyland Paris annual Pass here.
Have you been to Disneyland Paris? Or are you planning a trip in the future? I would love to hear all your Disneyland Paris stories!
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