Disney Introduces Handheld Captioning

How do you caption a moving amusement ride? Use technology. That’s what the folks at Walt Disney World Resorts did.

Effectively communicating the story and message of moving amusement rides has long been a challenge for the amusement park industry. In many moving narrative attractions, such as Peter Pan’s Flight, it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, fixed captioning systems are not always effective as the ride is often moving too fast to read the captions. So the Disney engineers put wireless technology to work and developed a synchronized handheld captioning system.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Disney-MGM Studios, guests can check out a handheld captioning device. (A $100 refundable deposit is required.) The portable system is similar to a personal digital assistant (PDA). In locations throughout the parks, mostly the narrative moving attractions, the wireless handheld receiver displays the text narration corresponding to that location.

"Our challenge was finding a way to deliver captions in narrative attractions where fixed captioning systems weren't an option," said Greg Hale, vice president of Safety, Accessibility, and Advanced Technology for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "When we couldn't find an 'off-the-shelf' solution, we developed our own technology. We are now exploring opportunities to make this technology available in venues outside of theme parks, where it could provide synchronized captioning, audio translations and other services in a wide variety of applications such as museums, movie theaters, tours and transportation."

The service debuted on Dec. 5, 2001 -- the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney's birth -- at the "Walt Disney: One Man's Dream" attraction at the Disney-MGM Studios. Handheld Captioning is currently available at twenty Walt Disney World® attractions. Disney announced plans to add at least ten more attractions at the Walt Disney World® Resort and begin testing this service in at least four attractions at the Disneyland® Resort during 2003.

The Handheld Captioning system joins several existing services for guests with hearing disabilities including Reflective Captioning, American Sign Language interpreters, Assistive Listening systems, Video Captioning, pay telephones equipped with TTYs, and printed attraction aids. The Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities offers an overview of the services and facilities available at each park.

"With our Handheld Captioning program, Disney has once again shown its commitment to provide an outstanding experience for our guests with disabilities," said Al Weiss, president of the Walt Disney World® Resort. "The program perfectly illustrates our willingness to meet challenges with creative, innovative solutions for exceptional guest service."

For additional information about the Walt Disney World® Resort services for guests with disabilities:

Walt Disney World® Resort Information
407-824-4321 (voice)
407-827-5141 (TTY)


The citation for this article is:

National Center on Accessibility. (May 8, 2003).  Disney Introduces Handheld Captioning Making the Grade.  Indiana University-Bloomington: National Center on Accessibility.