Disney’s Handheld Device Adds Audio Description

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products

Did you know the Disneyland Resort has several services available for guests with visual and hearing disabilities? I am 40 percent deaf, and I didn’t know about Disney’s Handheld Device until last month.

I’ve never been able to hear all of the audio in attractions such as the Enchanted Tiki Room, and I’ve often wondered if I’m missing some of the rich storytelling that Walt Disney Imagineers carefully and creatively incorporate into all of the attractions at the Resort. Now, thanks to Disney’s Handheld Device, I won’t be missing those special details anymore.

Today, I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of this service in case you or someone you know can benefit from this really cool tool.

Disney's Handheld Device

Disney’s Handheld Device is a palm-sized wireless device that was developed in 2002. The device features several services, including Assistive Listening, which provides amplified audio at 12 attractions, and Handheld Captioning, which displays text for 14 attractions.

A new service was just added yesterday. Audio Description, now available at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, provides narrated audio for guests with visual disabilities by describing visual attraction elements, such as actions, settings and scene changes.

The audio below is from the Audio Description for the Haunted Mansion. We’ve layered in some clips from the attraction to show what the audio is describing.

Audio Description is being offered at 19 attractions at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks: 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 inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 2,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, It’s Tough to be a Bug! inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life,” Turtle Talk with Crush inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” and Muppet*Vision 3D – Muppet Vision 3D © The Muppets Studio, LLC.

So, now that you know all about it, where do you get it? Guests with visual or hearing disabilities can obtain a handheld device at the Guest Relations offices, near the entrances to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks. The devices are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and there is a fully-refundable $100 daily deposit for use.

Have you ever used Disney’s Handheld Device? What did you think of it?


  • My experiences with the device have been mixed. I used one at Epcot this past summer, though it took Guest Relations nearly half an hour to activate it (I don’t really blame them however, they’re complex little devices). Having the attraction audio directly in a pair of headphone is nice, although sometimes there is a slight delay between the audio playing in the attraction and on the headset. The closed captioning feature worked very well.

    Last time I tried to obtain one at the Disneyland Resort, I was unable to, but it was near the end of the day and there are only a limited number of devices. I’ll have to try earlier next time.

  • Are these hand held devices also available in other languages? Such as French or Spanish?

  • I think the availability of audio devises for the disabled is absolutely wonderful. I do think it would be great however if the audio track commentary helped keep the magic going by fitting the theme and mood of the ride. Haunted Mansion? Have a voice actor that goes for “spooky” like the normal audio track for the ride, and so on.

    I think that sort of attention to detail is what has always made Disney stand out.

  • That’s great. I took a friend of mine who is deaf about 3 years ago and this would have come in handy. Deaf people shoud be able to enjoy the Disney sights & sounds like everyone else, they don’t get a break on ticket admission. I can’t wait to take her back again.

  • This is a great device. We acutally experienced it in August 2009 at Walt Disney World. I have a 5 year old who is hearing impaired. The device is great, however for a 5 year old it stunk. The amplification was not programed yet although this great device does have that option. It did have the close caption and had my 5 year old been able to read she would have been very happy. I did write a very nice letter to the head of disney disablitlies department. Acutally, had a nice phone conversation with them too. I am hoping my phone call will help them to improve this great device.

  • I am consistently amazed at the amazing innovations Disney employs to create a more magical experience for those with disabilities. The closed-captioning and special third loading dock on Toy Story Mania come to mind, and this seems to be an amazing addition, too.

  • Ohhhhh… ya’ll just keep getting better and better and BETTER!!! How about an iPhone/iTouch app for those of us deaf people so maybe we can do the handheld captioning on our phones/iTouch? Could that be possible? Hmmmmmm…..

    Thanks for everything you do for EVERYONE, Disney. You guys rock!

  • This is really cool

  • Or… a cell phone service, where you call a number, enter an extension code for the particular ride/attraction and the description begins playing. You could press a key to pause and again to restart. The visually impaired would not be the only ones that could benefit from these “tour guides”.

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