"The world is changing, and we will change with it."

By Joey Nolfi
April 15, 2021
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Disney World
Credit: David Roark/Disney Resorts

Disney is committed to making its theme parks the happiest places on earth for both guests and its employees, according to a new initiative aimed at amplifying diversity, inclusion, and individual expression among its workforce.

Per a blog post published Tuesday by Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro, the company spent roughly 16 months listening to small focus groups of existing employees (also known as "cast members") working with them to develop an approach to making inclusivity a core tenet of its daily operations. In addition to a sustained focus on diversifying its attractions and park experiences (including a planned revamps of the Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise rides to remove racially insensitive portrayals), Disney will ease long-standing restrictions on employee presentation.

"Our new approach provides greater flexibility with respect to forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos," D'Amaro wrote. "We're updating them to not only remain relevant in today's workplace, but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work."

He added that the company believes relaxed guidelines for presentation will improve operations due to increased comfort among cast members, leading to "richer, more personal and more engaging experiences" for guests as a result. Disney is so committed to these plans, A'maro continued, that it is updating its 65-year-old cast member tradition of upholding "The Four Keys" of operation — in which principles of safety, show, courtesy, and efficiency dictate cast member actions — to include a fifth "key" representing inclusion.

Elsewhere as part of its expanded diversity plans, Disney announced the addition of a new Soul attraction at Epcot, which will highlight the varied history of jazz music — particularly tunes crafted by Black artists — in shaping American culture, on top of ongoing work with its Disney Dreamers Academy program that provides workplace mentorship to dozens of young participants each year through career guidance workshops.

"The world is changing, and we will change with it, and continue to be a source of joy and inspiration for all the world. We'll never stop working to make sure that Disney is a welcoming place for all," A'maro concluded in his post. "I'm excited about where we're headed, and we'll have more to share soon. Thank you for joining us on this journey."

While Florida's Walt Disney World Resort reopened several months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its closure (and thousands of job cuts across the company) throughout 2020, Disneyland remained shuttered during most of the outbreak. The California-based property plans to reopen its gates to guests on April 30, with a modified list of rides and attractions set to operate during the phased reopening.

Hear more on all of today's must-see picks, plus Niecy Nash's all-time favorite binge-watch, in EW's What to Watch podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall.

This story originally appeared on ew.com