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Guest Assistance Card Program Update for Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort

posted on October 4th, 2013 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


You may have heard or read about some changes coming on Oct. 9 to one of our programs to assist guests with disabilities at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.

We are modifying our current Guest Assistance Card program, which provides access to attractions for guests with disabilities, so we can continue to serve the guests who truly need it. Our new program is designed to provide the special experience our guests have come to expect from Disney. We also hope it will enable us to help control abuse with the current program that was, unfortunately, widespread and growing at an alarming rate.

The new Disability Access Service (DAS) Card will replace the Guest Assistance Card. Guests will be able to request a Disability Access Service Card at Guest Relations, and they will receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time.

With that said, we have long recognized and accommodated people with different needs. Guests can visit Guest Relations to discuss their individual situation, and we will continue to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.

Meg Crofton, president Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France, recently shared a letter of reassurance and continuing commitment to organizations representing the autism and disabled communities. We wanted to share her words with our Blog readers, as well.

Click here for additional information about the new program.

Letter from Meg Crofton, President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations

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42 Comments

1

Amber from CA on October 4th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Well written letter Meg Crofton! I guess that’s why you are the President of Park Operations. :)

2

Dale from NY on October 4th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I will be coming down the week of dec 1st,with a family group. I have a disability and will be needing an electric shooters what do I need to bring with me to show I have a disability. And how does this work with a of 12.

3

Anna on October 4th, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I had heard that a DAS holder would have to use an issued ride time for one ride/show before getting a return time for another attraction. This is not addressed in the fact sheet, could you please clarify how that will work.

4

Christopher from CA on October 4th, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I have to agree that it is a very well written letter. And I think the link to the other post is nice, but it does not address concerns about assistance at shows, parades and any attractions that may not have return times, but that some may not be able to use the traditional queue for.

For shows and Parades, I need to be able to have a bench, as I can’t stand there for all of the time waiting for the parade or show, then the length of it. In addition, some shows have stairs that you can’t get around without a GAC at present. A wheelchair may not be needed for a person who can’t do stairs or stand for that long of a period of time. The present system allows for this, so I am wondering how the new system will handle it.

For example, I have issues with turnstiles and stairs and at Disneyland, several rides that will most likely not have return times (such as Pinocchio) have them. It would be nice to know how we should handle situations like this.

I personally have no problems with the return time passes, but I do have to also ask how it will be handled at attractions where the wheelchair queues can be longer than the standby line. Such as at Space Mountain at Disneyland. It wouldn’t really be fair to have someone wait the length of the standby line, then in another line when they get there. So, I am definitely wondering how this will work.

I am definitely not attacking the new system, something had to happen, as any of us who truly need the system can attest to, as it was getting to the point that it was almost always faster to use the standby lines at many attractions than the accessible entrances. Rather, these are just questions that I would like to see answered on that page, as I am sure others have thought of these when developing the system.

5

Travis on October 4th, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Dale, previously the GAC was for groups of up to 6. I don’t know how the new system will work, but I don’t believe they will allow all 12 to utilize your disability pass.

6

Melissa on October 4th, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I have a question and I hope someone can help…were going to DL during the Holidays , the second week of December, and I know during that time wait times are ridiculous and can sometime take and hour or more, will people who take insulin get assistance? My father in law is a trooper but sometimes I can see him struggling if he doesn’t eat & his sugar drops. Most of the time he wont tell us and try to pull through and I can see him doing this not to spoil our trip especially if we have been waiting in line so long. I’m not asking for front of the line privilege or anything but IF we have to step out of line due to this I heard we can get a fast pass is this true? I

7

Eric from MA on October 4th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I’m also a Disabled guest, and while Crofton had to be corporately tactful about some guests’ “abusing and exploiting” the system, I’ll say A) I don’t approve of such practices, and B) I am not “for hire” just because you want to get on Radiator Springs Racers. ;) I’ve seen many fans of questionable loyalty feel themselves justified in “beating the system” where Disney Parks is concerned, and while this scandal is certainly not THE ugliest “shortcut” that’s turned up in past years, it’s certainly among the more tasteless.

I also haven’t had a chance to get back to the parks since my disability, so I’d welcome the chance to see how the new system might benefit solo guests as well as small groups.
I’m in Christopher’s position of not using a chair but having difficulty with stairs (esp. without railings), and not even sure whether I’d still be able to board a low-seated attraction like Space Mountain or a in-motion boarding attraction like Buzz Lightyear or WEDway. It hasn’t stopped me from wanting to go back, but it’s made me more keenly aware of how Disney handles access issues at their newer and older attractions.

8

Timothy on October 4th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I have a couple of additional questions.

1. Will the 6 person restriction still be in place for parties traveling with a disabled guest?

2. Will return times be issued for attractions regardless of the wait time, or will there be a certain wait time threshold where a guest and their party can enter the attraction without receiving a return time?

9

Carrie on October 4th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Curious if there has been any thoughts of if someone is an AP holder who is in need of this assistance card, if there can be some way it can be identifiable on their AP so as to avoid the City Hall lines? This could actually probably save some valuable time for both Disney and the guest. Curious how this is going to work.

10

Karen from OR on October 4th, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I know this is a touchy topic but I believe Disney will continue to do their best to help people with special needs. I have never used a GAC card before but I have received help with anxiety & claustrophobia. My thought has always been, how can I help myself, not how Disney should help me.

I had some major anxiety about riding Expedition Everest for the 1st time. I knew I would probably be ok if there were no surprises, so I asked a cast member to describe the ride in great detail and don’t worry about spoiling it for me. He said I can do even better than that, and took me to a room filled with TV’s that showed exactly how the ride played out. The Cast Members there were more than happy to share their knowledge with me, and not only did I leave feeling safer knowing how closely they monitor the ride, but I felt cared for in a way that brought tears to my eyes. I then went to join my husband to line up, when the cast member called me back and proceeded to lead us to the very front of the train. I had no time to worry about how scary it was going to be, as the train pulled out as soon as we were seated. I loved the ride and went back through the line many times. I always meant to write Disney and tell them of this special experience but, you know time passed and I never did.

11

Sean on October 4th, 2013 at 11:12 pm

My daughter is 6 and has epilepsy that is well controlled with medication. In theory standing in a long line in the hot sun maybe could possibly trigger her. But it never has. When we went back to WDW in June I was surprised at how many people told me to “use” my daughter’s epilepsy to “skip past all the lines!” I said no, definitely not.

When I go into a Disney park I let myself go to the Disney magic. I become a kid again! I have so much fun that as soon as it is over I want to go back again. If I was trying to, even legitimately, game the system I think I would ruin all of that. For all the people that abused this system in the past I think they did lose that and it makes me sad when I think of the children that lost that magic.

Also, something has to be said about character building. No one wants to stand in line for 2 hours for a 45 second ride! So you use your smarts to get fast passes, get to the park early, stay late, use magic hours, etc. to cut that down. And when you have to wait — you wait. You wait with your kids and you talk about what you have seen and what you want to see and which dessert you are going to get and which autographs you still need! When my kids got restless waiting my wife and I would split up and walk with them a little bit. But when it came down to it we just told them that this was part of it. If you want to say hello to Tinkerbell you have to wait for the other children that want to as well. And because all the Disney cast members, especially the costumed one, are so great at what they do — it is worth it. I know my children learned the value of waiting for things they want at Disney World.

For everyone out there that has a legitimate disability I am more than happy to wait one extra turn. It is the least I can do. Also, my gut tells me that if you are worried that your specific condition needs some kind of extra attention, just let people know. I can’t even imagine a cast member being anything but accommodating.

For everyone that abused this system, come stand in line with me and let us all try to do things the right way.

12

Sean on October 4th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Melissa – I’m just some guy on the internet and what I say you shouldn’t take as the law of the land but I know when we would get stuck in long queues and the kiddos would have emergency potty needs one of us would go and one would stay. If I made it to the front of the line I just let people pass. We had this happen dozens of times over our week vacation and as we exited and entered the queue we said excuse me and sorry and so forth and not once did this bother anyone.

I would just tell your father in law to not fight it. If needs to step out of queue for a minute, go for it. Have someone stay in the spot and someone go with him.

13

Janise on October 5th, 2013 at 12:21 am

Melissa, why not bring snacks for your Father in law?… Most people with insulin and blood sugar issues always carry a snack for those very moments blood sugar drops. I am surprised he does not already do this.

14

Cassie on October 5th, 2013 at 3:28 am

I know people do not feel Autism should be included with the guest pass but has been truley a blessing when we go. What happens when you have 2 on the spectrum that have a very difficult time waiting and the rides they love do not have a fast pass lane? The limit to waiting is 5 and max 15 minutes. What happens for these type of rides?

15

Robert from nrw on October 5th, 2013 at 5:31 am

Think its a good idea and works perfectly in Paris.
I do have a few problems with it .
Why 14 days ? I usually stay at least 21 days and believe me I hate asking for my pass.I really never think of how sick i am .
Especially now in WDW ,why not just add it to the entrance ticket RFID .You could then just go to a RFID sensor or Fasspass return and get a return time (maybe different from regular Fastpass depending on need .
This would not only make everything easier but would also let the cast members do the job they are meant to do

16

Kevin on October 5th, 2013 at 5:41 am

I am so sorry to see that Disney have had to deal with something like this, but support fully the unfortunate need to change.
I’m sure the new system isn’t going to be without some problems and hope that all guests help Disney rather than abuse whatever privileges are provided to guests with disabilities.

17

JODI on October 5th, 2013 at 9:32 am

ive never needed any wheelchair services i have been at dsney 7 times.. my DH set up a surprise 50 th bday vacation for us an di ended up needing knee surgery. I will be 6 weeks out of surgery when we head to disney.Srill in pain and not fully capable.. I know nothing about these disability cards. So i can go into a park and head to guest relations.. show them my paperwork that i had recent knee surgery and i will get a DAS card? With this card i can get something similar to fast pass so i can go sit somewhere and wait instead of stand on a line?? PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THIS is correct… I am renting a scooter but hoping to park it and be able to get around somewhat but i will never be able to handle standing for long periods of time. I am worried people will look at me and say look she can walk why does she have this card/ Yes i can walk SHORT distances i cant stand and trust me i HATE the idea that ihave a scooter rental waiting for me at POFQ.Im doing physical therapy 7 days a week trying to heal faster for our trip.. So can you tell me if this is how it goes or am i incorrect?

18

Jennifer from WI on October 5th, 2013 at 9:46 am

Melissa – when I inquired regarding diabetes, I was basically told it didn’t qualify. I have only asked about it during mid-summer one trip (out of about 10 trips) as my blood sugar can drop dramatically & within a couple minutes, even after eating, in the excessive heat and humidity. I actually asked about just getting a general FP vs. front of line or anything but was told I didn’t qualify with diabetes.

19

Monica from CA on October 5th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

My whole family are passholders. My youngest child is severely disabled. My experience is the system desperately needed an overhaul. I look forward to trying out the new system. Thank you Disney for stepping up!

20

Sherrie on October 5th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

So glad Disney made the decison to do this. We support you 100%!

21

jackie from AZ on October 5th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

How will it work for those in ECV’s or Wheelchairs, will they still go to the cast member at the entrance of the attraction for guidance on where to go?

22

Lisa from FL on October 5th, 2013 at 9:12 pm

As an annual passholder, avid Disney enthusiast and mother to an amazing son with autism, our family has seen a dramatic increase in the use of the GAC in recent years. We do see the need for an overhaul of the system because of the abuse of the GAC. Our son CANNOT wait for more than about 15 minutes anywhere, NOT just in a que at WDW! We have very much refined our touring of the parks in all the years visiting WDW due to the needs of our son. We are hopeful that Disney will continue to consider the needs of those who the card is meant to assist. Thank you for all the AWESOME memories and allowing our son to experience the magical world of Disney. Thank you, Lisa

23

Kerry on October 6th, 2013 at 9:37 am

As someone who has an Autistic child and a spouse that is physically disabled, this is problematic for us. My son doesn’t understand things like having to come back later for something he wants to do right now. I understand there have been abuses, but those of us that already have challenges when planning trips and now having to schedule around ride times as well now is difficult for us. It breaks our hearts, but we may have to start looking at alternatives for vacations.

24

Alba on October 6th, 2013 at 10:32 am

A friend of mine has an autistic child but she doesn’t really go on rides but my friend use to get the pass for the convenience on helping the other ppl traveling with her. I had a son who was had cerebral palsy, muscle spasticity and at the age of 4 was basically a 3 month old physically. unfortunately he passed away. so I feel like this friend just takes advantage of the GAC when there are real ppl out there who really needed it and this person would just abuse it. YUP I am very very glad Disney has made these necessary changes and I support it 100%!

25

Leslie on October 6th, 2013 at 11:20 am

Thank you, Sean, for your comments. I agree completely with both them and the Disney decision to change the program. I have an adult middle-aged developmentally disabled ADHD sister. I am surprised at the number of people who, when I say that, without even knowing the degree of her disability, are quick to jump to suggesting the use of a GAC. We have never used one, and have not had any problems. She has learned that lines are a part of the visit and the experience. We time our visits to minimize wait times, and we will skip some rides with longer lines. She can wait for haracter interactions as well. We find things to do, or play games in line, or find a cool spot to wait for the parades. We recently returned from a week at WDW where, with both careful planning and fast passes, we never waited more than 15 -20 min for anything.

I also know of people who abuse the current system – all of their talk of their visits are about not waiting in lines, rather than the Magic of the Disney Experience. This change is a long time coming. Yes, it will take some adjustments as anything new does, but Disney is making for a better guest experience for everyone.

26

JASON on October 6th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

This has been a long time coming. Thanks for revising this policy.

27

Reida on October 7th, 2013 at 1:09 am

I am excited for the changes. I have never been to Disneyland or Disney World before my son was born, but afterwards, we make a trip once or twice a year. We go to Disneyland fairly often. My oldest son has heart/lung problems, brain injury, non verbal and developmental delays. (My youngest also has apbergers, ADD, OCD, and anxiety.) My oldest does use a wheelchair or special stroller outside of the home. When we first went to Disneyland, we had no idea about the guest assistance pass and was still able to enjoy our day without it. The cast members would catch us and send us to where we needed to go for each event or attraction we went to. We did learn of the pass eventually, and it has been a life saver for us, but the past couple of years, we saw a dramatic increase in the use of guest assistance pass and alternate entrances. Our trip last year was probably our busiest ever! We usually go every October since it tends to not be as busy, a little cooler outside, and we love Mickey’s Halloween party! But during the daytime hours, we did end up waiting upwards of 2 hours in alternate entrance lines for many popular attractions. I have never seen so many people in the alternate lines before out of the 10+ years we have been taking my son. I was so happy with the lines that did offer return passes instead. It was so much better for us and I would rather be taking in the sites at Disney. Lets face it, their is so much more to the parks than rides! We could keep our son cool, catch a parade, see a character or two, take potty breaks, look for hidden Mickeys, etc. I know the return passes is not a new idea, Disney is just making it more universal.

28

Ronald on October 7th, 2013 at 1:49 am

How does this effect people with Multiple Sclerosis. While I do not need a wheelchair, I do get fatigued easly.

29

Lisa from WI on October 7th, 2013 at 10:33 am

As I have read, if you have issues, for rides with no ADA acess, you go to a booth, ask you what ride, they give you a time to go to the ride. So if you need to rest, go to the bathroom, sit in the shade, you can. You will be waiting the same amount of time, just not in a ride.

30

Laura on October 7th, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I’m hoping someone on here will have an answer or suggestion. My 3 year old has ADHD – not sure if that would qualify as a disability? I will happily use fast passes on any rides that have them, but for those that do not, he will not last longer than 15 minutes in a line, if I’m lucky enough to get that long. He will become aggitated & highly disruptive and we will have to leave. Again, that is manageable as I see someone above mention leaving one person in line while going for bathroom breaks? If thats not a problem either myself or my husband will leave the line with him until we get nearer the front. I guess my thought is that this card may make the trip more enjoyable for him, less stressful.

31

Katherine on October 7th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I fully support this change! It is so sad to me that so many people abuse the system. Remind yourselves what this is meant for. For those who physically or mentally are unable to wait in the normal line. If you just don’t feel like waiting in line or are trying to get out of it if possible, this program is NOT for you! My family has visited WDW at least once a year for my entire life (23 years), and my sister (21) is autistic. We have never even considered this program because we were able to work with my sister to help her understand the importance of waiting for things that you want. I do realize, however, that people with more severe cases of autism have greater issues.

To other blog readers like Kerry (comment 23 above), I encourage you to at least give the program a shot before “looking at alternatives for vacations.” This change is meant to enhance the experience overall for people who actually need it, like your family, by reducing the amount of abuse. You should be excited to learn all about these new changes, rather than threatening to take your business away from a company that is trying to make your experience more efficient, and as always, magical.

32

kathryn on October 7th, 2013 at 6:34 pm

These restrictions are why we haven’t yet gone. My 8 year old with Autism wants to go really bad. But we cannot wait in lines for any period of time and are very easily overstimulated. If we’re lucky we’d last an hour or so at the park itself. We’d love to go, but am not so sure about these accommodations or lack thereof would even make it worth it or not.

33

JANICE on October 8th, 2013 at 9:28 am

Are the new official rules out for DAS and where are they posted? There are so many rumors in the media. Thanks

34

Sara on October 9th, 2013 at 9:20 am

I am curious to see how this program will work in regards to special seating during parades. My son has Autism has no problems waiting in line for rides because there is usually ample room for stimming (thank goodness). However, when he gets excited he stims(flaps, spins or is constantly up and down) so he needs space while waiting for parades. His first trip we only used the GAC for parades. Hopefully we can still use that service within the new policy.

35

Meredith from FL on October 11th, 2013 at 1:27 am

Coming on the 12th hoping all goes well. This will be our first time not having the GAC after 20+ trips since my autistic son was two. Will post results when we get back.

36

Kerry on October 14th, 2013 at 12:50 am

Very happy with the changes! Good job Disney

37

Alice from OH on October 16th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

My husband can’t walk very well since his spinal cord injury. We always bring his wheelchair and push him around He has to go to bathroom every 30 minutes but can’t wear adult diapers. How will the new system work for us? The last trip we had to Disney World ended up being very difficult for my husband since we were in line with his wheelchair and couldn’t push him back through the line. We had to go back to the hotel several times for changes of clothes. It was embarrassing for him and people around us.

38

Stephen from goose green Wigan on October 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Hi all we are counting down the weeks before Our Family of four fly out to the WDW from the UK, Both my son and myself are full time wheelchair user’s and 13th November cant come soon enough. we are vacation club members so have been to WDW many times and have used the GAC in the parks, not to get to the front of lines as this never usually happens, its only used as an aid to access an attraction from a different location, in fact we have vacationed with friends who have joined the normal lines and been on and off the ride before we have even got in line so this idea that disabled people have it easy is untrue, I find it really sad that genuine disabled people are now being targeted but agree with each disabled individual applying for the new card having their photos on them, as this will generally cut down the abuse by some individuals, just hope it doesn’t impact on the genuine one’s.

39

Allison from CA on October 19th, 2013 at 1:32 am

LOVED the new system. Our mod/severe ASD son was able to enjoy a five day vacation in Disneyland with NO issues using the new program. One day the crowds were 60 plus mins for Pirates and 90 for Haunted Mansion. It was not an easy day for the parks, however we were able to walk around with our ride time for Peter Pan for example (received at Little Mermaid) with no anxiety. No tantrum as you dont have to walk up to an attraction entrance with the child to receive a ride time. It took planning, but so do our trips to the grocery store. Every cast member went beyond to be helpful. Well being verbally assaulted by other guests who didnt like the change and werent up for trying it. This is a change for the better…thank you for a magical stay.

40

Kimberly on November 3rd, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I think the new system works pretty good. I did however find one flaw in your new system that I will be emailing the park about. I don’t like the fact that I we have to get a new card every two weeks though, kind of a pain to wait in that huge line at city hall every time we go.

41

Chrystal on January 1st, 2014 at 3:19 pm

We are planning on going to Disney in April 2014. My son has Down Syndrome. He is 7 years old. He has problems walking and standing for long periods of time due to his low muscle tone. He also can get overstimulated which usually results in intense flapping and very loud moaning noises. I am eager to see how this program will work for him. I thought a good idea would be to get an official letter from his pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist about his condition and limitations to bring as proof, along with his parking permit to eliminate any questions or confusion. I don’t expect everyone to realize he has a disability, and am perfectly ok with supplying any documentation needed as to keep any suspected abuse down for all of the other guests who really need it. I know its not a requirement to do so, but I bring things like that to help along the process. Maybe others should too, which may help with any questions from Guest Services. And it doesn’t violate any HIPPA laws, because you are voluntarily providing the information you choose to.

42

Amee on February 18th, 2014 at 5:10 pm

We are currently planning our vacation for this summer. It really is sad to know that people abuse programs that are not intended for them. I would wait in the line for as long as I needed to if my daughter could walk. Unfortunately, she is can walk short distances with a walker but has to be in her wheelchair for long distances. She is also developmentally delayed and therefore cannot wait very long for a ride, not only for herself but for others as well. I am beginning to rethink our vacation……….Concerned Mother

42 Comments