If you watch the news, you have probably heard by now that Disney has announced that it is changing it’s Guest Assistance Card program. This program allowed individuals with either special needs or handicapped issues to show a card that was issued by Disney, and to enter attractions through the Fast Pass line or the exit, depending on the attraction, to avoid having to stand and wait in line.
The Guest Assistance Card, or GAC received a huge amount of bad press earlier this year when it was discovered that wealthy guests were hiring disabled travel guides in order to take advantage of their GAC, and not have to wait in the long lines like everyone else. The idea of this “taking advantage” outraged many, and forced Disney to take a hard look at the program. Disney was aware that at times people were abusing this system, but the extent of the abuse had not been known to the general public.
This week, The Disney Company has announced that it worked with disability groups such as Autism Speaks, to come up with a new program in attempt to curb the abuse the current system is enduring. The Disabled Assistance System, or DAS, will replace the GAC on October 9, 2014.
Unlike the GAC, which is issued and good for the entire length of your visit, the DAS card will need to be issued to a guest each and every day of their stay. Guests will need to check in with Guest Relations, and have their photo taken to be printed on the card they will receive. This will allow cast members to be sure that the guest who has been issued the card is in fact riding the attraction with the family members present. The cardholder will present the card, and will be given a hand-written return time, based on the actual wait time of the attraction at that moment. The guest will be allowed admittance into the attraction at the time of the hand-written return. There will be DAS kiosks around the park to assist guests with obtaining these return times. Only one DAS ride return time will be issued per individual at a time.
For guests requesting a DAS card based solely on their use of a wheelchair for mobility, the DAS card will only work on attractions that are not currently accessible by wheelchair. At this time, Walt Disney World has 46 vehicle ride attractions, and 38 have line queues that are wheelchair accessible. At Disneyland, there are 55 vehicle ride attractions, and they also have 38 that the line queues have already been made wheelchair accessible. Eventually, all line queues will be made to allow wheelchair access all the way up to the front of the ride. If a line queue is not wheelchair accessible, return time entrance to the attraction will be allowed through Fast Pass entrances or through the exits at select attractions. At California Adventure Park, DAS cards will not be issued to guests whose DAS needs are solely based on the need of a wheelchair, as all of their vehicle ride line queues are already wheelchair accessible.
This new assistance program will not apply to children visiting the parks through the Make-A-Wish foundation. They will still be allowed unlimited FastPass entrances to all attractions so that they will not have to endure waiting in long lines.
While some people are voicing concern with the announcement of these changes, it is important to remember that Disney is making these changes to enhance the Disney experience for all of their guests, and to reduce the abuse by those who feel the need to be ‘privileged’. You can count on the fact that just as Disney does with everything, they have researched and well planned for these adjustments, and feel as though they are making the best improvements they can make. Disney wants all guests, no matter their limitations, to feel welcome in their parks, and to make lasting memories and enjoy their experiences. For more information or concerns about your family and the Disabled Assistance System, contact me today with questions, and see Disney’s website here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/guests-with-disabilities/