Disney confirms changes to disability access program. But is there a better way?
Disney now has confirmed the changes
to its procedures for accommodating theme park guests with disabilities — a change we discussed here on Theme Park Insider last week.
Disney soon will be changing the way that visitors with disabilities access rides and shows at its theme parks.
Disney's Guest Assistance Card [GAC] program is going away on October 9, to be replaced by a Disabled Assistance System [DAS]. The basic principal is the same: theme park visitors with disabilities will be given "back door" access to attractions when the guest cannot use the attraction's "normal" stand-by waiting queue. But instead of getting unlimited instant access to attractions, visitors with disabilities will be given an assigned return time to one attraction at a time. Return times will be set to the current stand-by wait time for the ride or show, so that there's no time advantage to using DAS over waiting in line. Also, visitors with disabilities must be present and ride in order for others in their party to be admitted through the DAS return line.
Questions remain, of course. Will all wheelchair parties now have to get DAS cards? (Now, many guests with wheelchairs go straight to wheelchair entrances, not bothering with GACs, as our own Daniel Etcheberry reports.) Will the DAS return times be for a specific time window, as FastPass is now, or can parties with a DAS reservation ride at any time during the day after their assigned time, without having to worry about missing a specific hour-long window? Will Disney provide enough staff so that people won't have to wait in long lines just to get DAS approval and attraction return times?
Theme Park Insider readers reacted passionately to the initial reports about this change — some welcoming it as a long-overdue response to an abused system and others attacking it as an unworkable alternative that will keep their families from being able to visit the parks. But is there a better alternative to GAC or DAS?
From reading your responses to the program, it appears that the key issue is fairness in the number of attractions that a party can experience in one day. Having disability access should not enable those families to visit more attractions during their visit than those without that access can experience. And not having disability access should not prevent groups traveling with a person with disabilities from experiencing the same number of rides and shows during their trip as a "normal" party can. If all visitors could feel assured that they'd still get their "fair" number of rides in, perhaps they'd feel less stressed out about how other people were using systems such as DAS.
Perhaps a more ideal system would price theme parks on the number of attractions visited instead of the amount of time spent there. And to ensure that visitors didn't just crowd the "best" rides and shows, the system would group attractions into classes, and give you a limited number of visits to rides and shows in each class.
Hey, maybe A-through-E ticket books weren't such a bad idea, after all?
Actually, Disney's new FastPass+ system restores some of the functionality of the ticket books, in that it does confirm three attraction visits per day for people using that new ride reservation system. Disney hasn't rolled out FastPass+ fully, but perhaps families with a person with autism might be able to use the system in the future to schedule a day in the parks in a way that would accommodate those visitors' needs.
Let's think this through: Maybe the solution to the disability access problem is a more scheduled day for everyone, with an increased reliance on FastPass+-type scheduling that minimizes or eliminates the use of the conflict-producing stand-by lines. Disney's old ticket-book-style of access would return, not through physical ticket books, but through FastPass+ back-end programming that allows visitors a certain number of reserved visits to certain classes of attractions on a given day. Sure, there'd be less opportunity for spontaneity during a theme park visit. But there'd be less uncertainty, and fewer conflicts in stand-by lines, too.
Another way to reduce wait time is, of course, to increase the park's peak capacity. Disney's decision to drop millions of dollars on new ride reservation and scheduling systems instead of simply using that money to build more rides has many of its current (and some now-former) fans upset. But new rides attract new visitors, and it's unlikely that a park ever could build enough new attractions to ensure insignificant wait time during the busiest times of the year. If it could, that park would be stuck with a massive amount of excess capacity during slower times of the year. No park that wanted to stay in business would spend its money to do that.
Even if parks so their very best to create the most accessible queues possible, there will be some people with certain conditions who won't be able to use them. So a park needs to come up with some system to accommodate people who can't wait in traditional queues. Disney's going to give its new system a try, starting next month. But just as DAS evolved from GAC, it's likely that we'll see Disney's system for accommodating visitors with disabilities continue to evolve in the future.
Update: Keep this in mind before commenting, too. While I appreciate the passion that so many readers have brought to the discussion on this issue, I'm reminded of an old law school cliche: "If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you don't have the law or the facts on your side, pound the table."
The more you "pound the table" in your reaction to this issue, the more likely others are to see you as someone without facts or law on your side. From my time working at Disney, I know that many cast members were convinced that the guests who complained the loudest, and with the most emotion, were often the ones trying to pull a fast one.
Many readers have brought good reason and insightful experience to this discussion. They are the ones who will convince others and have influence in shaping the future of theme park policy. Those who "pound the table" won't. And, frankly, shouldn't.
I think this is a fine change. I'm a big believer in making reasonable adjustments so that the less abled, or those that require special consideration get as close as possible to to what for lack of a better word, us non-disabled get.
My niece and nephew have disabilities (my nephew is more severe), and my sister has a (less severe) disability as well. They also had a Disney reservation for early November. They have rearranged their travel schedule for the reasons you pointed out. They are now going before the policy change takes place, spending more money for less days in the park.
Robert -- I think your coverage of DAC/DAS has been award-worthy. I have not seen any better articles on this anywhere. You really have made some thought-provoking points.
People with disabilities still get regular FP's, in addition to a DAC "card." When combined, total rides could increase significantly compared to non-disabled riders. That number would go up even further if you have multiple disabled riders in your group.
I've read most of the comments from the orginal post and there are some very thoughtful people here and along with the "table-pounders" Robert mentioned. Having dealt with the honestly disabled and the scammers alike, it's really hard not to feel for the disbabled who, for years have had an access system that actually helped them enjoy some of the same things the more able folks have. But, the very law that has brought many different businesses into line on the issue of property access also helped create the possibliity of the present widespread acamming; namely that a person does not have to reveal their disability. Thus when a person walked into the Guest Service office they could ask for the GAC or whatever a park had available and Never state why they may need it. So the scam was on and only those with a consience would not stoop so low as to deprive someone who really needed the access from having a chance of enjoying attractions without the long waits at the exit or other access points. While this may not be a perfect systems it will certainly discourage the scammers, to a certain extent, on abusing the disabled access system. When I worked in a Guest Sevice office I would do my level best to help the disabled get on some attractions in a reasonable time. I also enjoyed telling some scammers that the attractions they wanted to go on were wheelchair accessable through the normal entrance and to have a nice day. Yes, after a while you could tell who the scammers were before they even walked in the door.
I am not sure how I feel about the new system. Children with Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD, like my son, may not want to go on a certain ride 30,60 or 90 minutes from when we get the "fast pass" type ticket. He cannot help the way he is and he should not be punished for being born the way he was. I think that the best thing for Disney to do is to add the GAC pass to the person's actual ticket. For instance, we are annual passholders, why not add the GAC (Guest Assistance Card) to our ticket. It will prevent any abuse since no one else can use your theme park entrance ticket and it will still allow my son to enjoy his day the way he does now. I will see how the new system works for my son and if it severely impacts my son's enjoyment of Disney, I may not renew our annual passes. It is a shame because when you live so close to Disney, it is nice to be able to take the children out for a fun family day. I am willing to give it a try before complaining about it, but, I know my son and I just do not see this being beneficial for him. The amazing thing is that the same people who were getting aggrevated with my son's meltdown from waiting on line for over an hour are the same people who now give me looks for having the guest assistance card.
I am a 30 yr. old mom to two young boys and have had 11 knee surgeries in the last five years and have surgeries scheduled to re-align my knee and then follow that up with knee replacement. I have a handicap license in the state I reside. We went to Disney in Aug. and I was not aware of the GAC pass before going. I did get a cortisone shot prior to the trip and promised my sons that I would push myself so that we could see as much as possible. On Day 2 a cast member graciously told me about the card and it saved our trip! Part of my knee issue is that if I sit too long or stand too long my knee cap sinks into the groove and locks it up solid and because of this a wheelchair is not an option. Using the card we were able to go to a park and ride three or four rides and then return to our hotel room by 2pm so that I could elevate and ice my knee before dinner. With the new system in place I don't see this being possible. Initially, my husband and I planned to take the boys back in March but I am having second thoughts. It is not possible for me to walk to a kiosk and then to a ride and back to a kiosk. Thanks to my knee I walk slow and carefully so the added time to our day would be a lot! There are some that may say that I have no business going to Disney. I understand your sentiment but there is not enough space to list all of the activities that I miss out on with my boys and now I feel like I can add Disney to that list. Maybe after my knee is replaced we'll go back and I will happily stand in regular lines and not be in pain. That is my ultimate wish. I am just really glad we went when we did!
I'm wondering about Service Dogs. I've heard rumors on other sites that Service Dogs will no longer be allowed as a reason for a rider swap. I don't mind waiting in line, or using the new system of returning at a later time, but I'm really hoping that my husband and I will still be able to swap places so that we can each ride without having to go through the whole process of getting a new return time. There are some rides my service dog can't go on, and if they don't let us swap places on those rides, then we are going to really not be able to do many things a day, especially during peak times when the wait times will be long. Does anyone have confirmation on this?
The new system seems that it will be much more fair to everyone.
My biggest concern with the new program is the disable person now must go on every ride in order to use the card. My son is not tall enough to get on every ride. My husband and I would switch off and use the card, so we are not waiting in long lines while one of us is trying to keep my son entertained. So now the problem is which rides do we not get to enjoy because the line is too long and my son may have a melt down waiting for the other parent to come back. I feel that Disney is now splitting up a family.
I have never used Disney's Guest Assistance Card, and I'm VERY disabled. I don't have a problem waiting in a regular queue. I waited in lots of queues in the past when I was able to walk; now that I'm in a wheelchair the queue is actually more convenient since I don't have to stand up for hours like I did before when I was able-bodied. I just ask for a queue that is easy to navigate with a wheelchair, and rides that are easy to transfer when possible. If I want to skip a line I use Fast Pass. Having said this, there should be exceptions like people with autism.
I understand this to an extent but limiting the new pass to 1 ride at a time is ridiculous. What if you can't wait in line, then what are you suppose to do when EVERY ride has a LONG line but you can't get a new time till you've ridden your first ride. Why not have the new passes allow say 3 ride times. My son is diabetic and lets say we wait in a 45 minute line and get close to our turn and then his blood sugar goes too high or too low, which is often the case in children, we will have to more than likely leave the line to treat him and then what...wait again???? How is that fair? Not to mention the fact that insulin doesn't do well exposed to the hot sun of Florida on a continual basis. I thank God that we just took our first and now possibly last trip to Disney World (which we absolutely feel in love with)this past August. Shame on those who have abused the disability pass and shame on Disney for not coming up with a better solution.
I have recently had the need for a DAC. This last trip at Disneyland was terrible. The cast members were so rude to us, and a couple of times I actually had to leave the ride because we waited longer than the standby line. The difference in our line was that we were in the hot sun, while the styandby line was shaded. I know they were looking down on us because we didn't require a wheel chair, (several cast members blatently told us that). To me, their new pending policy has required the staff to become judgemental and rude. I welcome a new system that makes things a little more fair for everyone involved. I dont want to be judged because my physical issues are not as obvious as others are. I don't want other families to feel like they are somehow less important than people that require some help. I have never met a two year old that can stand in line for an hour without becoming very grumpy. Children without disabilities shouldn't have to wait longer than children with disabilities. Anyone with a real issue that requires accomodation should be ok with waiting, just not in the standby line where it is hard on everyone involved. If it is dificult to leave the area and come back, there are always ways to entertain adults or children with special needs. There are places to sit where caretakers can read to them, pull out some coloring books, or play a game. I have seen others do this and it works. If this new system is what they say it is, it should work out quite well.
It has been awhile since my grandmother came to the parks with us, but I distictly remember that many of the lines were made for people in wheelchairs. I remember actually waiting in line with her for Stitch's Great Escape (not the best example, but you get the point).
I have an autistic son and I have lupus. Standing still (especially in Florida sun) for any length of time is difficult for me, and my going in a wheelchair is extremely upsetting for my son. Having to go to a ride and wait to come back is not something we are really capable of doing because we can not spend more than 2 hours in the park, and idle time is what sets my child off.
As a person who loves Disney World and is in a power wheelchair, I have see some amazing things and some less then amazing things in all the times that I have been to the parks. The most amazing things is that I do not have to transfer to get on some ride. I can wait in line and then get on to a car or boat that has a spot just for wheelchairs. That is wonderful! The only rides I go on are ones that I can pull right on. My wheel chair is within the appropriate size to go on those rides, unlike a scooter or ECV. I have had a few instances where they will not let me on because they believe it is too big. Even after I explain they still refuse, it is slightly upsetting to know that I can go on the ride but they will not allow me too. Another problem is that they only have so many cars or boats that can accommodate a wheelchair so after waiting in a regular line for however long, I may still have to wait up to 30 min to actually get on the ride. My question would be with this new system would I have to wait after they give me a time to come back but then also wait 30 to actually be able to get on the ride where I do not have to transfer? If not, then this new system might be good if you do not have to wait too long after getting a time to come back so that you do not have to leave the area you are in and are not standing around doing nothing while waiting. Honestly I do enough waiting when we go to Disney world for the rest of my family to get off rides that I can't go on. My family and I are going in January and I hope that the hiccups of this new program are gone and I can just enjoy my vacation before going back to college. I will keep looking to see what happens and let hope that it not as disastrous as everyone, including myself, expects it to be.
I support this change and think it is a fair compromise. I am also a Disney lover with disabled family members. My brothers have sensory issues that make waiting in line difficult for them (and those who care for him). If my brother now has to wait 90 minutes to ride Space Mountain, then we will have to prepare him the best we can and figure out some appropriate activities during our wait. If my disabled mother can't stand during her wait time, then we will have to find a shady bench or maybe ride the Carousel of Progress. I am okay with this compromise, because it seems like a good-faith effort to make WDW as equitable as possible for as many guests as possible.
I am sad that this privilege may be taken away. Before I knew about the guest assistance pass we lasted one ride before my child melted down & we had to leave after only 2 hours. I would be happy to show Disney "proof" of my child autism diagnosis. I have even brought in a prescription written by his doctor that says "My son (name omitted) has autism...please accommodate him & his family" written on his doctor's script. I also photo copy the front page of is current IEP as proof as well. Every time I attempt to show Disney staff my proof of needing the Guest Assistance Pass...they tell me by law they cannot ask for proof. Well maybe they should create a law requiring proof. I always felt a tad guilty whenever we entered the exits as my son appears typical....but then I think back to my son from ages 0-5...it was challenging as hell physically, mentally & emotionally...so I feel like this pass is a welcome gift & one way to make having a child with special needs a bit easier....& we are able to enjoy Disneyland as a family & at the same time limiting the likelihood of meltdowns.
I think people with disabilities should get to ride more rides in a day than others at Disneyland. So I disagree with the basic premise. It's a big treat, and it's a hardship for many families to get there. So, in my opinion, the "happiest place on earth" should give a little extra to those who have a little less. No one in my family is disabled, and maybe a disabled person, or differently abled person, won't want to be treated specially- then they can opt to wait. But if I had a child who was fragile, or who could only enjoy about four hours out and about due to their condition, I would want the short time we could stay of the day to be all fun, not paced out at the same attention span as those with more stamina. Fair isn't always making things the same for everyone. People who get up every day and feel great and have lots of choices every day, and have every reason to hope for a long life can't give that to people who have disabilities. But they can give a little of their time at Disneyland to make a special day of memories a little easier and a little more memorable.
We have loved Disney because of their disability policy. Our youngest child has Dravet syndrome, Ehler-Danlos syndrome and is now tube fed because she cannot maintain her weight. She has a service dog and has to use a wheelchair when needing to "walk" any distance. I am horrified with these changes as they sound very similar to what Kings Island implemented. Kings Island this year was a disaster, 6 hours and only 2 rides - they were not even the "popular" rides. My daughter (at 13) still believes in Tinkerbell (and every thing else magic) but does not understand going up to a ride, getting a time to come back, leaving and then coming back. We don't have the luxury of "practicing" to get her use to this new policy. Last year when my grandfather died, I used my inheritance to book a Disney vacation. Unfortunately it will come during the "learning curve" of this new policy. I agree that things needed to be changed as I was appalled when I saw people abuse the disability passes last time we went to Disney. Unfortunately, I am afraid that this is going to be a change for the worse in our situation. So sad that others abused the system and caused children who are actually disabled to reap the punishment. Not looking forward to Disney now.
This is the first I am hearing about the changes and it seems a little bit harsh at first. I know many families who rely on this system to help thier children enjoy the day at the parks. The families I know all have children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with this disorder have a range of symptoms which inhibits thier ability to wait and handel changes.
This is a very sticky situation that we Disney goers find ourselves in both those of us who are disabled and those who are not. I my self am disabled however do not look it, I have UC (ulcerative colitis) and finding out about the GAC with only a few days left my honeymoon was the best gift I ever received, because it allowed me to feel normal. Standing and waiting more than 15 minutes can cause me fatigue and anxiety. I hope that I will still be able to get this new card... however I have the sense that life will be much more complicated with it. When sick (which is always as I have never been in remission) my cognition is impaired and while I can still do executive functioning skills like planning, it takes a lot of energy and i often become overwhelmed. Who wants to be overwhelmed on vacation?
I hate that people took advantage of this and ruined it for those who truely needed it. I get that people want it to be fair, that the disabled has to wait as long as the " non" disabled. But why is it fair that I have a child with autism and you don't. Why is it fair that your 9 year old child can stand in line for 30 min. and mine would have a full on melt down. I don't think any parent of a " non" disable child would ever trade their child for one with a disability just so they don't have to wait in line at disneyland. It was the one perk we had. It was the only reason we could go to disneyland and enjoy it like any " normal" family could. We'll try the new system and hope it work for my child.
Someone in an above post said something so profound: let those who have less, have a little more. Our son is Autistic and Disney is a happy place for him, despite the challenges....we navigate Disney much better with the GAC. We get as many rides in as we can, because chances are, a few hours later my son is done....and is cant handle much more....Disney GAC has been wonderful for us, but the new system will probably not work for us...my son is developmentally delayed and cannot process situations like normal folks. We are passholders, and we are willing to see if we can work with the new program...if not, we will let our passes go. I always carry our diagnosis to disney, whether they check it or not....because I feel its fair for them to know our situation. My son deserves a break, because his daily life is a struggle....he has multiple issues besides autism and spends at least 4 times a week in therapies....I pray the new system works, but fear as many parents of children/adults on the spectrum, it has potential to be less accomodating for their specific needs and more potential for fraud. Non-disabled people who are dishonest, will not hesitate to abuse this system and it seems to make it easier for fraud to occur....now that everyone(dishonest folks) will see the kiosks and wonder what they are and head over to guest services and commit fraud....well, we will see what happens...not looking forward to Disney as much now with my son....he has rigid rituals at disney and the longer waits will probably affect this process for him....
Is it me or is there an unusually large amount of anonymous responses to this article? Hopefully, they are new to the site so in that case, welcome!
Being truly disabled normally means that your physical ability during a day is only a small portion of what a non-disabled person can do within the same time period. This said, there are some folks like myself where I can only be active for a hour or two before I need to rest for an hour. In the past a Disney although I was permitted to go around the line and be first on, I was always Last off due to needing assistance. It also took me much longer to go between rides. Yes Disability comes in many forms and to those that are truly disabled, this means so much to allow us to enjoy times with other family members because we have the ability to truly rest between rides. I've only been disabled for the last 4 years of my life and never really understood why disabled folks got these special favors. But now I understand.. it's not really favors, it allows one with physical challenges to enjoy those few hours a day when they are strong to again feel like part of the family. Yes there are a lot of people abusing the system.. too many.. and they should be punished for what they did, but these changes will only punish the folks who are truly disabled as this will now prevent them from being able to ride on as many rides as those who are not disabled.. If the rules need to change then let me as a disabled person only pay for those rides that I do ride in a 24 hour window. This way I wont have to buy a 4 day pass so that I can get at least a day's worth of rides in.
A lot of people who have been using the old GAC and getting immediate front of the line access are really upset that things are changing to make access equal for all guests, just as the law demands. Concern about waiting seem to be the most common even if waiting can be done anywhere, not solely in the queue.
I love disney and have been many times. We have booked for this christmas. But if this is the new rules i cant see us going again. And now im not looking forward to going this christmas.
I love disney and have been many times. We have booked for this christmas. But if this is the new rules i cant see us going again. And now im not looking forward to going this christmas.
As the father of a child with Down Syndrome we had the opportunity to take advantage of the original program. It was a truly special time for my son, wife and I. To see his response to it all and the kindness shown by every single person on the staff at Disney was truly a blessing. It wasn't about the number of rides or any of the matters discussed. It was about the overall experience for children who's lives are often severely limited, with uncertain futures. I just wanted to say thank you to the folks at Disney for what you've done over the years and I'm sorry that some unthinking, uncaring, ignorant people have ruined it for everyone. If their is a God in heaven this people will be visited by a catastrophe in their lives that makes them stop, think, and truly regret what they've done.
I completely understand why Disney made this decision and I've read posts by some with children on the autism spectrum but not all on the spectrum are the same. I wish my son only had aspergers and I wish I could carry around his ipad or his DS game to entertain him while we wait but I can't. He will only use his ipad at home (the hotel room is his temporary home). I am afraid to even attempt things like a DS because in under a week it will most likely be broken from being thrown out of frustration because he can't understand how to play the game or because someone asked him a question while he is holding it and he didn't want to be questioned at that moment. I've never seen an otterbox for a DS.
Totally not cool Disney. - Kids with Disabilitys do not like to wait. - Sure why not make them wait 3 hours. - In that time they may have a meltdown and have to go back to there rooms. - Need changing, need feeding, need a nap or and/or other things. - Children with disabilitys work BEST on schedules and if they want to ride something one minute it doesn't mean when you say to come back they will want to come back.
As a Floridian, Passholder and lover of Disney for over 30 years, my family and I never heard of these programs. I am severely disabled, even after many complaints I was never told about the options I had. I waited in lines in heat and in poor weather, we would have visited more and enjoyed more with the possibility of some enjoyment. With Disney not verifying a disabiltiy to prove the legitamate nature, it opens many doors for others to bring greater scams. For many who can walk run, stand, bear heat, I'm very happy for you, I would dream of it....some of us cannot, some can barely survive hours before retreated to hotels or a drive back home rejuvenate. Our goal is to simply try to enjoy the life we have left. We all pay the same prices, want the same things, yet at times I've been treated like a leper trampled in my own wheelchair, yes, even knocked out of it. IS this system really suitable? What will it really take to make everyone realize we just want to enjoy life like everyone else and little understanding. I don't bring 30 people with me, or even 6. There should be a cap on this, a blue tag from a car means nothing, watch a parking lot, watch those jump out of chairs to run past another to even go to the restroom stall. I think Disney is opening it's eyes, but the sights are still blurred. Stricter policies and true proof an individuals permanent restrictions should be made. Yes, you are a business, but what is a business or a park if your guests don't enjoy their experiences to invite others make it grow and leave a person like me with great memories not a day of frustration and even regret. You may think as an adult I should be okay with this, but we ALL live and all deserve similar rights and priveledges. No one is better than another, nor does one deserve more than another. Lock yourself in a chair never to be able to move again, would you crumble or want to enjoy life....I choose to enjoy, but Disney, why are you making it harder?
It is interesting to read the comments from those who are not disabled and do not have family members who are disabled. I can appreciate the perspective that those who are disabled shouldn't be entitled to more than those who are not disabled. This seems to makes logical sense -- until you are the parent of a child or children with autism. I am the mother of two boys on the autism spectrum. They cannot wait in line, nor can they understand not being able to get right on a ride that they really want to go on. It is not as simple -- as one person who posted suggested -- as trying to occupy them with coloring books or other activities that might occupy a neurotypical child. While clearly imperfect, the old GAC system enabled our family to go to Disney and enjoy an experience, as a family, that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to enjoy. There aren't many places that we can go as a family. The new system worries me tremendously as it is similar to what they do in Universal and our experience there was not great. Having to sign up for rides left us wandering around the park for hours trying to find something to do with our increasingly agitated children while waiting for ride times to come up. This, in fact, is not equality. I understand that neurotypical kids get agitated waiting too - but I can assure you, it is NOTHING like when my children get agitated. For those who are not intimately familiar with autism, I encourage you to read more about it and spend some time with children who have it. Then you may understand, just a little better, why trying to make the system "equal" in this way doesn't really make it equal. And I'll go out on a limb to ask - do you really begrudge these kids a few "extra" rides anyway, if that's what was really happening? Though I admit I don't have statistics to back this statement up, I am guessing the impact of the GAC system on other individual families' wait times was virtually imperceptible in the end - but the difference it made for our family was immeasurable. I understand the system had to change because of those people who abused it. But this is not the way. We go again this December - and it's too late to change our plans. We'll give it a try, because now we have to. But I am so anxious; I can't help thinking how sad it will be if this makes it impossible to manage. You can't imagine what being able to go to Disney meant for us.
This is terrible for me! I have Multiple Sclerosis and my problem with the line is not just standing which is horrible on my legs and fatigue issues but also the sun and heat which can trigger illness and a full blown relapse. Having to waste so much time waiting to ride one then another would take me so long I would have to be there for days wasting time. Not to mention that we save forever just to be able to go so we do not have a lot of discretionary money to just go play around doing stuff while we are waiting to go back to a ride. This is incredible stupid and short-sighted for the company. Did they actually talk to real disabled people before they thought of this change?
I certainly understand both sides of the debate, and can imagine the contraversy Disney has had to deal with. My only disappointment is timing. The changeover falls right in the middle of my trip with 2 1/2 disabled. (The half because one of the guys may have a knee the size of a basketball after walking for the first few days.) I know Disney has to make changes some time, just wish I had more time to get all of the details on the new system.
First a little background so this makes sense: I have been going to Disney with my son for the last 11 years. In total, we have spent 150 days on Disney property. During this time, my son has had moderate to severe autism. Like many on the autism spectrum, my son has issues with change and difficulty understanding and his verbal and reasoning skills are limited. Patience is not a virtue for him. Until recently, he would melt down just having to stop at a red light. A meltdown for him at 6 was crying and being upset for a few hours. To be sure it was not fun to deal with. A meltdown at 17 is quite another thing entirely. When he melts down now he can become physical and attempt to hurt me. He is 200 lbs and 6’ 2” tall and so it takes a fair amount of energy to control him. Although he has never become physical with a stranger, because of his size the movement in a tightly crowded line can be hazardous to those around him.
Cedar Fair already does this. Disney is late to the party.
Paul D - I agree 100% with everything you mention. Well said.
Disney world was the most magical place on earth. I know that my family could never go back. Due to the sensory issues due to Autism. I always told people about how because the love of Disney my son learned to sing. So every vacation for the last ten years we always spent are money because it was worth it for us to see my son happy. When he has a difficult time. I thought Disney was about KIDS and that all kids should be able to enjoy Disney. Now you have shut the door for many kids that already have a hard time. I am just so heart broken. Disney World was like therpy for my son. I hope Disney you will reconsider. These beautiful kids should at least have the most magical place be there for them. My son does not like touch yet at Disney he has allowed the charaters to hug him. That is so big to me as a parent see,to hear him sing. I never thought I would hear him.I have been so grateful to Disney for this. There has to be way! People with wheel chairs that can wait should wait.But kids on the spectrum can not wait due to sensory issues and could only handle the park in small doses. I like many people can voluntary bring a doctor note.Please Disney do let kids with Autism down.I never thought I would Disney this much, but when see how it can help a child you love. The way I can say thank you is by buying any thing disney which I do. One look at my home and you know we are a Disney family! I have been loyal to Disney please do let the kids with Autism down.
I understand that Disney had to do something to combat the abusers of the GAC system. For those individuals who felt that it was OK to pay disabled people to "be a part of the family" for the day, or to obtain a pass without any disability or special needs requirements is horrendous! I can understand that from an outsiders (non disability) perspective, it may appear that legitimate users of the GAC program have unlimited and immediate access to all rides and attractions, therefore they are getting "more" out of their Disney day. That is simply not the case!!!
My family and I planned a trip to Disney in 2008. I was very apprehensive, as we have an autistic son. I was worried that hour long line standing would abruptly end our vacation. I was told of the DAC system and felt that we would go ahead as planned. I gathered and packed all of our medical documentation. I felt that since my son's disability was not visible, I would be put through the ringer. Imagine my shock when I was not asked to prove his disability. Needless to say, we enjoyed our times at the park. Our access to rides wasn't instant, but just about the right amount of time for us, without our son having a meltdown. We decided to return in 2009, to celebrate our son's 5th birthday. Again, I gathered all documentation (thinking the first trip was a fluke) and again, no one asked. I can see how someone could easily abuse this system; however, I am finding it very hard to believe (just baffled) as to why someone would pay for a "disabled guide" when they could just easily walk into guest services and state that someone in their party was disabled and get the same treatment for free - no questions asked. I think there has to be a better solution than the one Disney is planning to implement. How about having a disabled guest register and actually list the names of 3-4 other guests that would accompany them each time and don't allow the list of names to change. I was just about to book a trip for our family to Disney in March 2014, for our daughter's 5th birthday, now I'm not so sure. Perhaps we will come to Orlando, just not visiting a Disney Park. I'll just have to monitor how families are reacting to the new system. Sure makes me sad to know that a few rotten bananas, definitely can ruin it for the whole bunch. My understanding is that Disney consulted with groups such as Autism Speaks before making its decision. I wonder how much they really relied upon their suggestions in the end.
I am aware that this much needed and much appreciated system has been severely abused. We live in a society where the lazy and impatient often abuse programs designed for those who truly need assistance when it is available. Checks and balances would certainly help to insure that the disability access program worked for the people that it was originally designed for. Asking someone with a disabled child or a disabled parent to come back later still creates potential hardships for them. The saddest and most troublesome aspect of all this is that people who don't have disabilities are claiming that it is not "fair" that they have to wait longer in line. In the instance of people abusing the system, no it isn't "fair" that they are cutting in line. It's also not "fair" for them to be abusing the system at all. However, to say that it isn't "fair" for a child confined to a wheelchair or a child with autism to get on a ride a little sooner than others is just cruel. My mother and I would be happy to stand in line for an hour if she had the legs for us to do it. She actually wishes she could so that she wouldn't have been confined to a chair for the past 10 years. Her entire life is extra difficult because of her disability. Every single day is more difficult for her. It's not "fair" that she lives like this everyday, but we have a great support system and we do just fine. I just wish that people would be a little more sympathetic and be thankful that they are able to stand in line at all.
I understand the increase in difficulty that comes with bringing a disabled child to Disney. My issue is I am paying just as much money as someone with a disabled child, my child also wants to see and do as much as possible and does not like standing in line. When people got to go in front of "able bodied" guests that have been waiting in line is that fair? What makes one child's experience more important then another child's? I think this policy is fair. You still don't have to wait in line but you have to come back at a specific time so now if other kids have to wait 45 minutes to get on a ride so do yours. It is fair all the way around.
"From 22.214.171.124 on September 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM
In the many years I've been going to Disneyland with my disabled card I've never gotten immediate access to a ride, never. In DCA we were given a pass to come back to the attraction after the current wait time. That worked perfect, but now I will be asked to first find a kiosk, then wait in that line for a pass to come back to an attraction. I can't wait to see those lines. My vacation isn't until February so hopefully they will have changed it again by then.
I had a total hip replacement a tad over 10 years ago. So what that means is that there is a mechanical part in my body. Now if you look at it as a mechanical piece it has a life span and then I go back up on the rack and have the Teflon pieces replaced. So my doctor gave me a blue HC card as he feels that someone with a total hip replacement deserve a card. Now I stay in shape so when someone sees me park in a handicap spot they make comments.
My family has been truly looking forward to our next Disneyland visit. It is our favorite place to go. When my son was 16, we had to get a wheelchair our 3rd day in, as he had a hip condition and was in serious pain. He refused to use the chair to go through the handicapped line. Most teenagers aren't that noble today.
This is by no means, Disney's fault...
I believe you miss the point completely when trying to tally the number of rides visited per patron. Most families who have an attendee with a disability are far less able to move quickly from ride to ride as others do. This quickly negates the issue of making it to "more" rides. Many children with disabilities are unable to maintain the momentum to visit more than a few rides at all due to the nature of a variety of disabilities. The pass has not been considered a "line-jumping" pass. Most of the time there is still much waiting involved. It has however, allowed many individuals the opportunity to experience the parks when they otherwise could not have done so. We have used this every time & wouldn't have been able to provide the experience for our daughter or family without it. It is sad that the thoughtless ones who took advantage cause displacement for the ones who truly need accommodations! I'm not questioning whether people misused the pass but I do think this type of change will effect the children who benefited most from it. Parents who are already overwhelmed with trying to provide an experience in a positive way will be forced to strategically plan their day on top of needs of the child. It is most unfortunate that children with disabilities will be immediately effected & that their families will be the ones to suffer. It may not be the "happiest place on earth" anymore & quite honestly, it may be a deal breaker for many families who would have otherwise found solace in the assistance once provided! Let's hope the fear of change will be outshined by their consistent history in making provisions for those with disabilities via a well designed plan which further enhances visitors experiences rather than deny them.
So I've been reading this article and all the comments and I've been wondering about the wisdom of taking a child on the Aspergers on a roller coaster. I worked at Cedar Point and rides stop, often with people on them. If you're on a ride that stops on a lift hill, and your child has a meltdown there you're creating a dangerous situation for yourself, your family and the park worker.
Shame on Disney. Our son has orthopedic and cardiac conditions that severely affect his endurance. Add in the hot Florida sun and he is done after a short time. So now he can go on the same number of rides in 4 hrs as another non-disabled person can do in 4 hrs, and that is equal? Wrong! Because non-disabled people are not exhausted and done after 4 hrs. They can stay all day. Every day, we worry about our son. His health is not good. Disney was the one place where he got special treatment and we could forget about all of the worries. Looks like that experience for us is done. Very sad about this.
lets remember the purpose of this program when it was first started. To give CHILDREN with disabilities the opportunity to experience disney.
It seems that some people with autistic children might be misconstruing what Disney trips are like for non-autistic children. I take my "normal" 9 year old boy to Disney every year; around 30% of the time I feel like burying myself alive in the haunted mansion graveyard due to my son's inevitable, unprovoked meltdowns. 30% of the time I'm waiting in an incredible long line wondering when the next meltdown will come. Another 30% I'm basking in the fulfilled masochism that is Disney. And during the final 10%, the illusion of magic is created -- in an otherwise chaotic environment -- due to a brief moment of peace and quiet between drops on Splash Mountain.
For those who choose to judge... my child appears to be perfectly normal. A lesion in his brain causes seizures, rage behaviors brought on in a snap, temperature and fluid regulation issues, severe memory impairment and a host of issues nearly every moment of the day. He tires extremely quickly. I am all for fairness but my child will not last for more than a few hours in the park at a time -- on a good day! I struggle to see how the system will help children like him. I realize that no system will be a fits all solution for everyone but the eyes looking at revamping it need to look wide and deep at what is considered a "disability".
I find it amusing that people assume that just because a child/family has a GAC pass that they are riding MORE rides in a day than a family without one. I beg to differ. Just because you see a family skip a line and get on without waiting as long as the general public, don't make assumptions that they are flying thru every ride at Disney this way; riding more than your able bodied families.
If the problem is that there is too much abuse of the system, then the solution shouldn't be to change the policies in such a way that it makes things more difficult for *children* with special needs that preclude them from being able to tolerate waiting on line for extended periods of time just to discourage people who want to cheat... but to be more ardent in vetting the people requesting these accommodations.
While I understand everyone being concerned with the fairness of it all, one must also understand with some disabilities comes many different aspects that some may not understand from a mental standpoint. One key feature of many persons affected with Autism is that they simply lack the understanding of the concept of a complex system of getting a ticket at that ride but being told they cannot ride for however long that wait will be. The new system truly seems to punish the masses because of a few. Believe me, I wish that my son could tolerate standing in line for hours at a time and not, and understand that "fast pass" concept, but he doesn't and I don't expect everyone to get all that complex reasons why but it is certainly not because we want something anyone else is not getting. I am a mom of a 16 year old child with autism and his favorite place on earth is Disney and we have forever praised Disney for understanding those differences and having compassion for not only the children but for making it possible for families to be able to provide a day at their parks to their children. For many families with Autism, I promise this will cease their Disney dreams!!! There are many different aspects of this but I can only speak as a parent with a child with autism. He is older now and I hope that we can deal with the change but that will all depend on many factors of how this will all work...If this had happened when he were 5 or 10, there is NO WAY we could go to the park like this. So please, when submitting your comments be aware that unless, you have a child who has a disability, you really don't understand what it is doing to many, many families and please be compassionate. We do not wish to abuse anything or get more than you, we simply want to enjoy what you enjoy. I do hope that there will be a solution that can be fair for all but that will still allow our children with all disabilities to be able to enjoy the most magical place on earth.
The thing I think would really settle this once and for all is to require a doctor's note to get a pass. They can write it on a prescription pad so it can't be forged on letterhead. No one has to write a diagnosis on it (against the HIPA laws) and it can simply state that my patient "fill in the blank" cannot stand or wait for long periods of time due to a condition they are currently being treated for. End of story. I was quite surprised when I went to Great Adventure for the first time this year (had recent ankle surgery) and presented the girl with my Dr's note and she didn't even look at it - just gave me the pass. Same thing happened at Hershey. I also saw people who were claiming their children had Autism (they get a special ride right away pass at Great Adventure) and I can tell you there is NO WAY some of these families were legitimate. I realize you can't always tell by looking at people but you can see the sneaky whispering into the child's ear and then the child suddenly acting up on cue and stopping as soon as they leave the area. It's so unfair for those people who really need this system that it has to go but like everything else in this country, people will take advantage of it if it's free and benefits them.
I have a son with Down syndrome and a vacation booked at Disney World for November. So, I'm anxious to understand the DAS and sad that what I've read doesn't sound very promising for us. I'm sadder that so many people talk as badly about people with legitimate disabilities as the cheaters who embarrassed Disney into making this change.
Rebecca Goddard is quoted as saying in another article that she takes her autism child to Disney once a week, that's 52x in one year! Another mother on her blog worries that she won't be able to take her kid anymore, but let's it slip that he rides all the popular rides at least 3 times in a row. Most average kids get to experience Disney once or twice a year (if they are lucky) and then have to wait in 90-120 minute lines. This only allows for a 4-5 rides in a day for most families. My kids get frustrated waiting in lines to. What is the fairness for them? I've been to Disney and seen a conga line at the guest services office every time. And when you are in line and seeing 20 people in a group with one grandmother in a wheelchair cutting in line, it get's you boiling.
I would like all of you out there to imagine this scenario:
I think this change is horrible!! I agree with them doing some kind of a change because the system is abused! But being a disabled person myself, I was in a car accident I cannot stand for long periods of time. I have four children, this pass was awesome because we get to the park and my kids could get to ride everything before I was in complete discomfort and had to go home. There's enough things in my life that I have to deal with this disability and this was one of the only perks of being handicap. Now I won't be able to take my kids because I can not do a whole day on my feet. Very upset about this
I think Disney worked too quickly to change their policies. For one thing there are people out there not only disabled but who are terminally ill and Disney is an escape for them. I have a child who has a terminal syndrome. We can only experience the parks for about three hours each day. This policy seems to be similar to Universal. We hardly ever go to Universal because the policy did not suit my son's needs. Now sad to say I feel Disney has shut the door on so many families who needed Disney as an escape from reality. We just renewed our annual passes and I have written to Disney asking for a refund because we will no longer be able to visit. If Disney had a place for us to stay for the hours it takes to wait for a ride maybe we could consider it. But you cannot stay in air-conditioned restaurants. At Cosmic Ray's I was not allowed to feed my child who is on a very strict schedule unless I purchased food. I was told could sit on the floor and feed him over near the registers. How awful that was! On this last trip I was told by the bus drivers (with empty seats) that they could not take the wheelchair and that they would send a bus for us. We drive everywhere now.
This is very sad and concerning to me. I have a 14 year old son that has cerebal palsy and epilepsy. He is wheelchair bound and unable to transfer to any ride. Due to his disabilities he's also limited to the rides that only have wheelchair accessible carts so I can wheel him on. Not all rides at Disney have these. He also is mentally unable to wait in a long queue.We love Disneyland and go every few years. I always have gone to guest services and provided a doctors note which if you see him it's VERY obviously one is not needed. But I still go to the trouble of getting it so there are no questions. Why can't disney enforce that? Require guests with disabilities to provide a letter on a prescription script, also guest services staff should be able to point out the people that obviously require special assistance. I have seen people abuse the system and it's obvious when you see them in the park. But kids or adults with true special needs should not be punished for it. I'm very disappointed.
What is getting my blood boiling is the parents of "meltdown" children who are basically threatening the rest of us with bodily harm from their kids (or in some cases grown adults) if they are not given front of the line access. If there is one right my kid has at Disney, it's to not be injured by your child or adult that you cannot control.
Personally I don't think it is fair for people without disabilities to put down people with disabilities. Just be glad you don't have a disability and are able to wait in line. Everyday I hate the fact that I have to deal with the unpredictability of my child with autism. It's not just Disney vacation. It's everyday life.No we didn't ask for this and never imagined we would have to deal with this. I just hope that these jealous people never do have to deal with autism in the future say in grandchildren or what have you because it is stress for the whole family. Best of luck to you all.
This is beyond horrible.our 9year old has cerebral palsy and is balling as i type because he knows as do i that this will cut into his fun so very much.he simply cannot take the heat or long lines. Please please please disney do not do this.....we will gladly bring a doctors note
Wth the exception of people who are physically disabled,the rest of the world will have to learn patience and humility. Disney World is not cyberspace. Everything is not instantaneous.
I must address a few of the more interesting remarks above.
I would like to note that when there is widespread abuse of disabled parking, the response is not to take away the much-needed disabled parking spots -- the response is to address the fraud. Disney should remember that the issue here is fraud. Anyone who is actually disabled would be fine with documenting a medical need.
Those with money who believe they are somehow privileged above the rest of us will always find a way to go around the system. Personally, I think Disney should set up something to deal with that particular fact rather than messing with the disability pass. Maybe a per ride fee of $ 1000 to skip the line?
This new policy is ridiculous, offensive and unacceptable. My daughter would love to be healthy and able to wait in lines like a healthy person. I'm very offended that some people would think that be disabled is an "advantage". What has happened to society????
If the main issue which is causing stress is the belief that individuals with disabilities are getting an unfair advantage by getting to ride more rides because of the no lines, that is really stunning to me.
I live in KY and have a daughter who has cerebral palsy/quadriplegic and this has been our vacation for the last seven years because they are so accommodating. It not only lets her enjoy more but our other 2 children can enjoy the rides that my daughter can not ride without making her have to wait for very long or separating the family to have to go in different directions. I would gladly change places and wait in the lines with everybody else if I could also change places with them for the rest of the year. Us parents of special needs children have more responsibility, struggles, and stress on a daily basis that parents of healthy children will never know. And trust me when I say this, that when we do go on vacation that it in itself is stressful. How many of you have to make sure you pack tube feeding supplies and enough ensure for how ever many days you stay (she eats every 3 hours), adult diapers and wipes (she is 19, can not walk or talk), not to mention all the medication she is on and the anxiety she gets when she has to sleep somewhere other than her bed. So 5 days to a week, I don't think is to much to ask that our family get a little special treatment. It isn't our fault that people cheat the system. The people with real special needs would be more than willing to fill out some sort of paper or even having something signed by a Doctor. So I obviously don't agree with the policy change. It will only make things more difficult/stressful for the whole family.
While some disabilities cannot be controlled, there are many that are. Look at bow many obese people are using wheelchairs and ECVs. Many less time in a chair and more walking would do some good.
As a resident of Florida, and off season pass holder I would like to share some thoughts.
Quoting: "I also enjoyed telling some scammers that the attractions they wanted to go on were wheelchair accessable through the normal entrance and to have a nice day."
As a mom of a daughter with special needs, I agree that there needs to be a better system to prevent those who are not disabled from abusing the system. However, I don't agree with the heavy restrictions that are being placed on those who may never be able to have a dance recital, play a sport, or sing in a chorus and this is their only joy in life. For this reason, these kids come to Disney because they bring magic, laughter, and fun into their lives. As a DVC member who travels there frequently, this will definitely cause me to rethink my travel plans in the future. Having the flexibility of going to the park for a few hours around when she needs to take her medicines, nap, has her moments, etc. allowed me to be more relaxed. You see being a parent of a disabled child is not easy and it is one that requires constant work. So, Disney made it a little easier for me and her. I've been to amusement parks where they have requested times to come back and it doesn't work. Why doesn't Disney work with the ADA? Perhaps, they can implement a tiered level card that enables flexibility like they do at Six Flags where the Autism classification allows the child to ride the ride without requested times to return albeit it is not perfect. Even a medical letter, IEP, etc. could be options to enable better flexibility in a tiered level program. I plan to share this news with the support groups that I am part of. It's a shame that a few bad apples hurt the ones who really need it. I hope these people never have to experience the challenges that parents like myself deal with on a day to day basis. I don't wish this on anyone. I would be happy to sit down with Disney, ADA, and others to come up with a program that will prevent fraud, but continue to brighten the lives of the children and parents who found the current program to be supportive of our needs.
I've just spent the past hour reading all of the above comments. I am the mother of a 13 year old son and 8 year old daughter. My son is physically and mentally disabled, uses a wheelchair, etc. We are getting ready for our 4th Disney World Trip in the past 5 years. We planned the trip before learning about the fraud and policy changes.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.