In considering how Disney's new program will work, perhaps it's worth taking a look back to see how we got to this point.
Before the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, theme parks in the United States were under no federal obligation to accommodate visitors in wheelchairs, or those with other medical disabilities. However, industry practice was to find a way to allow visitors in wheelchairs to get on rides and into shows when they could not go through traditional, narrow serpentine queues.
Typically, the way parks accommodated these visitors was to bring them through the exit. Parks usually design wider exits for attractions, to allow people to get out quickly, so there was plenty of space for a wheelchair to access the ride from that point. But operations staff didn't want wheelchair parties clogging that space at the exit while they waited their "fair turn" to board, so custom became to load those parties as soon as possible. That allowed wheelchair parties to bypass not just the queues for attractions, but also the waits.
And once word about that got around, the attempts at abusing this practice began. When I worked at Walt Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I soon lost count of the number of groups of able-bodied teenagers who'd rented a wheelchair and took turns riding in it in an attempt to skip as many lines as possible. So Disney introduced the Guest Assistance Card program to try to cut down on such abuse. Visitors would need to go to Guest Relations to get a special card that would identify them as needing special access to an attraction. While many park employees continued to admit guests in wheelchairs through "back-door" entrances, many also stonewalled others they suspected of trying to cheat the system, asking to see their GAC before letting them ride.
Problem solved? Not even close. The ADA isn't just about people in wheelchairs. It also requires accommodation from people dealing with any from a much wider range of disabilities, including mental and emotional conditions that make it difficult or impossible for people to deal with confined queues or uncertain wait times. Civil and criminal penalties for denying accommodation can be harsh, so the cost of denying a GAC to someone who actually needed it was so large that saying no to such requests simply wasn't worth the risk. Just about anyone making a plausible request could get a GAC.
Let's acknowledge here that most people aren't jerks. If they see people with obvious disabilities getting to skip queues, they don't begrudge that and calmly accept letting those others go ahead. But as soon as people see others getting to cut the line who don't have obvious disabilities, or who appear (to them, at least) obviously not to have a disability, they feel less shame in asking for that same advantage, too. Over time, the number of guests with GACs swelled, and grew to include thousands of visitors who were physically and mentally capable of waiting in traditional queues. Which only encouraged more people to abuse the GAC system, lest they be left waiting behind others abusing the system, too.
Ultimately, the solution that will stop this abuse is to create a system of accommodation that doesn't allow persons with disabilities to get access to more attractions than another guest without a disability would on the same day. Building more ADA-compliant queues will address this challenge for guests using wheelchairs, by eliminating the need for them to bypass the queue. More efficient use of ride reservation systems can help accommodate guests with the mental or emotional inability to handle a queue, too.
By restricting the number of return passes, timing them to require a wait time approximately equal to the current stand-by wait, and eliminating the transfer for line-skipping privileges, Disney appears to be taking a step toward creating that more efficient system. The cynic awaits pushback from those visitors who've been abusing GACs and who will now have to wait their fair turn. The optimist hopes that at least a few instead will welcome the change and take this opportunity to atone for their participation in past abuse.
Update: Disney has confirmed the changes. Our discussion continues in this new post.Tweet
And thus ends my dream of someday breaking my leg right before a trip to Disney and requiring a wheelchair to get around and on everything with no wait. ;)
"This is a terrible decision on disneys part. I understand people abuse this but there should just be different instructions in place to make sure people who don't need assistance can't get the cards in the first place(perhaps making the party bring a legit drs note with them)."
Ever heard of HIPAA laws? Disney nor any other company can accept a doctors note.
It's about time something like this was out in place for fair treatment.
Universal studios Florida has the best system. It is sort of like this one but has different rules. They give you a pass with your name and number of people in your party. It has a bar code on it. The rule is if the wait time is less than 30 min then you go in but if the wait time is more than 30 min then they scan your pass and it gives you a return time.
That is by far better than this, take your photo crud. Hopefully Disney will rethink this process and make changes.
And yes when we go back I'm sure everyone in my group will just get a pass for themselves with the number in our group on it. Then we can set times for multiple rides.
It's life where the winner is the person who takes what they want not stand around waiting on it.
I am all for legitimate persons with disabilities being able to go through the exit line with their party, but all these stories and videos of "renting" a tour guide for the day put this in the spotlight.
I still say Disney should do an Express style perk, and make it obscenely expensive like other parks do... maybe not unlimited, but one visit per attraction, similar to Universal.
For the Guests that unfairly use the cards, they are overwhelmingly increasing FastPass wait times, which in turn make the Standby wait times even more unbearable. To me, the worst part of the GAC abuse has been that it also hurts those that truly and honestly need assistance at various attractions. They either have to wait longer times or are viewed negatively for having a GAC in the first place because of the out of control abuse.
Sure the new system may end up having a few flaws or loop holes, but overall I am very excited for this change and wish it would have come sooner. This, in the long run, will make Disney experiences better for everyone...except for maybe those who were abusing the system (but I'm okay with that).
And yes when we go back I'm sure everyone in my group will just get a pass for themselves with the number in our group on it. Then we can set times for multiple rides."
People like this above are the reason for the policy. A much needed policy. Shame on you for believing your better than others
I think Disney is correct to crack down on the practice of disability abuse. It can only be resolved by insisting on customers waiting outside of the queue lines. They must still wait. Actually, I think everyone should be able to wait outside of the queue lines, but Fastpass is only offered with a few attractions.
That right there tells me Disney's probably on the right track.
As for that last line -- life is for people who take what they want, not wait for it -- then please, don't complain when people take YOUR place in line, now that you can't abuse the system. I guess taking's not okay when you're the victim of it, eh?
Im the same way...im not gonna spill out all my health problems but i have a bad knee n i retain water in my legs and arms after 30 min of standing...theres more problems i have but i see your point...ive witnessed several people that popped outta the chair like the just won the lotto n here im struggling to walk...the system is going to have its pros n cons... And unfortunately the parks want to make us equal in every way, which i understand...but i think we as a country should change the law n insist a letter that the named above is with disabilities ...doesnt have to say whats wrong just proof they are. My grandma missed so much n life due to a disability n rules like this... Instead why don't us Americans make a change n help change the law..I know i would vote for that change! im not ashamed to show proof im disabled
It's called the Attraction Assistance Pass. It doesn't require a photo but it acts as a placeholder for someone's place in queue, much like the Express Pass. Someone else previously outlined it but not the full details.
You can only have one ride reserved ON THE CARD at a time. A return time is given if there is a wait of 30 minutes or higher. If all wait times all day are under 30 minutes and they never write them on the card, then you don't have to comeback and can experience the attractions immediately.
If there is a wait time greater than 30 minutes, you can get a return time to come back that is 15 minutes less than the wait time. In the meantime, you may chose to experience a show or a different attraction (through the normal standby queue), get food, go shopping, see characters, and then return at your assigned time and experience the attraction through the Express Lane.
If you attempt to get a return time with an existing time on the card, even if the current attraction you are at is less than 30 minutes, the TM will offer to either have you return to previous attraction and ride it fist; offer to void the previous attraction's time, in which you will have to get a new return time for them later on; or offer for you to wait in the normal standby or single riders line.
I am a big fan of this system, from both a CM and guest angle. I think it's well merited and it will help. If you can't stand in one place for very long, get a wheelchair. If you don't like enclosed areas with lots of people around, ask if attraction will let you wait in a quieter area while the rest of your party waits in the appropriate line and you can join them right before boarding the attraction.
As stated earlier my child has Aspergers, part of the Autism Spectrum, we have taken him to Disney World twice and have never gotten a GAC. Maybe we are wrong in our thinkog but his mother and I feel that this is the world he needs to live and function in and there is no free pass to the front you have to take your turn. The fast pass system works just fine for him, he has his DS and mp3 player for waiting in lines if needed. If his older brother and mother want to go on a ride that he is not fond of he and I do something else, this worked great at EPCOT as he could spend hours in the Inovations area.
Some people do need to have the GAC but there are lots who are just selfish and think only of themselves, that will never change no matter what system is put in place.
I am also very saddened by Disney's decision to change the GAC program. Our Disney trips are among the most special vacations we have ever taken with my son because we don't have to stress about all of his hyper sensitivities, his lack of social graces, people looking at me strangely while I comb my son's arms with my fingernails to keep him calm while winding through the long queue. We simply get to enjoy being a family.
I understand the need for change, it just sucks that it comes at the expense of kids like mine, who look normal but have many underlying issues that the world doesn't understand.
I'm not complaining at all; I am grateful for the extra help. I also agree that the abuses need to be curbed as they are hurting honest guests of all abilities. We are more than willing to wait our turn, just please make it possible for us to get a turn in the first place. For some folks, that means a pass to let them avoid hour-long lines in the heat. For us, it just means make it wide enough for my husband to roll in and shady enough for us to stand in while we wait. No system is perfect, so I am sure there will be tweaks to this one. But at least they are trying to solve the problem.
My son is 25 and loves to go to WDW every year. However, he will never be able to purchase a ticket on his own as he doesn't understand how money works. He cannot cross a street by himself, so he won't be going into a park alone. He is only semi-verbal, so he can't always ask for what he needs, and may panic if people press him for more information. He can dress himself and make simple meals, and he loves cruising YouTube for Disney videos, but he cannot do most of the things we take for granted without assistance. Yet he looks pretty darn normal, a big smiling guy with a beard.
Please understand that people with issues like autism, cardiac conditions and rheumatoid arthritis may look unaffected to you, but their "hidden" disability affects their ability to participate in society UNLESS those of us who are blessed to be without these challenges give them the chance. A GAC or other pass is just that, a chance. Not asking for special treatment, just a chance.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is about equal access, not preferred access.
And people who use the DAS will still be getting equal (or greater-than-equal) access to attractions compared to the average guest. Kids with autism still don't have to wait in the regular line, and families can do other things to keep them occupied until their turn comes up. If someone needs to keep their legs moving, they can walk around. If they can't stand that long, they can grab a bench in the shade and relax, maybe enjoy some popcorn.
It seems that people are just upset that they won't have an unlimited fastpass for as many attractions as they can string together anymore, but that was never the goal of the GAC to begin with.
I must admit that I am a fan of the exception for Make a Wish kids, and I'm also a fan of the fact that Make A Wish will be in charge of handing those passes out -- no matter how much someone verbally abuses a Guest Relation cast member, they can't give one of those passes out because they don't have them to give.
I think it's a very fair compromise compared to people using their GACs to sell "front of line tours" like what NBC News uncovered earlier this year, or other situations where people use their disability (or their lies about having a disability) just to avoid waiting their turn, or to get able-bodied friends/family to the front of a line that the cardholder isn't even riding.
Everyone pays to enter the park. Everyone has to wait their turn. If you have a disability that honestly makes it difficult for you to stand in line for a long period of time (emotional or physical), you still have to wait, you just get to do your waiting OUTSIDE the line, where it is more comfortable for you. You can sit in the AC, eat, shop, etc. I really can't think of anything more fair.
By the way-- it's easy to tell which guests actually need an assistance pass... it's the difference between, "I don't just go to the front of the line?!" and "Oh my goodness, this will be so helpful!"
Our 11 year old can not speak, wears diapers, can't dress himself, and will likely never be able to. His one, and ONLY diagnoses is Autism. It's called a SPECTRUM disorder for a reason; you can be mild, or you can be like our son.
Maybe it's time to stop blaming those with disabilities, and start blaming those who are normal, but feel entitled?
As Cast Members, we applaud this move. As parents to an ASD child, we still applaud. We know the changes that are coming, and we know what the new system will do, and what it won't do.
Like anything new, we urge other ASD and disabled households to stop, take a breath, and realize that Disney has, does, and always will strive to treat each and every Guest as the most important. The new system will need tweaking, and that's what Guest Relations is for, as are emails and so forth. Give it a try. If it does not meet your needs, go to Guest Relations and ask for an amendment. Speak up, because only by working together can we create magic.
I worked at two different amusement parks for 4 years, as an adult, and saw abuse of those parks' systems far too often. It's a shame really, but there are so many bad apples that ruin it for everyone, abled and disabled alike.
However, I applaud what Disney is doing here by creating a policy the is fair to everyone involved and provides appropriate accomodation. People with special needs do not have to wait in the phyical queue, but they still have to wait to board attractions. It's a win win for everyone. "Reuglar" people don't feel like guests with disabilities are getting back-doored and some type of special treatment, encouraging the deplorable acts of those that fake disabilities or hook-up with a disabled guest to get special treatment, while disabled guests avoid having to wait in a physical queue. Disabled guests will have to wait just like everyone else, they just don't have to wait in the phyical queue. I kind of equate it to a StandbyPass.
A few years ago I was already very sick but could do a bit more. I'm fortunate I can travel in low season so we went to Universal Orlando and Sea World (14 day combo card) and every ride had almost no waiting time. I could do Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and Cat in the Hat in one visit and rest enough to have a good time. Except for 1 day. I wanted to see the Grinch show. we had to wait 20 minutes in line and after the show I had to leave and was sick for 3 days.
I'm sure there are more people like me. I get it that I can't do a whole park in 1 day, couldn't do that anyway. but unfortunately the parks don't sell cheaper half day passes or stuff like that to accommodate these problems. The whole idea is not doing rides but eat and shop and because of that keep you as long as possible in the park. If I need to go to a certain location every time I need a new 'fastpass' that'll cost me to much energy.
Why not give people passes who have disable parking cards? In the Netherlands it's not easy to get that kind of card (not sure how it is in the US). At least you know these people really have some series problems.
In the end it's sad when you are sick, are disabled. I never loved waiting but Disney make's most lines very entertaining and I always used it to enjoy the scenery and soak in the details or watch the monitor as a pre-pre-show. Be thankful for your health. There will always be sad persons who abuse the system. It's good Disney wants to address that but please don't make it more difficult for the people who actually need it.
I am not sure but is the writer claiming that anyone who used the GAC and/or is concerned about the affect of its demise an abuser?
My concern - really the only one with this change - is that this process (if I am understanding it correctly) will really just be adding an alternative long line to wait on (the kiosk to get the DAS card each time you need a stamp). If there are only 4 per park, those lines will be long. Very.
I have a son with Autism (a Developmental Disorder - not a "learning disability"). We would never have been able to attend Disneyland without the GAC. We tried once (before we knew this service existed) and it was one of the more horrific days of my life.
We were actually told about it by an employee of Disneyland who seemed extraordinarily proud to work for an organization that went out of its way to help those with special needs enjoy their park. "You may not be able to take him to the supermarket, but you can take him to Disneyland!!" He encouraged us to go back and make use of this program and we were so glad we did. It made Disneyland accessible for our child. I am no longer in contact with this man. Wonder how he is feeling about Disneyland now.
We are taking him for his birthday (which thankfully lands before the 10/9 date). As far as any return visit after that, I guess I will wait to hear from the Autism community to see if the new plan still allows our children to access the park in the same manner.
As far as those of you who are so angry that the GAC has allowed people with special needs to get a "free ride", you should probably pray that there is no such thing as karma.
He needs special accommodations, and I can guarantee you, you do not want to be sitting near him in the back of a show (because he won't be able to see) or be waiting in line for over an hour with him. You will wish that he was allowed to sit closer, and that he had expedited/easier access to the rides that he is able to get on.
If what they are saying is true, we will not be able to use the WDW parks, and therefore, we will not be buying the premium annual passes again.
My other favorite is when people complain about waiting at the ADA entrance, especially when we provide (depending on the attraction) multiple entrances (through a fastpass, for example. That will be gone now, with the new system too). I'm SO SORRY you had to wait in a line. Who knew lines happened at Disneyland?
I do not deny AT ALL that we need ADA accessibility. I am more than happy to work with my guests who need assistance in that area. But to every person who has abused the system... shame on you. You set a poor example.
I think that the way the disability pass system works at most parks is entirely fair. You don't get on a ride any sooner; you have to wait it out like everyone else only not in line.
I find it interesting that protocols differ vastly from park to park. At two Six Flags parks I simply went to Guest Relations and said that I needed a disability pass; they gave me one, no questions asked. At Hersheypark, however, I was asked a number of questions such as whether I could hold onto the hand grips and whether I could brace myself with my feet if necessary. At another park - I can't for the life of me remember which one - I was asked whether I had back problems and had to lie because I didn't expect my interviewer to understand that I'm OK as long as my back is supported, which it is on a coaster; it's only standing in a ride queue without back support that causes a problem.
Back to Hersheypark - people with disability passes definitely do not receive preferential treatment; quite the contrary. They don't get a choice of seats but rather have to sit wherever the ride ops tell them to sit. I had to sit at the back of Fahrenheit, not where one would ideally like to sit when going up a vertical lift hill for the first time.
In any case, I don't think that I'll need a disability pass again. My doctors were unhelpful but an RN suggested that the reason I was having a problem is that the muscles in my back were frozen from excessive standing. She showed me a simple exercise which required me to stand on one leg, bend the other leg and pull it to thigh height, saying that it would stretch the muscles in my back. And blimey, this actually worked! I stood on one leg while waiting to get on Kingda Ka, on a rainy day in a poncho 3 sizes too large purchased at the park, at regular intervals. The other people in the queue probably thought that I looked like a flamingo or a nutcase but who cares? You have to go with whatever works.
This blog says it all:
We don't go but every 8-10 years with the kids, because everyone has to pay the same, even if they cannot enjoy the park and all it has to offer.
Making my family hold back from having fun because one person is disabled really makes us think twice before we visit any of the parks.
The last time we were in Orlando, we visited Sea World, and there are only 4 rides in that park, but lots of shows, which were very easy to get to, the times were in order as you walked from one venue to the next. Needless to say, everyone had a great time, and I didn't feel left out, nor did I feel like I was holding back any of the kids from having a good time.
Hopefully, Disney can use this cheating/fraud problem to figure out how to make the parks more enjoyable with less waiting in line by every visitor. For the cost involved, there really should be no waiting, or very little wait. The last time I was able to actually ride, we waited 90 minutes to get to the top of Space Mountain, then the line came to a complete halt, the ride had derailed, and they sent everyone (hundreds of angry people!!) out of the building without riding.
It was torture to stand and wait that long, and then to not ride was a big disappointment to the whole family.
I guess that was the end of our Disney Park visits!!
There are a lot of families with disabled children, or a parent or grandparent that just don't enjoy the parks, cannot ride the rides, and being in the sun and waiting outside in the heat is just not fun!!
Disney offers no discount to people who cannot enjoy the rides.
I don't understand how folks in wheelchairs can get up and actually get on the rides that have caution signs for anyone with ANY disability, especially if they cannot walk up to the ride!!
For the cost of visiting their parks, Disney needs to fix the wait issue for ALL the guests, and stop the 30, 60, or 90 minute waits to ride! Even on slow days, they slow down the rides so the waits happen anyway. For the costs involved, the waiting needs to stop, and Disney needs to solve the problem so people don't feel like they need to cheat to get their money's worth of amusement, and those that are disabled shouldn't have to get special passes to get on the rides, or avoid huge waiting periods.
Disney needs to offer a special low cost, along with a red stamp on your hand, for people that cannot ride the rides. We don't need to go to the front of any line, we just need a cool place to wait for our families, and a short walk from one ride to the next!
My wife and I have 3 with Autism- one is age 5 and 4 year old fraternal twins. My daughter's favorite ride is, 'Finding Nemo' and our boys like the Train. To walk my daughter up to the Finding Nemo ride and then walk her away is going to throw her into a complete meltdown stage and the same with my sons. This new system is now being thrown in thanks to the abusers and it has ruined it for those of us who have loved ones with a true handicap. Most of this abuse is from college kids and high schoolers and even some adults. Thanks, for ruining a great system with your secular thinking.
Autism isn't a "physical" handicap in that people are unable to walk up to an attraction vehicle and sit in without assistance. That's one way of asking for guest assistance. Now, all sorts of "physical" handicaps are considered like Autism. Okay, the kid throws a fit. And you still brought them there.
That sort of brings up the issues of kids and strollers. Some people wonder why even allow kids and strollers. Unless you want theme parks to only entertain adults as their adult playgrounds, you have kids. Kids "learn" to wait. It is their learning experience.
Now, you have people who can't wait. Oh boy. The whole thing breaks down.
I find it amusing that most people complaing about the system(s) are people who do not have a disabilty, or do not deal with someone (child, spouse) on a daily basis. Trust me, I will gladly had over my bad feet and my GAC to you any day. Have fun with that.
The problem with the HIPPA laws is while Disney and other companies can't ask, people with actual disabilties aren't embarassed to show you a doctors note. We know we're disabled. And as soon as you see us walk, or hear us try to talk, or realized we don't hear a single word coming out of your mouth, you know we're disabled too. So really, what does a note from a medical professional change? It changes the fact that the people who are scamming the system and causing the need for a system overhaul wouldn't be as able to get a GAC because they "sprained their ankle" while wearing their new 7 inch heels to a theme park.
The GAC system is familiar to me. It's comfortable and it works. I'm celebrating my birthday October 11-October 13 at Disneyland. The weekend they change systems. I wouldn't have chosen that weekend had I have known. I am uncertain how this new system is going to work for someone like me. People in wheelchairs have an obvious disability. People on crutches have an obvious disability. What do you tell the people who have mobility issues but do not rely on scooters and wheelchairs? "Sorry, we cheated the old system, we'll cheat the new system, better invest in a wheelchair?"
I am a mother of a young Deafblind child and we visited disney land just this summer and used the card to access the rides. I do not know how we would have managed otherwise. With the card we rode 4-5 rides.
I am guessing I'm questioning the only one pass at a time for a specified time. Do the time they give you call within a hour? Or could it be 2-4 hours later? Then how would you go on a ride that is less popular, while waiting, yet still manage to by pass the lines? According to these rules you can't. Many special need children cannot handle Disney Land for an extended period of time and therefore do not get to go on or see as many of the attractions and able bodied persons can. And at this time there is absolutely no discount for disabled persons.
I was fully prepared to show a doctors note and his bind identification card when I got to the park, but there was no need. It was all up to the discretion of the lady behind the counter at customer services. I think the problem is with the handling of granting the special access card, not with the system it's self.
Couple of things to keep in mind on this issue.
Between DAS (available to all who ask, even guest in wheelchairs) and Fastpass, there will be little time waiting for impatient guest. If a guest is on the Autism Spectrum who are unaware of the concept of waiting, taking turns or just lack patience, then don't tell them you are waiting. Disney parks are filled is exciting elements that fill any day.
For guest posting about not physically waiting in line for bad knees etc., just use a wheel chair. It's the first and most basic first step for a more enjoyable trip. If you can't literally stand in line, there is no reason to not sit in line.
For guest concerned about the dangers of using a wheelchair, keep in mind that there are guest of all ages in sizes who get trampled, bumped into and smacked by bags all the time. It happens to all guest in crowded places, sitting or standing. As for the bad attitude towards guest in wheelchairs or on scooters, it's largely because for over a decade, people have used those to game the system. Other guest know it, and more know it now since the issue has gotten media attention. While horrible, this new, fairer system should assuage those attitudes because there should be no more gaming the system.
Anything beyond making attractions ADA compatible or offer alternate access is a courtesy provided by the parks. DAS or GACs or whatever means is a courtesy that must be changed because of a mass mis-perception.
Equal opportunity and access is not the same as equal outcome and experience. For example, an older couple may take longer getting around the park than teenagers. They are not disabled and their time in the parks will not be as busy or fulling in some people's perspective. Do slower guest expect to skip lines because they took longer to get there? No. Should we let them? No. Those slower guest know their limits, aware of it or not. Some guest tire out faster. Their time in the park will be shorter than others. Should we let them skip the line? No.
My point is that a theme park is a theme park. What happens now, and what will happen is the chance for everyone to experience the attractions fairly. Parks are crowded, loud, hot. Guest are stressed, rushed, hungry and tired and we all have to wait. If these things cause extra issues for some guest, then you need to expect that, with or without a disability. Weather an older slower guest or a guest who tires out fast, or a a guest in a wheelchair or a guest with a non visible condition, going to a theme park is hard. It's hard for everyone, harder for others. But just like the crux of society, everyone must take their turn. Equal opportunities and access to experiences are not being taken away. We are now asking for equal attitudes towards the concept that theme parks are what they are, and maybe not the best place to go for all guest if it is too stressful for them.
Our family has only been able to do Disney because of the benefits of the GAC. We always bring a legitimate doctor's note with us on the Children's Hospital letterhead to verify that our son is truly disabled. I'm really not sure why something like this couldn't be put in place instead?
Our child has a form of catastrophic epilepsy which eventually involved having half his brain removed to control. I understand that's not any one else at the park's problem. It's ours. But it was a blessing and a breath of fresh air that Disney acknowledged our life is hard and allowed our family for a few days forget about the heavy parts life with catastrophic disability brings and to just bask in the magic. The pass allowed not just our disabled son to enjoy the parks but also our two typically developing children. Their brother's therapy, rest and behavioral needs chip away at our ability to DO things in general. We have to say "no" to many, many things. Including theme parks. We go NOWHERE but Disney. Not for lack of desire. For lack of ability because it is just too difficult on him physically and the "fun" pay off isn't worth the trade. Disney made it possible for us. And while we were able to hop right on the rides...we also only spent a fraction of time at the parks. Our son cannot tolerate full days without inducing seizures. So we spend the mornings in the park and the afternoons at our resort. The GAC allowed us to experience the park in the mornings as if he could handle full days. Having to wait an hour to board a ride IS NOT THE SAME. And to be honest, Disney has lost at least one family. And if our family feels this way...I'm sure many MANY others feel the same.
Which is all the same to all the jealous masses who hate on the people with disabilities with their GAC passes and "entitlement" attitude, right? Trust me, it's easy to be jealous when we're passing by you in line. Of course, you wouldn't be so jealous of the long hours of therapy, in the hospital, administering meds, advocating or spending the last day at Disney this year in the Children's Hospital ER due to a seizure. Not so jealous of all that.
There are people with legitimate needs and sadly, Disney has now become anything but magical for us.
"For the cost involved there should be no waiting, or very little wait."
So in your mind it's Disney's fault that there is so much demand for their attractions and they should be the ones to fix the wait times? Are you serious?
First off, Space Mountain did not derail. That would be considered a catastrophic failure for a roller coaster. The ride simply shut down for any number of possible reasons and I suspect after maintenance took a look at it they reopened the ride at some point later in the day. Events like this are routine for any theme park.
A 30 minute wait is perfectly acceptable for most guests. While I agree that 90-minutes is a bit long it seems it is not too long for others since they continue to line up.
The solution to your complaint would be to raise prices significantly (probably triple the price) to decrease the demand or limit the ticket sales making them more scarce and much harder to obtain.
The fact is there are slow days when wait times are short to non-existent. You just haven't visiting on one of those days. Also, Disney doesn't purposely reduce capacity to increase wait times. That's a lie!
Finally, Disney doesn't price their admission based on guests being able to do everything in the park. Theme parks offer a variety of attractions to appeal to a variety of people. The pricing is based on an average number of attractions you should be able to experience during an average length of stay. For Disney that number is 10. If you experience 10 things in the park then survey scores are generally good and management feels like you've gotten your money's worth for the admission you paid.
Attractions at the park are more than just rides. Just because you cannot or opt not to ride rides doesn't mean you don't get your money's worth. Shows, parades, fireworks, street entertainment, walk through attractions and just being inside the gates count as well.
The ADA laws were to grant equal access, not preferred access. Based on my interpretation the laws were more for people with mobility issues rather than mental issues.
We all have limitations in what we can or cannot do. So you have to accept it, live with it and tailor your life experiences to what you can do.
If the few with these conditions feel like they should be given special treatment then I'll support it if there is a limit to it. For example, you can visit with special treatment once every 10 years! However, if you want to visit monthly and have a season pass then get in line like the rest of us. That's how theme parks work. If you don't like it or can't do it then don't go! It's really that simple.
The problem is that sadly there are a lot of people who do not need them but know that they will be given one upon demand. This was already the worst kept secret in the world, but once the hidden videos showing the "disabled tour guides" were broadcast on national media earlier this year, Disney was kind of forced to address the issue.
Also, I think the metrics of fastpasses and standby waits have probably been altered by the sheer number of people using the fastpass line with a GAC that were not issued actual fastpasses. With the new magic band system coming online at WDW, I suspect they need to tighten up these things to make it work.
I hope the new changes do not discourage those that need assistance. I can see it might not be quite as convenient but it seems that is the best they have come up with for now.
Those of you who have a disability or travel with someone who does, whether obvious or hidden, many blessings to you and I do sincerely hope you are still able to enjoy Disney parks with your loved ones.
Your use of this system for your enjoyment of the parks comes at the expense of others enjoyment.
You don't have to wait in line, but the point you're missing is that someone else (actually many others) is waiting longer because you're not waiting at all. That's not fair! In fact, it's wrong!
If you or your child cannot wait in line like the rest because of some issue or condition then you should opt to do something else with your time. Theme parks are not for you!
The sad reality is that THERE ARE people who would begrudge us.
They begrudge our children in their schools, sports programs, playgrounds and anywhere that our child/family with disabilities might require some extra consideration. We deal with these types of attitudes EVERYWHERE. In fact, if GAC cards are done away with and we were forced to stand beside them in line they'd be annoyed with our child's behavior and either think or, more likely, say aloud something that sounds much like this:
"If you or your child cannot wait in line like the rest because of some issue or condition then you should opt to do something else with your time. Theme parks are not for you!"
See, the GAC pass isn't the problem, really. It's the attitudes of others who think people with disabilities are just a burden. Who think it's "unfair" that they have special passes and special parking places and special school accommodations. In that comment echoes that attitude "if you need a special parking place at the store then eating isn't for you" or "if you need an aide to stay in the school then school isn't for you". We feel and deal with that attitude everywhere.
Even with the GAC card we were not immune to this attitude and behavior at Disney. While it's true that many, many people are still old fashioned enough to think we should be kind to "the least of these"...there are others. Others who give evil eyes, or words. Others who trample our wheelchair stroller to get to that ride first. That character. Who move away when our kids flap or drool or make noises too loud. Because that's "fair" treatment.
With the GAC card it was like Disney acknowledged "we know you have to deal with crap all the time and we're not going to let that happen here". It was a beautiful, magical thing. It was one place where we didn't have to put on our warrior face and advocate for our kids because Disney had already done it for us.
Like I said before, with the loss of the GAC Disney also loses it's magic for families like ours.
It's also very interesting as a parent of a child w/Down syndrome to read all of the comments from people with no such experience. It's kind of like when childless people give parenting advice...
Lastly, you've misinterpreted what "equal access" means. No where have I seen where the ADA laws say that some don't have to wait their turn!
If you need priority access then you can pay for it like the rest of us. It's called a VIP tour.
Disney has been THE only place we can vacation together as a family. The new DAS plan doesn't take that away, but for my son, who may only ride 5 rides in an entire day, he has to ride them in the exact same order, EVERY time we go to Disneyland. Taking a "break" to get a lemonade or watch a parade with will not pass the time. It will just be a source of an intense, park-leaving, day-ending meltdown. Plus, I'm not sure about your Autistic kids, but we run the other way during a loud, busy parade. I will sign any petition necessary to rethink this new program.
With GAC when we needed to use it, we were typically put in the Fast Pass entrance and had a shorter wait. However, it was often still a fair amount of wait time. (Not complaining. Just stating.)
I'm just trying to figure out how this process will work. If wait is greater than 30 minutes our card will say return at such and such time to enter through Fast Pass entrance and wait with Fast Pass riders?
I'm also disappointed with the GAC change. We always try to use regular Fast Pass as much as possible and limit GAC use. If our son diagnosed with severe autism was having a calm day we could wait for the FP return time and enjoy other activities. But, on "off days" hanging out was stimulation overload. With GAC we could get a couple of his routine rides in before our park day was over. I read about equal access here. I get what is being said, but to me the GAC gave us some sense of equal access as we could access a couple of attractions in the park before having to leave. I'd love if we could go in at rope drop and stay for fireworks. We pay the same admission for at times 2 or 3 hours in the park. Not so equal.
My 16 year old son's autistic characteristics are quite noticeable, but I'm willing to sign a limited HIPPA waiver and present a dr. note.
I didn't know all of this was coming or I don't think I would have planned a January trip. My son loves Disney and I hope we can make this work.
I'm disguised by individuals who abused the system. For those who just don't get it; you likely won't until you live it. I hope you never do.
Oh, are people supposed to defer to you AND give up their space for you? I can see that every able bodied person is supposed to wait longer to cater to people who have an unfortunate situation.
I don't think everyone is giving you advice, but simply suggesting that maybe the child with Autism and Down Syndrome should be more conditioned to reality. Disneyland is trying hard to not be the real world, but life isn't so accommodating.
My kid gets access to an iPad or iPhone, which is especially useful in long lines. Using distractions is helpful. I would think kids with disabilities can't experience thrill rides anyways like Splash Mountain or Space Mountain. There are plenty of slow rides with hardly any waiting on less busy days. This won't work if your kid is afraid of dark or enclosed spaces. Oh well, nothing is perfect.
Anyone that is disabled knows how difficult it is to get around in the first place. Once a disabled person FINALLY arrives at an attraction, most likely they will wait right there until they can get onto that particular attraction...disabled people arent freely able to just go wander somewhere else while they wait for their riding time. It's both difficult and time consuming trying to get from point A to point B in a given time period...there are ALWAYS obstacles that are much more difficult to navigate than an able bodied person can.
That being said will parks offer a waiting area or location nearby the attraction until its your riding time for those that cant just freely go somewhere else during their wait time?
The problem I see is that disabled people will still pile up waiting and clogging the exits...how will this be a better system.
I think that maybe one should have to show their state given Disbability ID in which a person is already proven/approved to be medically disabled by the state/DMV to even get such an ID.
Is that the proposed plan?
I can understand outrage of GAC abuse, but I'm in disbelief of those who think we are trying to uphold our children as the entitled elite. Some comments are just jaw dropping...
Paraphrasing a few...
know your limitations, the park isn't for you.
For us--everywhere is a challenge. Even home is filled with accomodations. I probably wouldn't bring a newborn to Disney either, but I also would understand there would be no to little enjoyment for a newborn. Maybe it is just my kids, but at 6 weeks they wouldn't have liked a ride on Aladdin's carpet. I would, howevver, look forward to the day I could enjoy a trip with my child. Should we just stay prisoners of our home? Disney was one of few places we could justify spending our vacation dollars. For some people with autism, amusement rides can be helpful as they provide vestibular stimulation. Add to it everything that makes Disney, "Disney". It is a delicate balance, though. Disney's GAC helped us achieve this.
I can understand annoyance with kids jumping off a scooter and quickly jumping ahead in Alice in Wonderland. I would be annoyed, too. I am not suggesting this did not happen, but I was not aware of an alternate entrance to that ride, Dumbo or a few others. Those we have to skip unless Extra Magic Hours when line is tolerable. That is OK because there are other choices and our son never became accustomed to those rides. Please don't condem the whole GAC program based on those type of experiences.
Pay for VIP? Seriously? We are fortunate to go to Disney, but I'll save for the VIP tour after we pay for private therapies, equipment, summer tutors, behavioralist, education specialist, repairs to our home from outbursts (currently I have a 16 inch diameter hole in my son's room), locks, alarm systems, tracking devices, etc.
We must pay for so much assistance because we are desperately trying to teach our 16 year old to wait in line and so many other tasks. Sometimes we find success. We don't always use the GAC but sometimes it is saving grace. When GAC is unavailable and you are so pleased, please understand we are just trying to teach our 5' 10" 145 lb son to be apprpriate when standing crowded next to YOU in line. in this teaching process, he may suddenly be triggered and begin jumping, flapping, verbalizing echoed language and end with violent self-injurious behavior that will be severe head hits as he is actually trying to calm himself with pressure. We'll be trapped in the crowded long line, so sorry. I'd give him the iPad, but he'd throw it. It will be a great opportunity for you to explain neurological disorders to your children. They also need to learn how to navigate in the real world. Admittedly, it is kind of scary to see a man suddenly behave like this, but equal is equal. I guess if we had been in alternate entrance he may have handled the wait and excitement better. But, DARN IT he better learn to wait in the full line like everyone else and not let anything set him off.
I think most of us when forced to use GAC tried to be discrete. We didnt want to risk comments of guests who are ignorant of our loved one's condition. And if a group enters right after us, we always invite them to pass ahead. It is fair and we also want to establish some space if needed. If necessary we could step out of lind. If your child happens to notice the use of a GAC and doesn't feel special, it presents an opportunity to explain why abuse is wrong or why he should feel special for maintaining integrity. If jealous of someone who is disabled it presents a good opportunity to explain how blessed you are and the importance of compassion.
An early post by a mom suggested a melt down of a younger ASD child is less avoidable or something of that sort. I do not want her to feel reprimanded as this is a learning process. I hope that is your experience. I remember those days and they are difficult. Sadly, many of our kids don't outgrow meltdowns. They just get called "episodes". I am sure you are but please continue therapies. A meltdown/episode by an adult sized man in puberty and full of testosterone is hard. The individual is not being malicious it is still that same frustration as the 4 year old. But now he is strong and can be aggressive. That same stubborn determination can continue. I sincerely hope your child has improvement and this is the worst of the meltdowns. God Bless You.
(Sorry my previous post auto corrected disgusted with disguised. I am disgusted by people who abuse the GAC).
The new system brings in-line to what other parks have done for many years. That said, Disney isn't any other park. It can, and should, do better.
Kiosks: nice idea; frees up CM time at the ride (compared to other parks).
Is 4 really enough to avoid queues there too? They better monitor this.
An assistant should be able to hump it to the kiosk. No reason to force the disabled rider do the travel. The photo enforces the 'guest must ride' rule, which is essential and the key innovation to minimize abuse.
Awaiting areas: improve dwell areas for queues. Legoland does it nicely and Disney got it with the circus Dumbo - Adults/placeholder wait while little ones/disabled rider enjoys their day.
We all travel to Disney to spend our hard earned dollars. Glad that Disney has made a move to eliminate abuses while trying to maintain its excellence in customer service.
I hope they don't forget the experience as adjustments are made to minimize the abuse.
For those that are saying Disney should ask for a doctors note, are you serious? If they did that, it would only be accepted Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm and they would have to call the doctor and verify the concerns. Anyone can print out a paper and sign it Doctor Such and Such. Also, guest relations cast members are NOT medically trained so they can not and will not ask for a doctors note! People bring them in anyways and when presented they say they are unable to accept it.
My hat is off to Disney for finally providing an EQUAL solution. After all, isn't that what we all want? To be treated fairly and equally? If you or your child can not stand in lies or be in big crowds go to Disneyland during the off season when everything is under 20mins!
Also, those that will be using the DAS program technically get a leg up since they now can get two "fast passes" at a time which is not available to any other guest without a DAS.
The GAC system was being abused to the point that regular day guests and those with real concerns and disabilities were paying the price. The new system will allow guests to use the fast pass que, which I'm assuming those will real concerns were using to begin with, you just have to wait. Like everyone else. Go eat lunch, or see a show or visit something else in the meantime!
What do you do with your child when you go to the Grocery store? Or other outings? I know they don't provide assistance in places like that. Disney offering this program is a choice NOT a requirement! They could get rid of it all together. But they work hard to try and make it fair, for EVERYONE!
Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you should get preferred or special treatment. My cousin has a disability as he has never once used the GAC system. He says that he is equal like everyone so he doesn't need it. I commend him.
Some need assistance, and I understand that and this system will still help, it's just won't give you preferred treatment or allow others to abuse it anymore. So in turn, no more abuse means you'll be even more greatly helped!
Let the knew system work before you jump down Disney's throat!
I've worked with the disabled since 1980. I'm 49, retired on long term disability and I've been diagnosed with early onset alzheimers. I get to go to WDW for the first and maybe last time in feb 2014. Unless I take a bad step backwards and start wearing depends, I refuse any special assistance. And when I'm too much for my family, I would never ask them to take me to Disneyland (the park I've been to 6 times)
If my family wants that to make it easier for THEM...no way. They'll have to do it when my brain is mush.
I want to just enjoy my time there like other people. Fast pass, wait in line, eat a turkey leg, ice cream..whatever.
I've been reading a lot of comments, and I think some people are a little confused. Yes, anyone can still get one of these new passes just like the old GAC program, but the difference is that while you don't get on the ride instantly anymore, you still don't have to wait in a line. Say you want to go on a ride and the que is 40 minutes, but you or someone in your party has a disability that makes waiting in a line not on option. You show your disability pass, and the cast member will write on there to return in 40 minutes, and once you return at that time THEN you go on the ride instantly.
I know there are physical and invisible disabilities where this sort of pass wouldn't make things easier, but no system is perfect and I'm truly sad that there are some who won't be able to experience the awesomeness of Disney, and disgusted at the individuals who felt the need to cheat the system in the first place.
Neither guests nor Disney, in general, tend to understand how difficult it is to get from Point A to Point B in a wheelchair or scooter. I know because until I was found in this situation, I was totally oblivious as to how difficult it is to get around in theme parks. There are huge crowds of people one is trying to maneuver around, and many of which are not paying attention. This includes a great MANY children who have had a scooter run over their foot, for this very reason. The congestion in the parks will only worsen now.
I think for all those who are tired of seeing GAC's go out to even those who legitimately need them, like myself, the underlying problem is the long wait times they themselves incur in regular lines. And for those who abused the system, in any respect, the problem is the same, as they, too, are sick of the long wait times in a regular line. Therefore, something HAS to be done about long lines; long wait times.
It isn't fair to ANYONE to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation only to spend it waiting in line. So the question is, what can be done to make everyone's wait time shorter?
I think the solution would be to divide the crowds' access into the parks into two 8 hour time slots, where guests can choose from maybe 8:00am-4:00pm, or 5:00 pm-1:00am. Maybe even longer hours for guests staying at the Disney owned hotels, or during the summer months when excessive crowds are prevalent. A lot can be accomplished in 8 hours if the crowds are divided in half.
The guest would have to be very disciplined in making sure they spend their allotted time at the park, to get their money's worth. But, still, with less crowds guests will be able to accomplish a lot more than spending an entire day in line.
Of course a lot of the bugs would have to be worked out, including parades, fireworks, etc. but I truly believe this could be the solution.
As far as revenue is concerned, Disney will have a lot of guests shopping and eating at Downtown Disney, and at their Disney hotels.
It's just too bad 'The Happiest Place On Earth' is proving to be just the opposite for many many families.
For all of you with these Special Needs children whose lives revolve around Disney, I am so sorry they are the ones who have to pay the consequences for all the greedy ones who will still inevitably find a way to cheat the system....somehow evildoers always find a way....
Greedy? I hate the frequent misuse of this word in social media. It's not greedy to meet the public's demand for your product or service.
Disney prices their admission not with the expectation that you'll complete all of the attractions in the park.
If you people want Disney to admit fewer people then expect admission prices to triple or quadruple. However, you could also just pay more for a VIP tour!
There was so much that needed to be said after reading this article. Beginning with how disheartening it was that people have abused such a system . . .blah, blah, blah . . . Moving into- that despite not feeling the need for atonement, per Niles' recommendation my family would role with the punches and give the new system a try. However- as the comments piled up many took the words out of my mouth while others left me speechless- one in the same? Not really.
Yes- the past system did provide some ease for our family when we brought our non ambulatory four y/o child to Disney World eight years ago. It is not difficult to admit- being able to ride 'Its A Small World' twice before having to transfer Jax again was a nice break. We enjoyed the 2005 trip so much that we are returning again in November, this time with a family of five- and now with a 13 y/o non ambulatory teen. Regardless of the change- we are ready to enjoy the Magic. We have chosen to go at a time when lines will be short and the sun not as hot. Not an ideal time for work and school- but to create ease for a vacation such as this- worth the sacrifice. We would absolutely love to take advantage of the VIP program Eric G suggested, but with the $22,000 van conversion we need for Jax's wheelchair, plus the new van- not feasible this year. Thanks so much for pointing out that opportunity- our travel agent never brought that to our attention! ;)
For those of you spewing ignorance and lack of experience... your comments provoke chuckles. We don't want your pity. You are calling these parents selfish- when you cannot imagine how selfless they actually are. A pat on the back for my sacrifices is not sought, as just as much is given to the typical children in my family. However- compassion is welcomed- just as it would be given to you when you're dealing with a bratty, tired, hot five year old. Feel free to use us as an example to your children- as a younger sister leads her challenged older brother through a line. Or a four year old wipes the mouth of his 13 y/o drooling brother. We are never looking for handouts- but a smile verses a stare, or a hand verses a shoulder is always welcomed. And the judgments- better to think before you type. Life has no guarantees. So many are quick to judge a path they have not walked- the naivety is sad yet amusing.
Deep breaths everyone. Disney has made a change. They have provided us with boatloads of fairy dust and dreams come true in the past- surely this program will allow the fairy tale to continue...hopefully we can all get along in the meantime.
My wife has a severe degenerative bone disease that requires she uses a motorized chair and prevents her from standing more than a few minutes. We have appreciated Disney's system for years, yet we also see obvious abuse of the system. We have also experienced the rude behavior from people in the parks. I can tell you, having a family member in a chair is NOT a joy, and in a crowded WDW, it's downright brutal. Guests are extremely rude to people in chairs, they pay no attention to you, they walk in front of you and the frequent attitude is, "you have a chair, what do you care if you have to wait?". Something else that people don't acknowledge is guests using hte the guest asisstnace pass frequently miss major parts of hte attractions by using the exits or back doors to the attractions. You really don't WANT to see the back stage area of Pirates of the Carribbean or most of the park attractions for that mattter as it really kills the experience.
I also have a nephew with Autism, and I know well how difficult it may be waiting in certain cirmstances while others are perfectly fine. When lines are short or wide open and not in noizy confined spaces, we gladly wait in the regular queues. When regular queues are accessable, we do the same unless they specifically ask we use the exit queues because of limitations on space to park a wheelchair or return back down the main access queue. Many attractions have no way for a person in a chair to navigate BACK down the access route or to cross over the attraction's loading areas.
I've found that Other parks have a guest assistance program (as well as a fast pass system) that imposes far less on the regular ride queues. Hershey Parks' system works quite well actually, and those that are truly disabled should have no issue with descrbing their limitations. They still have a guest pass, but they limit how many family members may accompany a guest. Disney will allow a bus ride along if yout tell them you are all family. They limit how many times you can access major attractions with the pass on a crowded day. Hershey Park aslo makes sure it is actually SAFE for disabled patrons to be experienceing their attractions as well and they will point out attractions that are really rough, confining, or may provide excessive stimulation if a guest has condintions like autism. The park provides accessable queues or accomodations to make them so or clearly states what barriers exist. Most importantly, each attraction reserves a row for disabled persons and their party. If their party exceeds the capacity of that row, they wait while the disabled family member rides. Universal is the worst place on earth if you don't pay for their version of a fast pass.
Even if the disabled family member isn't going to ride the ride, Disney's policy had always been to allow families to remain together throughout the park, including the time spent waiting their fair turn for a ride. Disabled guests with likely still have to use exit ramps, accessable queues etc. In the end, Disney is still accomodating guests with disabilities, they will still haveto use many non standard access routes to the attractions, and they are attempting to make it fair for everyone I'm ok with seeing how the new system works.
This is a change, and we shall adapt like any other change. We're still planning our next trip to Disneyland with my 12 yo son with autism. We've been fortunate enough that he's progressed enough to tolerate 15 minute waits without a meltdown and should be able to do Fastpass.
My hope with that Disney staffs the kiosks enough to eliminate all lines there, and modifies their requirement to have the cardholder present at the kiosk. For the ride, definitely--and an improvement. But for the time stamp at the kiosk? There is no reason to make a disabled person travel, especially if a willing party member is willing to take on that duty.
Thank you for clearing it up. It's like they do with Radiator Springs Racers. They give you a fast pass type thing to come back and then you can go through a "faster" line. Am I correct in that?
I happened to be at DisneyWorld in late August and on one night at Magic Kingdom during the late extra magic hours, I literally counted over 50 wheelchairs left abandoned all over Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Frontierland. There were so many I stopped counting. So someone needs to explain to me why someone needs a chair all day long and then can walk or run to the main gate to leave from the furthest parts of the park.
I see the same thing happening all over town with handicapped parking permits. People park in those spots and run to the store. It's sad to say but as with everything it takes a handful to ruin it for everyone. At the same time, I shouldn't have to wait in line for an hour while people abuse the system and go around me. Disney is making it as fair as possible.
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