Disney confirms changes to disability access program. But is there a better way?

September 23, 2013, 10:43 AM · 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.

Small World queue
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.

Replies (86)

September 23, 2013 at 11:31 AM · 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.

Sometimes yes, this does end up in a little bit of what insurance companies call "betterment" - the company that only offers online billing to the rest of us providing phyiscal bills (in braille format), priority boarding in a plane, etc... but when it comes to theme park queues, waiting the same as the standby queue rather than insta-board seems fair and reasonable.

The question then comes as to how do you ensure that your standby queue time is accurate... I was mildly irritated on my visit to Blackpool Pleasure beach to note that several rides had listed queue times on the Q-Bot system that beared no relationship with reality. Yes, its a "problem" with obvious solutions, but I can't help but wonder if the extra work and investment required if at the end of the day, this is really worth it...

September 23, 2013 at 11:36 AM · 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.

I understand the need for a system that allows less abuse than the old one, but this really does penalize a lot if disabled families. My nephew gets pushed around in a modified wheelchair (which he is able to transfer out of), my niece walks, and their parents take turns pushing. They don't move very quickly and they tire out easily, which means less time in the park per day. Now add in that they have to go back to a few kiosks before every ride, find somewhere to kill time, and then go to the attraction when their time comes up. They're going to spend even less time in the park per day, and get on less than five rides per day.

The GAC is a broken system, but I fear this is breaking it further. Is there any way that this could ever lead to a system where only people with legitamite disabilities can get the assistance they need?

September 23, 2013 at 12:34 PM · 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.

The way I see it, the old DAC program encouraged people to scam it because it allowed people with a DAC card to have unlimited FastPass and ride way more rides than people without DAC. That's how scammers were able to hire themselves out as line-jumping guides. DAC seemed to reward people for either being disabled or pretending to be disabled, so it was not a good program.

I think DAS is much better in that it removes the incentive to pretend to be disabled. Now, the only real perk of DAS is being able to use the exit as an entrance. No one is going to pay someone to be a "guide" for that benefit. While I think it's a bad hand that life has dealt someone with a disability, I don't think disabled people should be allowed to ride more rides than non-disabled people. Let everyone be equal and have the same chance of riding rides. I like that DAS gives the disabled person a return time to come back to the ride at about the same time someone waiting in line would have had. That's fair to me. The disabled person can now go elsewhere if he or she can't wait in the line, but that person is not getting more access to more rides than a non-disabled guest.

I think Disney should have a program where disabled people are given help to be able to ride as many things as non-disabled guests...but it's wrong to have any kind of program where being disabled gets a person MORE access to more attractions than a non-disabled guest. Human nature just encourages bad people to take advantage and pretend to be disabled to score perks.

September 23, 2013 at 12:50 PM · 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.

How many more rides should disabled people get over non-disabled? This new structure seems more than fair. It's no wonder people were abusing the former system - although I expect many will continue to abuse the DAC cards.

September 23, 2013 at 1:27 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 1:49 PM · 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!
September 23, 2013 at 1:52 PM · 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?
September 23, 2013 at 2:35 PM · The new system seems that it will be much more fair to everyone.

Disabled people should absolutely have the same access - but not markedly better access - than non-disabled people. The law is about equal access - not giving a better experience than the non-disabled are afforded.

As it stands, being able to skip lines entirely, those with GACS get much better access to the park than those without. Not having to wait means that they can ride many more rides than our family can.

My child has a limited ability to stand in line endlessly. Being bumped back by entire parties wanting to skip the line process hurts the rest of us, including our family.

Having a stream of families pushed instantly to the front of the line on every ride in the park affects whether or not my child can enjoy the rides. That isn't fair at all.

If disabled guests can't stand in line, they can come back at the time on their new pass, having done other activities in the interim. Public accommodation does not mean breezing to the front of the line over and over while others have yet to have a turn at all.

The new system makes disabled guests as much like non-disabled guests as possible, the goal of anti-discrimination laws.

September 23, 2013 at 2:39 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 5:17 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 3:28 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 3:59 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 4:05 PM · 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 think this is the best way of doing this. Its not just a Disney problem, but rather a theme park problem. Also, Disney does have quite a bit of special needs guests come to the parks. I think the fastpass is good for the people in the regular line. Of course, Disney can make special exceptions.

All in all, I think this is a change for the better!

September 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM · 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.

Disney was his one joy in life, and we go three times a year. This change will freak him out.

Luckily, the annual passes for my family are up in October. We have just cancelled our trip, and for the first time in 11 years, we will not renew our passes.

September 23, 2013 at 5:02 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 5:12 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 5:13 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 5:14 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 5:25 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 6:56 PM · 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.
Disny is big on testing things out before they put something into full swing, I wonder if this was also tested out first. I think that like all things, there should be a test period where some of the kinks can be worked out. I think it would be disasterous for these familes to lose out on the opportunity to visit the parks, especially after hearing stories about visiting the parks.
There are two things that need to be pointed out however. First is that the people who are using the system becasue they have a disabilty are not doing so to maximize thier abilty get on as many rides as possible, it's so that they can experience the parks without having added stress and anxiety. Many of the families I know do not do all day trips to the park, they go back and rest multiple times.
The second is that Disney also had a slew of bad press when news about diabled "guides" came to light. This is obviously a reaction to this. However I wonder if they have thought about the entire process.
I wonder if any of the Disney execs have thought about extending the FastPass+ system for those with disabilties. Maybe increasing the limit of reserved attractions allowing them to decide before hand what to do and plan the day. Another possibility (although likely not to be a popular one) would be to make accessing the system a little more difficult. Not sure how you would approach this one though.
September 23, 2013 at 7:20 PM · 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 hope that this system is able to create more respect between guests as well, because I don't want to be stared down because I am using the w/c access line despite not being in a w/c. If you are someone concerned about people abusing the service, and see someone walking with no apparent disability... stop before you judge... and if you have the guts ask them to know more about their disability. You never you know, you may learn something!

September 23, 2013 at 7:25 PM · 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.
September 23, 2013 at 8:45 PM · 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....
September 23, 2013 at 8:56 PM · 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!

I don't think the Autism thing has been addressed quite yet. As mentioned before, I was almost certain that this "change" was the unofficial rule for awhile. My grandmother who could not walk had to usually go though the lines of the newer attractions. Fastpasses just make sense to me. There are so many special needs people going to the parks (and that is great) that they probably really do need fastpasses so that the ride can still function and not stopping every couple of minutes.

I am a bit suprised at the bit premature decision not to go to Disney parks or renew your passes. I think people need to take a deep breath and see what happens. Its sad that people greatly abused the system, forcing Disney's hand, but again, it sounds pretty fair to me.

September 23, 2013 at 9:52 PM · 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.

Yes the rules need to change but don't punish the true disabled persons ability to spend quality time with the family in the happiest place on earth - Disney!

September 23, 2013 at 10:40 PM · 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.

The question was "But is there a better way?" than the new DAS. And the answer seems to be exactly what Disney is implementing at Walt Disney World and that is...

...the FASTPASS+ system!

When implemented in a few months, everyone can schedule times to ride 3 or 4 rides a day way in advance of the visit, I heard up to 60 days in advance. Create your My Disney Experience account, put in your ticket/resort reservation info and reserve the attractions you want to see.

No waiting, just walk up at your reserved time and walk right into the attraction. Seems like this new method is a heaven sent solution to most of your concerns. Learn it, use it, enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

September 23, 2013 at 11:10 PM · 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 cannot go on some rides because of lighting, yet i cant be left for long incase i fit so for them to not allow my family to use alternative entrance is not an option for us , because if they are in a normal que for that long it could have a fit.
Im sure im not the only person in the world with this situation. So disney will start to have to deal with more medical issues than ever before.
Does anyone know if we will still be able to use a different entrance? Because as i stated alot of the main entrances have far more light effects than disabled entrances.
We do not abuse the system we only go on each ride once to make sure its fair to others.
I think a fairest method would have had something like the old systembut where the ride stamps so u can only use on each ride once. Rather than penalizing people who cant go on all rides yet need there family to be on a ride for just a short time.
September 23, 2013 at 11:17 PM · 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 cannot go on some rides because of lighting, yet i cant be left for long incase i fit so for them to not allow my family to use alternative entrance is not an option for us , because if they are in a normal que for that long it could have a fit.
Im sure im not the only person in the world with this situation. So disney will start to have to deal with more medical issues than ever before.
Does anyone know if we will still be able to use a different entrance? Because as i stated alot of the main entrances have far more light effects than disabled entrances.
We do not abuse the system we only go on each ride once to make sure its fair to others.
I think a fairest method would have had something like the old systembut where the ride stamps so u can only use on each ride once. Rather than penalizing people who cant go on all rides yet need there family to be on a ride for just a short time.
September 24, 2013 at 3:13 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 4:19 AM · 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.

The goal is that those with disabilities ride no more rides then any other park visitor. I am 47 years old and have been going to Disney since 1971 when I was 5. With the use of the GAC pass we ride on fewer rides in a day then back in 1971 along with fewer rides then I road as a young adult there several times over New Years with no fast pass and the park so crowded that the parking lots were completely full and visitors were turned away. No we've never used it to ride on a ride over and over again. We have walked in the Magic Kingdom, down Main Street, started through one of the spokes off to one of the lands, sat down on a bench, and after 20 minutes of tantruming traced our steps back out of the park, back on the bus and spent the rest of the day in the hotel room. I have used the stores on the side that go all the way down Main Street without having to go outside to enter or exit because our son couldn't deal the the noise of a parade. With our son we've never had the luxury of the time in the parks that a typical family can have. If we get a 2 or 3 hour block in a day that is good. The GAC pass allowed us to used that time to make the most of it and then we would leave. Maybe we would get in 4 rides max in that 2 to 3 hours. Now it looks like we will get in at most 1/2 that and what do we do in between to make sure he doesn't have a meltdown requiring us to walk out of the park?

Have we already had our last visit to Disney? It looks like it. He loves it he really does but should I run the risk of standing in a regular queue line and have him injure another guest (It happened once before I knew of the pass.)? He doesn't mean to be aggressive he just can't express himself. He is an 8 year old locked in the mind of a 2 year old who continues to go through the terrible 2's. Planning every trip is stressful as I have to plan for all contingencies but I've always managed because I am able to go through handicap entrances, VIP lines, and simply bypass his being trapped in close quarters with people. When Southwest stopped allowing families with children to board first I asked if it would be ok for one of us to stand in line while the other is off to the side away from the crowd so that he is less likely to have a meltdown, to my surprise they gave me a priority boarding pass. I would gladly trade places with any family and stand in line with their kids for 3 hours and allow them to take my son around dealing with all I deal with. It's not easy but I love him. I am not upset with the decision only with the people that abused the system making Disney take it away from those that truly needed it. Just remember a typical family has all day and a family with a special needs child might only get just a couple of hours. There is no way they can say that the new system is an equality for all types of disabilities and they will get to ride the same amount of rides as a typical person can. The Most Magical Place On Earth is no longer magical to many of the children who were the most obsessed with being there.

September 24, 2013 at 5:23 AM · 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.

Also for example - my son has a fear of fireworks - so we ride things early because when they are about to start up he gets very panicked. He is either ready to leave. So we have to either leave before they start or go inside somewhere and put on his noise cancelling headsets. ( So is Disney going to tell us - come back at this time?)

I thought Disney was disable friendly - SHAME ON DISNEY!!!! You DON'T KNOW they fears of these children, the schedules of these children!!!

- Disney makes its own rules so why not have to show a Doctors diagnoises paper. I bring my sons everytime we go. - If you/your family member really has a disability then you will have the paperwork and not be ashamed to show them. - I do believe people are abusing the old passes. Shame on them and Shame on Disney for letting the disable suffer for the ignorant that abuse a good thing!

September 24, 2013 at 5:39 AM · 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?

September 24, 2013 at 6:10 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 6:58 AM · 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?
September 24, 2013 at 6:59 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 7:38 AM · 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.

To help people understand: The meltdowns are triggered usually by changes to routine. This is fairly common for people on the spectrum. Unfortunately, the spectrum has become so broad that its meaning is diluted. But I digress…. An example from a recent trip: Splash Mountain was down because the animatronics were not working properly. It was down for 4 hours. My son was stressed and required 2 adults to control him for 3 of those hours. I ended up with a broken finger and several bite marks and pretty much a wasted day because his stress was high over the rest of the day.

Here is the reality: this change (minus the details that are still to be announced and that may sway my opinion) will make it impossible for my son and I'm sure many other to access the parks at all. Why? Simply because this is not the way he has done it. Before anyone jumps on me and says “but he will adjust” I will offer an anecdote. My son and I originally went to Disney by ourselves as my daughter was too young. After 2 years, my mother and daughter started accompanying me. My son insisted that they be placed in a train/log/ride vehicle that was not ours because it wasn't the same as it had been. This lasted for 6 years. Adaptation and change take time.

So what would happen if we gave the new system a try? We will go to an attraction. I will speak to a cast member. They will give me a ticket (that surprisingly is not better than a fast pass) and I will tell him we need to do something else. So then what? He will meltdown because this is not the same way it’s been done; or I will use the standby and he will meltdown because it’s not the same way it’s been done. He has gone on the same rides in the same order and used the queue in the same way for the last 10 years; changing the “same” has bad effects in his case.

So what’s the real message here?
1) People are overly simplifying the situation by throwing all disabilities into one group; my family’s needs are unique as are those of most of the others that receive the GAC. I am, nor is anyone else, qualified to say what accommodations someone with a disability needs to have.

2) People are overly concerned with “fairness” and the “law” to help support an argument that really boils down to “I don’t want people taking cuts”. I will gladly wait in every line with the rest of people if it means my son won’t need to live with me for the rest of his life or if I could do it without fear of a meltdown. Incidentally, with Disney’s ride reliability (or lack of) this will make the meltdowns more common. People need to relax, take a deep breath and do what you do when you see someone using a disabled parking space that doesn’t seem to need it. Incidentally, the Make a Wish children (life threatening illness) will still be afforded the old system. I personally agree with that decision but the argument stemming from “the law” falls apart with this not being included in the changes. As soon as you decide in some cases sympathy and compassion trump the law then the argument should shift to focusing on where the line (no pun intended) should be and where compassion takes focus over the law.

3) Too many people were abusing the system and it needs to change. Going to Disney over the last several years I have seen a dramatic growth in individuals who use and abuse the GAC. Disney has done nothing however to curb this abuse. I could count on two hands over my visits the number of times that I have been asked if my son was even in the party.

4) It’s sad that Disney has chosen to eliminate incentive for abuse as a vehicle to deal with the issue.

5) There is a large misunderstanding that the GAC provided immediate access. It allows you to use the fastpass queue without getting a fastpass ticket or having to adhere to a schedule.

6) This will eliminate access to the parks for my son and I am sure countless others. It will also hardly affect some that can understand the changes or adapt. Adaptation, unfortunately, is not the hallmark of some disabilities. There may be no perfect solution but I’m inclined to think that with all the resources Disney has they could have found a better one.

September 24, 2013 at 7:43 AM · Cedar Fair already does this. Disney is late to the party.
September 24, 2013 at 7:47 AM · Paul D - I agree 100% with everything you mention. Well said.
September 24, 2013 at 8:16 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 8:26 AM · 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!!!
We are annual passholders, and have been for years. Both my husband and I are lucky enough not to have any disabilities. we had no problem waiting in lines and allowing those with special needs ahead of us. When our daughter came along, we got to see the other side, and have been extremely grateful for our GAC. She is Autistic and loves going to the parks. However, since we have experienced both sides, going with a child with special needs takes a toll and a great deal of extra patience, something we never imagined before, in our carefree Disney days before.
Now, we are lucky enough to be able to go for 5 or 6 hours at a time (I know it is more than a lot of other special needs families are able to do). But, that being said, we are not ride jumping, on a crazy race to fit in as much as possible for the day. We have to go by the pace that our 5 year old dictates. She is very particular about what she does, and has established a pattern over the years. Patterns and habits are extremely difficult, if not near impossible to break or change for a child on the spectrum. New things take a very long time for her to get used to. Just within the park, new traffic patterns, facade changes, new rides, characters in different locations, even merchandising displays being set up differently are all things that affect each park trip that we take. She has difficulty accepting each tiny change, and we never know what change it will be that she can't accept and causes a meltdown.
We can approach a ride and she can be excited for it, then when we get closer, she can freak out over the tiniest thing, the sun not being bright enough, the color of someones t-shirt, a drop of water on the seat of a ride, anything at all. They come without any warning and cause us to leave the location and find a spot where she can calm down; which can be anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour, we never know. Then there is eating, the rituals that come with it, the adapting to new locations (even if she has been there before) all take us an average of 1-2 hours just to have a snack, let alone an actual meal!
So when you look at our 5-6 hour trip, take into account mealtimes, multiple meltdowns, throw in bathroom trips, walking around the expansive parks, and waiting in lines. Yes, we do wait in lines, but those 20-30 minute GAC lines are blessing compared to ones over a hour long! We really only wind up being able to do 2 or 3 attractions, if we are lucky! I know, from experience that without a GAC and a special needs child we were able to do many more things with 5-6 hours than we can now. So, I don't really see how people with disabilities and special needs are gaining any extra attraction benefits, than someone without the need of a GAC.
Having a disability or special needs is nothing to be ashamed of. I know that most people with legitimate needs would have no problem showing proof to obtain a GAC (myself being one of them). The GAC is in my daughter's name, if she does not want to go on a ride, than we do not use the pass to get ourselves on. It is HER pass, to help HER, to give us a chance to enjoy the park with HER. If there is a ride that we want to do a swap on, that she doesn't, or can't ride, we get fast passes like everyone else, and wait our turn! The we use the baby swap feature (which is available to everyone) if the fast pass is not available.
We are going to give the new system a try, but it saddens me that it may not works out in our favor. Trying to break the pattern of when she gets in a line and is given the chance to ride, versus gets in a line and is given a return time (which will probably be significantly later than the time we get the pass), may be too much for her. What happens when our return time is in the middle of a meltdown, or eating, or she has just give up for the day from all the frustrations and wants to go home. So we will have spent a day making her upset and miserable and she doesn't even get the chance to do a the few rides that she might have been able to do before???? We will see, but hopefully the Disney company is watching these reactions and can make adjustments for those who need it most...
September 24, 2013 at 8:49 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 9:59 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM · "From on September 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM
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 feel for people in your situation. Perhaps where you should take issue is with the ADA. It is absurdly broad. If there was not a prohibition on allowing Disney to ask for proof or a doctor's letter, then they wouldn't have to modify this so much. Yes, the cheaters have ruined this for you, as has the ADA as it stands currently.

Robert never published my comment on the previous posting. I am very militant regarding what people claim as a disability. I had a father who lost his leg in combat, and did so and lived with that long before there were the hi-tech legs they have now. It still chaps my hide when I see people take a handicap spot and then stride into an establishment. And I have heard all the excuses about "unseen" conditions.

Again I feel badly for these parents of kids who they state cannot wait for rides. But Disney must deal with this "cheating the lines" mess or face the possibility that violence will occur at some point (if I were a Disney lawyer - especially after that story ran on NBC - I would be very concerned about the liability, not just the bad press). I guess you can only live with it as is, not go to Disney, or start a campaign to change the current laws.

September 24, 2013 at 11:10 AM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 11:30 AM · 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.

I see it as I have so many steps with that hip before I get it replaced and I will pick my steps. When I stand for periods, vs. walking, my hip does start to act up. So at DW and Universal I get the pass to get to the front of the line.

I think it is terrible that the rich are abusing the system and DW should think of checking the names to make sure that they are all in the same family. This would eliminate the Paid Services in getting the rich into the rides.

There has to be a better way then what they are doing and I wish they would rethink what they are proposing.

September 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM · 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.
Since our last trip I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I cannot walk for more than 45 minutes (always with pain) and I cannot stand for more than 5. I don't know how one goes about getting the card. Letter from doctor...my handicapped parking placard...???
My biggest concern with this "fast-pass" system is whether or not my family will get passes at the same time? Will I be coming back and going on rides by myself?
I'm trying to be creative. Perhaps I can simply bring a folding camp stool with me so we can all go in the regular lines and I can just sit between moves.
Unfortunately, not everyone who is disabled has that option.
I'm sure that some of the issues that will arise have not been thought of in advance, and Disney will work to resolve those that arise. I hate to miss out on our favorite place, but won't spend that kind of money for 4 rides a day.
September 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM · This is by no means, Disney's fault...

The crux of the issue is that Disney has, to their credit, been extraordinarily accommodating to guests with disabilities via the GAC. Sleazeballs have taken advantage of that goodwill and, outside of (illegally) requiring documentation in order to issue a GAC, Disney has their hands tied to eliminate the fraud.

Only real benefit of this new system are that (1) The cheaters will be pretty much out of luck as scamming a DAS is significantly less beneficial than doing so for a GAC and (2) because of that, the standby lines should be somewhat shorter. It's just a shame for those who legitimately deserve a GAC.

September 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 2:17 PM · 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.

Once a summer I had to walk people down 150 feet worth of stairs because the ride broke. I've had to do it with people who used mobility devices they didn't have it on them at the time and it was incredibly dangerous for both of us.

I get it, my heart broke one summer when a woman with end-stage cancer bought a season pass and would ride my ride 10-20 times a day because when she was on it she, "Didn't feel sick." Her family came at the end of summer to let us know that she passed.

I get it, but if the ride breaks with them on it, odds are an Aspergers person is going to have an episode and what happens if they're on the top of the hill of Millennium Force and have to be walked down? Walk downs happen, depending on the park it either happens once a twice a season or once or twice a month.

September 24, 2013 at 2:45 PM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 3:06 PM · lets remember the purpose of this program when it was first started. To give CHILDREN with disabilities the opportunity to experience disney.

Most of everyone's opinions are related to people in wheelchairs.Which over 90% of those people are adults with a wheelchair to simply make there life easier not a disability. My daughter with Down Syndrome is NOT in a wheelchair but certainly can not walk the parks and wait in the lengthy lines as typical children do. She also has a vision impairment and the ability to sit in the 4 row center for shows is the difference of her seeing the show or simply sitting in the dark.

I am certainly not one to pass judgement but when we were in the park in October the Handicap lines where full of ADULTS with wheelchairs most with an age impairment and not a disability. In addition they rode few rides but the children with them certainly used there pass.

A medical condition DOES NOT constitute a disability. This just makes it almost impossible for families with children that have disabilities to make disney work for a their family.

September 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM · 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.

While autistic children are more susceptible to meltdowns, Disney is often a nightmare for everyone. Autism or not, all children (and parents) would greatly benefit from a GAC card. The problem Disney faces is that the GAC card policy was overly hospitable. When you eat steak your whole life and suddenly are fed SPAM, expect blow-back worse than a child who waited 3 hours for soarin', only to be told he's 1/4 inch too short.

September 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM · 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".
September 24, 2013 at 5:28 PM · 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.

I promise you that same family is dealing with issues you would never have thought of in between the rides. Making it thru a day at a park like Disney is no cake walk. Issues with medication, health, stamina, toileting, diet, breathing, mobility, behaviors (I could go on) all cause for incredible delays that you are not seeing as you see us "cut a line" and supposedly get an unfair advantage.

Try following me and my family around for one full day and compare your day to mine and compare the number of rides you rode to the number we rode with a GAC - I think you would be quite surprised that we are not getting more than you after all!

September 24, 2013 at 5:38 PM · 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.

I find it hard to believe that Disney isn't legally able to require proof of a disability as there are a number of amusement parks that do have this requirement. There are passes that offer easier access to attractions at places like Hershey Park and Sesame Place, and you can only get them if you furnish proof that you are a special needs guest. Often for us this is registration with a particular organization that represents special needs children membership to which is only granted with correspondence from your child's physician. Not only that, but the child or someone in the family must wear a wristband that identifies them as having this pass *and* must carry around documentation that details rides they're able to go on and their age so that, for instance, an adult wouldn't be able to leverage a toddler's pass. Beyond that, employees are instructed that unless the queues are reasonably short guests can't just keep riding the popular rides over and over again -- they have to wait a bit before they can get back on.

I understand that this still seems "unfair" to a lot of people who do not have special needs (in our specific case this is Autism in which those afflicted quite often have a very difficult time staying still and standing for lengthy periods of time), but then how do you really measure how many rides a person can realistically go on in a day? Some people might just go on a half-dozen rides in a day because they only visit for four or five hours during the day. Other people could fit in tons of rides for a full day. When I was younger I could easily get in two dozen or more attractions in a day even when Fast Pass was in its infancy PLUS I was physically able to endure longer days, run from ride to ride, etc. People in wheelchairs, children with Autism or Down Syndrome, etc. don't have the same physical stamina and many times they're not going to last even half of a day at a theme park... so is it fair that they won't be able to experience the same as a younger, more energetic person who can go for twelve hours?

Again, the answer isn't to "punish" (I hate using that word since it's not a punishment) special needs guests but to put in place better safeguards to make it as difficult as possible for people to game the system... starting with actually requiring someone to be special needs or handicapped to take advantage.

September 24, 2013 at 5:42 PM · 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.
September 24, 2013 at 7:09 PM · 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 do think the new system is more fair - you wait the same amount of time as everyone else. The only exception I would give this to are people with kids with autism (and not high functioning) but as pointed out, how do you differentiate? As I stated in the previous thread on this (as a guest) my biggest complaint is I can't stand for long periods so requiring me to wait on line for Kingda Ka since it's ADA accessible is very unfair. And to the poster who suggested I get a wheelchair - Are you kidding me? I'm not paying for a wheelchair to lug around with me when I only need it for for rides with long lines. That's ridiculous. I already have a knee scooter that I would use if the parks had level terrain, which they don't. Can't ride it on cobblestone or pebbled cemented areas and walking it without my cane is even worse. As I have always stated - I have NO problem waiting the same amount of time as everyone else - I just can't do it standing sometimes.

September 24, 2013 at 7:11 PM · 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.

I found this blog post that addresses concerns of "fairness" very well: http://specialneedsoc.com/2013/09/23/why-we-arent-entitled-and-why-what-disney-does-next-matters-more-than-you-think/

I hope that people commenting on this issue will try to have some compassion for people with extra challenges. I hope that Disney still will, too.

September 24, 2013 at 10:12 PM · 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.

Disney isn't asking you to wait in line, only to come back at a certain time.

September 24, 2013 at 10:53 PM · I would like all of you out there to imagine this scenario:
You have a child with autism. That child cannot wait for anything for any reason. You cannot go out to eat. You cannot go to the movies. You cannot go shopping. You cannot go anywhere that requires a wait of more than five or ten minutes. You time everything so you arrive just in time or a bit late so there is no wait. For those of you who say "waiting is part of life so learn to deal with it" I can tell you it does not work that way and there is no reason why. My daughter cannot wait to get more staples when the stapler is empty. She cannot wait for me to open her package of crackers. She also cannot handle anything that resembles stress. All of her therapies are working on this but there has been less than five percent improvement in these abilities over the past six years. It is simply not something she is capable of. I often wonder why. What is different in her brain that makes this impossible? But I digress...
So what, you say. What will happen? What will happen is a meltdown. A meltdown is not a "tantrum" it is extreme sensory and rain overload. An autistic child's brain is wired all of the time. It is like a pinball machine, with the signals bouncing around the brain continuously - bing, bing, bing, BING!!

You see, autistic children live in a world that causes them very real discomfort. The sounds, the smells, the sights that you and I don't even notice because our brains filter these things out bombard autistic children. Their filters do not work at all. Sit in the place you are right now and listen to what you can hear and smell what you can smell and eel what you can feel. What do you hear? You hear people talking, the hvac system working, airplanes going overhead, cars, animals. What can you smell? The furniture, your own body odor, everyone else's body odor, chemicals from cleaning supplies, soap, food. What do you feel? The air moving over your skin, your own clothing, whatever you are sitting and standing on, hot or cold. While you are at it, imagine that the things you feel including your own clothing actually burns your skin or feels like sandpaper scratching you at all times. Now add in everything you can see from the tip of your nose to the blue sky and everything in between. Imagine not being able to filter any of it out, feeling, smelling, seeing, and hearing every one of these inputs at full intensity. You would probably go crazy and do anything to make it stop. You would have a meltdown too This is what an autistic child experiences every moment of every day - every sound, every sight, every smell, every touch. This is what it is like to be autistic. Or at least autistic like my daughter.

Now imagine your son has a medical condition that threatens his life. Imagine this condition makes it so he can only be active for three or four hours a day at most. Imagine that you have to schedule medical treatments into your day. That is my son.

Now imagine you are me. Blind in one eye with an autoimmune disorder. As a single mother you are all by yourself pushing a double wheelchair around all day, ignoring your own issues so your children can have a special time. (The wheelchair is a medical necessity for my son and it allows my daughter to avoid being touched as she walks through crowds which is the only way she could make it through an amusement park. Without that separation she would meltdown before we made it halfway up Main Street.)

With the old system we could go to Disney, cram in four or five rides before my son had to leave for the day. We cannot go early as the heat is too much for him so we go late. By then all of the Fastpasses are gone. With the GAC we were able to enjoy Disney for those few precious hours.

This is how the new system would work for us. Wait to get our assigned time for a ride at the kiosk. Wait for assigned time to get on the ride. Go to the ride and wait in the FastPass line to actually ride the ride. Walk all of the way back to the kiosk to get another time which means me pushing that wheelchair back and forth and waiting three times for a ride, much longer than the typical people who waited in he standby line.

And for those of you who say, "So what. You can do anything you want while you are waiting. At least you are not standing in line." I tell you this. We do not go shopping at Disney unless we know exactly what we want and run into the store to get it. My daughter shrieks in stores. Too much sensory input. We do not eat unless there is no line and even then it is nearly impossible to maneuver our wheelchair through the food areas. The kids usually eat in their wheelchair and I eat standing up which is just great for my own disorder. We cannot go on a ride with a shorter line because it is a line. We cannot go to a character meeting place (we have never, ever met a character at Disney) because there is a line. We cannot go to a show or a parade because there is a line or people pressing all around us. There is nothing we can do in Disney for the hour we would wait to get onto an attraction. After we did this wait to get on maybe two attractions we would have to leave as my son would need to go back for his treatments. What I am trying to say is all of the able-bodied, neurotypical people out there can stay at Disney for hours, we cannot. So no, this new system is not a move in the right direction for everyone.

Why do we go to Disney? I go to see the sheer joy on my children's faces when they come off of Space Mountain or Peter Pans Flight. Most of you take that look for granted or never even notice it but I notice every one of those looks. For my daughter I am ecstatic that she found joy in something in the outside world. For my son I am cataloging every one of those looks in my memory for the days after he is no longer here on this earth, with me.

Many of you are talking about "equality" and equating this with "riding the same number of rides". Equality is not that easy. You can run from ride to ride and access more rides than we can by the sheer nature of being able-bodied. You can go to character meetings, shows, parades, shops, and dining establishments that we cannot access or attend. You can get on the ferry (we cannot as we do not fit in our wheelchair) or the buses while we must drive from park to park, cutting into our time before the "witching hour". However if you must make equality about riding the same number of rides during a "typical" visit to Disney then you must consider that the typical visit is different for you and me. Since we can only spend a few hours in the park (and there are many others like us) and we paid the same amount for a ticket, isn't it "equality" if we all get on about five or six rides? You will still be able to do this in your typical day but we will not with the new system.

September 25, 2013 at 5:28 AM · 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
September 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM · 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.
If a family with a terminally ill child over three contacts Give Kids the World. They can help arrange special passes for some parks even if you are not on a Make A Wish trip. You DO need to provide medical documentation. Universal and Sea world will give the family an expedited pass but Disney does not participate with this program. Maybe they should consider it. They wouldn't be breaking HIPPA policy because they do not receive the information.
I am not angry at Disney. I'm angry at the healthy people who took advantage of this policy. I hope they feel some guilt because they have destroyed so many families dreams!
September 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM · 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.
September 25, 2013 at 10:23 AM · They can write it on a prescription pad so it can't be forged on letterhead.

You think the scammers can't replicate this? Don't be so naive! Prescription pads are a joke!

September 25, 2013 at 1:36 PM · 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.

I hate crowds, they make me anxious, so I don't plan Disney trips during high crowd times like Easter and Christmas. When I went at the end of August, I made RD every day (9AM) and in 2 hours had made it through every high demand attraction (MK was split into 2 days), sometimes multiple times using FP and a good touring schedule. Sorry, but I don't have much sympathy for someone going at Christmas and then complaining that the lines are too long and they need a special pass in order to make their vacation work or they will never be able to experience Disney.

I think the DAS is going to be a good compromise between the regular system and the current out of control GAC that exists today.

September 25, 2013 at 7:13 PM · 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.
September 25, 2013 at 7:27 PM · It's interesting to note the number of people who are complaining about the new system when they've yet to experience it! How do they know that it won't meet their needs?

Any program that involves preferential treatment will attract liars, cheaters and scammers. This is a welcome change and will level the playing field for all. If you can't handle the new system then you'll have to do something else with your time.

This change is long overdue, so I want to thank those who cheated the system and got caught by the national media.

Disney has been avoiding making these necessary changes since management feared the backlash, but thanks to the televised attention they no longer could ignore the problem. In fact, that media attention now validates their decision to revise the program and they will be referencing that as they roll out this new system. Basically, Disney can now pass the blame onto the cheaters and come out looking good!

Sure there will be a few who will be angry as evidenced by the replies on these articles, but the fact that you expected this preferential treatment is almost as bad as the few who abused it for profit.

There are plenty of us who don't like to wait in line either, myself included. However, this is how the world works and the law clearly states "equal access" not "preferential access", so welcome to life and wait your turn.

September 25, 2013 at 7:31 PM · 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
September 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM · 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.
September 26, 2013 at 10:15 AM · I must address a few of the more interesting remarks above.

1. “With 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”

First lets define the words:
Patience-the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Humility-the quality or state of being humble
It seems you are right the world does indeed need these based on the number of uniformed comments here. Why only physical disability? Should we take away the children with life threatening illnesses access?

2. “There are plenty of us who don't like to wait in line either, myself included. However, this is how the world works and the law clearly states "equal access" not "preferential access", so welcome to life and wait your turn.”

RESPONSE: This is how a normally developing persons “world” works. This is not how people with autism or challenges understand the world. This is a question of compassion not one of the law. If this were a legal question Disney would not have had the system in the first place.

3. “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.”

There seem to be no “threats” in this thread. There are simply caregivers that understand the impaired and special needs person’s triggers. The point is that everyone can be kept happy and safe if the triggers are avoided. Beyond that, this is not usually an issue of safety. It is one of comfort as well. When my son was young he would meltdown if the ride broke down (for hours). I'm fairly certain those around me didn't understand and just wished we weren't there. What is the alternative anyway? Lock people up or keep them in a house their whole lives ?

These are just some of the remarks I found interesting. The facts are: People with severe cognitive and physical disabilities exist. They need special assistance through life. Their challenges are profound and will inconvenience the rest of the people in the world no matter if it's giving them special treatment with lines or watching them meltdown next to us. It is impossible for those not directly touched by these disabilities to understand the needs and the difficulty of everyday life both for those with the disability and their caregivers. A normal person suffers in line. A person with a disability suffers much more. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't get it and is displaying a fair amount of arrogance pretending they do. How society (ours) services this population of less fortunate largely determines the level of our compassion and understanding.

My question for some of the writers that seem delighted by the change is why aren't you immediately forming a mob and removing all disabled parking spaces and lobbying Disney to make sure no child faced with a life threatening illness skips the line either. I think then it will be clear who who you are and what you really stand for.

September 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM · 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.
September 26, 2013 at 3:36 PM · So.

NDA won't allow me to give specifics on the new system but...

I can say, as Disney has announced (pretty much the only official press release on the topic yet) is that any and all new changes were made with input from advocacy groups for guest with disabilities, especially working with Autism Speaks, one of, if not, the larges advocacy group for Autism. These groups agree that the system is fair and workable.

Oh my, what a nice system Universal uses...

And combine Universal's system with a photo and add Fastpass, not only everyone shouldn't be complaining, they should be rejoicing at a fair and accommodating system.

Of course, there's little discussion as to how easy this system will work with My Magic+.

Robert, your description of the system is not accurate nor a fair way of describing it. It's not your fault for reporting heresay...

Disney has not yet officially released details on the new program, so hold you panic.

I will say that.

September 26, 2013 at 5:07 PM · 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?

If they really wanted to make a statement, they could take the money and use it to allow special needs children to visit the parks free of charge.

The rich would have their access, Disney would have money and more children could have the opportunity of a lifetime. Sounds like a win-win scenario to me.

September 26, 2013 at 5:32 PM · 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????

We have been annual passholders for several years and visit Disney World several times a year, staying at their deluxe resorts.

When our five annual passes expire, we will not be renewing them.

September 26, 2013 at 9:23 PM · 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 have an adult son, Steven, who has significant developmental disabilities, physical and intellectually. We went to Disneyworld in the mid 90's to celebrate his "graduating" from high school. Have absolutely no idea how many rides we rode. More like a handful each day as I best recall. The focus was ensuring Steven had an overall good experience. It was his first trip out of state for sheer pleasure and all about him. Steven was more thrilled than I could imagine to meet the characters (and he loved Cinderella too); I was thrilled that it was the most accessible place we had ever been in our lives; (even told people if we ever won the Texas Lotto, we'd just go live at Disneyworld because it was sooo accessible), and Steven loved riding the boat between our hotel and Magic Kingdom. We had no expectation of being moved to the front of any line, but we were. It was Steven, a sweet aide from his school, my cousin's 14 yr old daughter, and me. Felt a bit bad going ahead of the line, but can say it was very much appreciated given the uncertainty of how Steven would react to waiting for something and the stop & go movements/process. Some individuals with neurological disabilities are not able to process change very well. As a youngster, it was near impossible to change a routine as simple as the route to the school without causing him frustration, crying, and not being able to sufficiently express his frustration because he is non-verbal. The older Steven has gotten, he has gotten better with how he deals with change. My heart goes out to the parents of young children who may be where Steven was in his younger years and for those, including Steven, as adult, that with long waits, or heat, or even the thought of standing in line to get a ticket to return, don't think Steven would handle leaving and having to explain we would return. I can see that trigger stress for many who cannot handle the change. I believe even today, if we were to stand in a long line and then turn around and leave, this could trigger frustration and might be difficult & stressful for all.

Seems to me this is why the ADA allows places of public of accommodations to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. When qualified, I don't view moving to the front of a line as an advantage, anymore and tying to no longer feel guilty.... If one is not able to move on ahead and get going with the ride, and if the long wait was to cause frustration to the point they may not be able to participate, then there is not equal access, in my opinion.

The world comes to Disneyworld because it's magical and special and to leave our daily worries behind. For those who may not live with someone with significant disabilities, one may not have a clue as to what it takes to even travel to Disneyworld, even if you live in Florida or even if you are a resident of Orlando. When taking a family member with disabilities out in the community for simple as a day at Disneyworld, much planning is involved. You may have a family member who is incontinent and may need tended to several times throughout the day. Families adjust accordingly. There needs to be as much flexibility provided to the individual with disabilities, not the other way around. If the rule became more rigid to return at a certain time, depending on the disability, that may not even be feasible. The person may need to rest, sleep, or eat at a particular time. The family is in the best position to know the best time to catch a particular ride or event.

It's a bit interesting to hear all the comments about people who are cheating and gosh looks like Disney sure did respond to cure this "huge" problem. Wish we could recruit you all to help with all the other cheating that is occurring in the world of disabilities. The list is endless.

Everything from Fair Housing Act consistently being violated; Air Carrier Access Act, ADA, all civil rights laws and no one is getting real upset about that. Instead, we have non-disabled people complaining about someone getting to ride a ride more than them??? If that is the true reason, well, it sounds just so childish.
I'm not surprised that the answer was to make it harder on individuals with disabilities. That seems to be the trend in the United States these days....

So much for escaping to Disneyworld when one is tired of running into discrimination, barriers, exclusion, segregation, etc. in the "real" everyday world....each and every day. Funny that I've commented to friends recently - before learning about the "problems" at Disneyworld, that it is sad that in order to experience full access, one must go to the world of Walt Disney.

Hope you all come up with a solution that does not further discriminate against individuals with disabilities and some of the unique needs of the individual. After all, the ADA tells us we should be looking at the need of the individual when providing an accommodation.

Mahalo nui loa for the wonderful time Disneyworld showed my son back in the 90's. One of the very best trips ever. Steven still has his Mickey Mouse Hat & pic taken with Cinderella.

Beverly, Steven & Sophie (Labrador)

September 27, 2013 at 12:12 AM · This new policy is ridiculous, outrageous, offensive and will ruin our ability to enjoy the parks. I told my child and he is pouting and has thrown many temper tantrums over the fact that he won't be able to ride when he wants to ride and may have to wait his turn. In fact, he has been smashing all of his prized Disney toys!

When our annual passes expire in a few months we won't be renewing them. Hell no! Not a chance!

Yes, I'm mocking some of you because you're ridiculous! You're throwing your hands up and calling it quits when you haven't even tried the new system.

The entertainment in the comments has been priceless. Seriously, Disney should revise policy more often!

September 27, 2013 at 5:32 AM · 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.
September 27, 2013 at 5:31 PM · 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.

I travel quite a bit and cannot believe the number of seatbelt extenders are requested and how much of my personal space that I pay as much for is invaded. And lord knows if I say something, I am the bad guy. I have had two spinal surgeries, soon to have a third and have never used it to my advantage other than periodic handicap parking.

I feel for many of the folks describing the symptoms of their children, but if they are that severe, then maybe Disney is not the place to be because it tests even the best of us.

September 27, 2013 at 8:07 PM · As a resident of Florida, and off season pass holder I would like to share some thoughts.
Even when our family were not residents, I never minded the possibility that disabled guests not only had shorter lines but might get to ride more rides. If this meant we waited longer so the joy for these families would be greater- wonderful! The only time we used this benefit is when our mother of over 80, in a wheelchair came with us. Her energy level was low, so the disabled benefit was a great one. We would have never thought to take advantage of the system at a time we did not need it. Unfortunately, for Disney and everyone, so many do. They pretend to be disabled to move faster in the line, or as reported, hire disabled people to pose as family members to move quickly through the lines. So the offending parties make it bad for everyone, disabled included.
I feel for Disney trying to make the best of a bad situation, and trying to figure out a way to discourage the impostors. And in the process, unfortunately,offending those they least want to as they alter the current system.

If you are disabled or have family members disabled I strongly make this suggestion to you. FIND THE LEAST BUSY TIMES OF THE YEAR AT THE DISNEY PARKS AND GO THEN. It's not just about standing in the lines. It's about your improved ability to move through the park, the shops, the restaurants, the transportation system, effortlessly without the crowds. Maybe you will have to take your child out of school, but it will be worth it. For them and for you. The convenience will outweigh any inconveniences you have. I suggest late October or early November. The middle of January through February when the weather is nice and the crowds are low. Although this may not be a perfect solution for you, it could make the Disney experience so much better.If you want to see the Xmas lights at Disney, go at the beginning of December, instead of when the park is at it's peak. You owe it to yourself and your family to treat yourself to an off season Disney vacation. Let Disney deal with the scammers, and take control of the best family trip you can plan. Hope this suggestion helps! Denise B.

September 28, 2013 at 1:21 AM · 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."

While it is a noble cause to think that works for each and every person, the one and only time a guest services worker at Disney said that to me, my response was "and that applies to my disability needs how?" then (re)handed them my proof of disability without the need for Disney asking and therefore violating the laws.

My suggestion to Disney has long been to post signage that indicates they cannot and will not ask about disabilities but that without such proof of disability, they reserve the right to deny DACs. Then randomly deny a DAC now and again when the guest refuses to volunteer said proof. I do not know of anyone that is truly disabled that wants to use the DAC that is not willing to prove they are disabled. Even with privacy concerns, there is nothing in such a policy that says the person has to prove what the disability is, just that they indeed ARE disabled. Schools, government, and other big industries require volunteering personal information all the time for credit reports, job applications, education registration, airplane flights, and on and on and on... It should the same allowances for big business in cases such as DAC.

Another suggestion to Disney was to allow only a single adult with each disabled person be on the ride at a time with each DAC issued.

Walking all day long on flat, even ground is not a problem with my particular disability and certain others might be able to as well but heaven forbid the moment the ground becomes uneven, uphill or stairs. I not only slow to a bloomin' crawl (babies on all four crawl faster than I can walk), I cannot get up stairs or into elevated bleachers. Even those so called nice even ramps they put for wheelchair use are an impediment to some slow walkers in the disabled world. With the current DAC, access to the exit ramps allows me to take my time walking without getting shoved out of the way in the standard queue lines (yes, I've been excessively shoved for 'not going fast enough') by more eager riders or to "get placed" in shows like The Lion King Show with less trouble for me and those around me.

To rent a wheelchair goes against all my doctor's recommendations. His direct instructions to reduce muscle atrophy are to "keep walking as long and as much as possible because every day you aren't using your lower body is one more day your adding to the time to end up permanently in a chair".

That stated, over the years I've expressed to Disney that they needed to change the DAC process. It has needed a policy update for a while now. I'm willing to give the DAS a try but one item hasn't been addressed in any of the many articles I've read on this subject. What does Disney intend to do for non-wheelchair bound slow walkers with lower physical impairment like me that can't get into the stadium seating and/or needs to use the exit gates even in an all wheelchair accessible park like Animal Kingdom? And how long is the window of opportunity going to be to return to the ride?

September 28, 2013 at 3:45 PM · http://asensorylife.com/sensory-meltdowns.html

Here is a link that would explain the various challenges that surround sensory integrationd disorder people with standing in line. The same basics stand for those on the autism spectrum, people with downs syndrom & cerebral palsy, anxiety disorders & bipolars to name a few types of affected people. Basically standing in line creates a toxic environment for these people. The longer they are made to stand in line, the more apparent coping mechanism behaviors become as they try & tolerate their environment. When coping becomes too much or outside parties interject or attempt to interrupt these behaviors, meltdowns can occur which are dangerous not only for the person melting down, but for all around them family & otherwise. Caregivers come to the parks equipped with a variety of things to help the person cope & to stave off meltdowns, but we as parents & caregivers can only do so much. We do go to guest relations & do ask for accomodations to help AVOID issue with others-we do not like disturbing others & do our best to minimize disturbances, BUT we can only do soo much! We would hope others would understand coping mechanisms used by the disabled, but sadly this is not the case. The current Gac system was flawed, but the projected DAS system is even moreso. Return times are fun & great in theory until you realize that there IS no front of the line access that will or ever was granted. The Gac allowed for Fastpass entry in general & was situational at best & cm's were the ones who would make the call as to how to handle a given GAC at a given time based on a variety of factors. Sure, return times sound GREAT to those who have no experience with sensory based issues that I've discussed above, but to the initiated, it can make our job even harder as caregivers. In the case of Autism, spectrum folk generally do not understand anything other than instant gratification regardless of how much ABA they may have had etc & are creatures of ritual & habit. When you interrupt these rituals/habits, it creates anxiety which they must work to tolerate & cope with. Theme park environments are full of stimuli that can trigger coping mechanisms- & we have a variety of tools we as caregivers use to try & help our disabled cope, but there is only so much any of us can anticipate & head off before things begin to happen. It is true we spend less actual time in the parks than the usual general patrons do. The disabled often have to literally baby step thru everything that they do in the parks which is a LOT of work mentally & can cause strain on them. They are trying & want to be there & want to have the same experience as everyone else, but they also do not need to be put thru truamatic experiences which the new system seems to be full of potential for exactly that. The link I posted above outlines coping mechanisms for various triggers in general & what can happen in some cases when meltdowns occur. This is what you & yours will be standing in line waiting with in that sometimes lengthy fastpass line (while faster than standby this past summer f/p lines could be very long-45 minutes or more in some cases.) Will you as a general patron be happy standing next to someone who has taken to explitive use to cope with their overstimulation? What if you see the line is moving & dont realize that the person in front of you has a delay in processing & cannot react to the move as fast as you would like so you shout above the noise to be heard to remind them or worse bump into them by accident triggering fight or flight response (lashing out anyone? biting? outright meltdown??) These people can be aged 2 & toddlers on up to full grown adult men who are the same size if not larger than you yourself may be yet in these situations, once they melt down, they can be VERY hard to restrain/calm down by their caregivers-what if there is no way to get out of line without going backward thru the mass of people or fwd thru the masses? Who might get hurt? Both parties or only the disabled? So much to think about when making generalizations that the disabled dont want to "wait" or "cannot wait" their turn isn't it?

September 29, 2013 at 5:24 AM · 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.

Thank you

Bernadette Shirghio
New York

September 29, 2013 at 6:31 AM · 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.

The first trip we made to WDW in Jan 2008, we didn't know about the GAC. On our first day we would get in the actual line (our son was only 8 and his chair was pretty small) and a cast member would then come and very nicely usher us into a different line. It wasn't always instant access, but it was definitely a more wheelchair accessible entrance. We were thrilled, not only to be getting into a shorter line, but the cast members were delightful. They would say hello to my son and just make us feel special. Believe me, in everyday life that generally doesn't happen. It was obvious that the employees were trained to treat special needs kids vey well. From our first day we were hooked. Yes, mostly because our lines were shorter. I will admit that. But in the end, I just felt like Disney understood. They understood that there were families out there that deserved a place to go where their kiddos were loved. I could go on about how specially we were treated during our 5 day trip. At epcot we met a family whose youngest son was also in a wheelchair. After the third or fourth line we were in together, I mentioned that I felt guilty that we were able to get in a shorter line for many of the attractions. Her response was just that this is our everyday: doctors, hospitals, wheelchairs, diapers, feeding tubes, etc. it was ok to not feel guilty about this one thing. So I praised Disney whenever I could about their amazing policy of treating families with special kids a little extra special. We felt the same after trip number 2 when our kids were 10 and 5. I started noticing on our 3rd trip that we got a few dirty looks from cast members when we'd flash our GAC. FROM CAST MEMBERS! Hello!! What happened to 'Have a Magical Day?' I was feeling embarrassed to use the pass. The only time I thought we abused the pass (accidentally) was on space mountain. We waited in the wheelchair line for 15 minutes and realized at the front that our son could not ride it bc my husband or I wouldn't have been able to sit next to him. He would have loved it. So we took turns riding with our daughter and the cast member was really nice about it. In the same line was a granny with 4 kids with her. The granny just waited while the kids rode. I felt like this was early stage GAC fraud. It is sad that a few people ruined this pass for the many families, like mine, who deal with 90 minute meals (not including Disney lines), seizures, diaper changes, feeding tubes, and medication scheduels that make it hard to come early or stay late.

Ironically, we planned our next trip for October 8-9 during our kids' fall break. One day with the pass and one day without. I'm interested to see how the new system works although I have a feeling it is going to change the way we feel about Disney. I think a better solution would definitely have been to not give a GAC to anyone who asked for one- no questions asked. That is ridiculous. Before I make any more comments, I would like to try out the new system. We will be there on day one. For us it is not entirely about the shortened lines, although it is immensely helpful and is a huge part of why we come back, It is about that magical feeling of Disney that all kids experience and Disney just seems to go one step farther to make sure that special needs kids feel it too. If that is gone this year... we'll be really, really sad.

September 29, 2013 at 6:43 AM · Mimi Webb,
You are so very accurate in your description of the challenges we face as caregivers. Our special needs daughter is 30 years old, and we experience many of the issues you describe. She loves Disney World, but cannot make a full day at the park without frequent rest stops. When she is ready to ride, there is a window of opportunity for her. A delay may change her whole outlook, and a meltdown may result in a lost chance for her enjoyment. We have used the disabled pass system with her for several years. Never has our family used it on rides where she is not involved. It is so sad that a few parasites can abuse a system thar is beneficial to those who need special help. I hope this new system works, but I also hope that Disney will adjust it if necessary.

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