Disney's theme parks prepare to implement their new disability access system

October 4, 2013, 9:11 PM · Disney today announced details about its new Disability Access Service [DAS] program at its U.S. theme parks.

We've been talking on Theme Park Insider about this new program for a few weeks now:

One important point of clarification in Disney's announcement today: Guests using wheelchairs will not be required to use the DAS program, as they were not required to use the current Guest Assistance Card [GAC] program. They can continue to use wheelchair-accessible queues or to get return times for alternate entry (usually through the exit) from cast members at an attraction entrance.

Obviously, the loss of the GAC is upsetting many Disney visitors who had come to rely on its front-of-line access. And that's eliciting frustration from many other guests who have felt pushed aside by Disney's current access procedures. But as theme park fans debate Disney's actions to provide more equitable access for all, let's acknowledge that achieving true equality of experience for all guests is impossible. We're each too different from one another to experience parks in the same ways, whether we have disabilities or not.

On that topic, we'd like to thank the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for sharing our Daniel Etcheberry's post on the differences he experienced before and after he became a full-time wheelchair user:

The new system at Disney goes into effect on Wednesday, October 9.

Replies (5)

October 5, 2013 at 9:30 AM · I feel honored to have my article posted on the Christopher and Dana foundation's Facebook page. Wow!
October 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM · Congratulations Daniel! I am so happy that your column got picked up by the Reeve Foundation. I just love Daniel's writing. Always educational and informative but always readable because he writes in such a positive voice. I just love him! Go, Daniel, go!!!! :)
October 6, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Looking back at the hundreds of comments I've come to realize that there was a clearly organized bombardment of post from families with autistic members. While by no means is their argument invalid, I think it's made all the response look exceedingly negative when it's not.

So we got it. It's going to be tougher for he autism community, but the campaign to explode all and any type of media ( even Fox News presented a very lopsided story with a mother of an autistic son who knew nothing about the new system but still blasted it with furry) is unnecessary and tiring. Things are tough in real life. Things were easy at Disney. But the post ruled by passion were getting rude and aggressive, not helping the cause.

Disney has specifically pointed out that they consulted with advocacy groups to make sure the plan was fair and workable for everyone. They even specifically mentioned Autism Speaks because they know there is a specific resistance from that group.

My proposal is that if the autism community insists of having the GAC treatment, why not encourage Autism Speaks or other advocacy groups to work with Disney to set up a special issued pass like the Make A Wish pass?

Is that solution too simple?

October 7, 2013 at 9:01 AM · I have to agree with the comment made earlier about the stance by some in the Autism community against the new system. I know that this will be different and may not be the best but give the system a chance. How can you be so against something when you haven't tried it.

I know I will get the "he doesn't understand" responses and I don't completely understand, my 12 year old son has Aspergers, often called high functioning autism, and his reactions will be much different then someone who is non-verbal but all we can do is wait and see how he reacts before we make a decision if the new system is good or bad. We never used the GAC on the two times we have taken him to Disney, we live in Canada so not a weekend trip.

October 7, 2013 at 1:21 PM · The Disney site's explanation leaves more questions then answers.

1. DAS is not tied to Fastpass. Potential for abuse in using both systems since regular customers can only use Fastpass and the Standby lines. Which leads to...

2. Why not fake a medical, non-visible condition? At least you can take advantage of DAS and Fastpass simultaneously.

3. Wheelchair and scooter users do not use DAS. They go directly to the exits. Unanswered question is how long do they wait? Can they use Fastpass anymore? Does this mean their whole party must wait at the exits in the handicap equivalent to Standby lines? This will be a big problem at Disneyland.

4. Oh so a wheelchair companion and/or family can get some fastpasses. First go to the exits. Ride once. When fastpasses are valid, the family can go again via the regular fastpass line. A 2-fer benefit.

Again, too many unanswered questions and too many ways to continue to work the system.

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