This topic has certainly been a controversial one for a few years now because it has to do with fairness. At Disney Parks, there was (and still is for the time being) a program where guests who had stated they had a disability could get something called a Guest Assistance Card aka the GAC. Think of it as a limitless FastPass for any ride at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.
The intentions in creating the GAC program were good in that those who had these disabilities would be able to bypass the potential long lines for attractions and prevent any further discomfort that their disability might give them. Unfortunately, these intentions were taken for granted when many people who didn’t have these disabilities decided to lie about them and take these unlimited FastPasses for themselves (and up to 6 guests, which was originally intended to be the disability person’s family/friends).
The problem with the GAC program became so widespread over the past few years that it started affecting regular wait times and even illegal businesses where truly disabled guests would offer themselves for hire to random strangers and their families in order for them to skip all the lines too. It wasn’t until NBC’s Today Show did a special report on the GAC violations back in May that things have began to the process of change.
Just this past weekend, the Disneyland Resort released a statement saying that the GAC program would cease and a new program would replace it, effective October 9. The new program, called the Disabled Assistance Service (or DAS) which would also use a card, was created in response to the GAC troubles, as well as make way for the upcoming NextGen/MagicBand technology supposedly coming to Disneyland early next year. The full official statement is below -
After careful consideration, the Guest Assistance Card will be replaced with the new Disability Access Service Card on October 9, 2013 in order to create a more consistent experience for all Disney Parks guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities. The new program will offer guests a return time for an attraction based on the current wait time.
Disney has been working with disability groups to develop the program, and Autism Speaks was instrumental in providing feedback as Disney developed this new process.
The program change is in response to the increasing volume of requests Disney receives for special access to attractions and the hope for the new program is to provide a more consistent experience for all guests.
The goal of the program is to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).
Guests visiting through wish-granting organizations will have attraction access through a separate program. Until October 9, Disney Parks will continue to use Guest Assistance Cards.
UPDATE 10/7: Disney Parks has released official details on the new DAS program. Click below to expand the details:
Disney Parks have an unwavering commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment and accessible experiences for guests.
Disney Parks is modifying the current Guest Assistance Card program, which provides access to attractions for guests with disabilities, so it can continue to serve the guests who truly need it. The new program is designed to provide the special experience guests have come to expect from Disney. It will also help control abuse that was, unfortunately, widespread and growing at an alarming rate.
The new Disability Access Service (DAS) Card will replace the Guest Assistance Card on Oct. 9. Guests at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort can request a Disability Access Service Card at Guest Relations. DAS Cardholders will receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. Disney Parks has long recognized and accommodated guests with varying needs. Guests can visit Guest Relations to discuss their individual situation, and Disney Parks will continue to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions -
- What is a Disability Access Service Card and how does it work?
The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). A Disability Access Service Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another. This service can be used in addition to Disney’s FASTPASS Service and Disney FastPass+ service.
- What will Disney Parks do if a Guest is concerned the DAS Card doesn’t meet their needs?
Disney Parks have long recognized and accommodated guests with varying needs and will continue to work individually with guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances. Guests should visit Guest Relations to discuss their individual needs.
- Who will be eligible for a Disability Access Service Card?
Disney Parks’ goal is to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). Guests should visit Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.
- How will guests get a Disability Access Service Card?
A Disability Access Service Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations. Guests will participate in a registration process, which also includes having their photo taken.
- Why is Disney Parks doing this?
Disney Parks is modifying the current Guest Assistance Card program so it can continue to serve the guests who truly need it. The new program is designed to provide the special experience guests have come to expect from Disney. Disney Parks also hopes it will help control abuse that was, unfortunately, widespread and growing at an alarming rate.
- Does the DAS Cardholder have to be present to obtain a return time at an attraction?
No. Another member of the DAS Cardholder’s travel party may obtain a return time but the DAS Cardholder must board the attraction with his or her party.
- Where do DAS Cardholders go to receive return times?
At Disneyland Resort, guests will go to Guest Relations kiosks located throughout the parks to receive a return time. At Walt Disney World Resort, guests will go to the attraction to receive a return time.
- Does a DAS Cardholder have to ride the attraction at the exact return time listed?
No. Return times are valid until redeemed by the DAS Cardholder.
- How long is a DAS Card valid?
A DAS card is valid for up to 14 days depending on a guest’s ticket entitlement.
- Is a DAS Card issued at one Disney theme park valid at other Disney theme parks?
Yes, the card will be valid throughout the resort at which it was issued.
- Why doesn’t Disney Parks ask for proof of disability, such as a doctor’s note?
Disney Parks takes Guests at their word and there are legal restrictions around asking for proof.
Is this the only service available to Guests with disabilities?
Disney Parks offer a variety of services to guests with disabilities, such as Disney’s Handheld Device that offers assistive listening, captioning and audio description. Additionally, Disney Parks has developed a “Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities.” This serves as a tool on how best to experience its theme parks and is expected to be available online by mid-October. Disney Parks will continue to provide excellent guest service and accessible experiences. Guests should visit Guest Relations at any park should they feel they need assistance due to a disability.
- Does a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter need a DAS Card?
No, a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter does not need a DAS Card. Depending on the attraction, the Guest will either wait in the standard queue or receive a return time at the attraction based on the current wait time. For some attractions at Disneyland Resort, these guests will go directly to an alternate entrance. Guests with additional needs should discuss them with Guest Relations.
- Will Disney Parks continue to provide a service to wish-granting organizations?
The change will not affect those who are visiting on trips organized by wish granting organizations. There is a separate program for children with life-threatening illnesses.
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Have you heard of the GAC problems before? Are you guilty of taking advantage of it? Are you glad/sad that Disney has decided to fix this problem of fairness? What do you think of the new DAS system and will if affect your visit to a Disney Park? Let us know in the comments.