Domestic Disney theme parks plans to change its process for how guests with disabilities may experience the parks’ attractions. Both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort will replace its current policy, Disney confirmed on Sept. 23, with the Disability Access Service Card.
As the Orlando Sentinel reports, the policy change in part reflects Disney’s effort to curb abuse of the current policy by those who do not need it. The new Disability Access Service Card (DAS) goes into effect at both Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California beginning Oct. 9.
Guest Assistance Card (GAC), the current policy, permits guests with disabilities and up to five members in their touring party to bypass many traditional attraction queues, entering the attraction from different entry points. This sometimes results in minimal wait times for guests who use the program. GAC is free to Disney guests and does not require proof of need, in keeping with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
With Disney’s DAS, guests will be issued a return time for certain attractions based on current wait times. Guests who cannot wait in a traditional queue due to a disability, including those with non-apparent disabilities, will be eligible for the DAS card. As with GAC, DAS will be free and will not require documentation.
We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests. Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process to create a more consistent experience for all our guests while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities,” Disney spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda said in response to an email inquiry about DAS.
In keeping with our long history of providing accommodations for our guests with disabilities, we will continue to provide assistance that is responsive to their needs.”
In a F.A.Q. published on the Disney-owned Travel Babble, Disney reports they have been working closely with disability groups, specifically naming Autism Speaks as a group that provided feedback for the new program. In that document, Disney also noted families traveling with WISH organizations will have access through a separate program.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Disability Access Service Card
- How will the new program work? The Disability Access Service Card will offer Guests a return time for an attraction based on the current wait time. Guest Assistance Cards will continue to be in effect until Oct. 9. We look forward to sharing more information as we get closer to implementation.
- Did you ask for feedback in developing the Disability Access Service Card? We are engaging disability groups, and Autism Speaks was instrumental in providing feedback as we developed this new process.
- Why are you doing this? Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process beginning Oct. 9 so that it creates a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities.
- Who will be eligible for a Disability Access Service Card? Our goal is to accommodate Guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).
- Will Guests on wish trips also use Disability Access Service Cards? No. Guests who are visiting through wish-granting organizations will have access through a separate program.
- What should Guests do if they have concerns? Guests should contact Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.
The Disney fan site MiceChat, which broke unofficial news of the change to DAS last week, provides details for how the policy will be implemented at Disneyland Resort. Disney says it will release more details on the new Disability Access Service Card in the near future.
As noted above, guests with concerns are and will be encouraged to contact Guest Relations to discuss their needs. Walt Disney World Resort’s website and theme-park guides, as well as Disneyland Resort’s website and guide book, also provide information about services for guests with disabilities.
The changes follow reports of exploitation of the GAC program, notably by those who do not need accommodations, which have been the focus of pieces by the New York Post and Today show. These reports exposed theme-park visitors who hired disabled tour guides for the purpose of bypassing long attraction lines.