It’s no secret that I love Disney Parks.
Since I started this blog and began sharing tips for your Disney vacations, I’ve had questions from Mommas about how Disney accommodates their children or family members with special needs or disabilities.
In the past a system was in place known as the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) that was being repeatedly abused by Guests visiting the park as a way to bypass long waits in line. Disney has finally responded to this abuse by developing a new system known as the Disability Access Service (DAS) for Guests of “Different Abilities” visiting the Parks.
There are a lot of changes to this service so I’ll begin by describing both systems to better illustrate the changes.
The old system—the GAC—allowed Guests to visit a Guest Relation’s counter and be issued a card. This card would be stamped accordingly by a Guest Relations Cast Member based on a Guest’s abilities and needs. A Guest could then present the card at any attraction and admit themselves and up to six people to the attraction usually through the FastPass line. This was wonderful for Guests with disabilities who could not stand for long periods of time in lines, or could not handle crowds.
It is for exactly that reason it was easily being abused. The GAC card could be issued to anyone so people without special needs could easily be issued a pass that could allow themselves and six friends or family members through the lines with little wait time. (As horrible as it sounds, this actually made national news when wealthy families were hiring disabled tour guides to travel with them so they would not need to wait in lines!)
The new system—The DAS—will also allow Guests to describe their abilities to a Guest Relations Cast Member to be issued a card. This new process includes assigning a photo to your DAS card to discourage people from obtaining a card to pass along to someone who will not have such a need.
Now when a Guest who has a DAS card reaches an attraction, they will present their card and be issued a time when they can return and go through the FastPass line. This is to keep the system fair. If you have a DAS card and arrive with your family at an attraction that has a 40 minute wait, you could come back in 40 minutes to ride the attraction.
In many ways, this new system is the same as obtaining a FastPass for a time ahead. As you wait you can grab a bite to eat, enjoy the Florida sunshine, or visit another attraction.
Many attractions have been updated to accommodate Guests in wheelchairs as well. For example, if you are using a wheel chair for the duration of your trip and simply cannot stand for long periods of time but are able to transfer from your chair, and you wish to ride Soarin’ at Epcot Park, you can be in your wheel chair all the way up until you get on the ride without having to park the wheelchair and walk the duration of the cue.
There is tons of information surrounding the new DAS system and I’m sure there are plenty of questions I have not answered. So here’s a bit more detail.
A DAS card can be issued to Guests with disabilities (including non-apparent disabilities) by visiting a Guest Service location at Disney Parks.
The DAS system is not the only offering Disney has for Guests with different abilities and Disney will continue to work individually with each Guest to best accommodate their needs.
Guests with disabilities will not need to provide proof of their disability. This is a privacy issue that could have legal implications for Disney. Disney Cast Members who issue a DAS will take your word on your abilities.
The DAS card will be issued to the Guest with the special needs. That being said, if you are travelling with a disabled person who has trouble speaking they are not expected to speak for themselves. You are able to help them obtain the DAS card and obtain return times at attractions with their DAS cards. The person with the disability is, however, required to be with the party when they return with their DAS card to an attraction to ride.
There are still disabilities areas around parade routes, but the entire route is handicap accessible. Remember, no stationary objects are allowed on the parade route so benches or pulling up chairs from nearby locations is not permitted (you can read more about why this is in this post). If you have trouble standing and wish to view a parade, a Cast Member will bring you a complementary wheelchair.
The DAS card can be used at all parks within the resort where the card was issued and is valid for up to 14 days depending on the type of ticket a Guest holds.
You can read more FAQs on the DAS system at Disney Parks here. There is also a public letter from Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S. and France about the new service, here.
Above all else that this system was designed to be fair to all parties visiting a Disney Park and to discourage the current abuse of the old GAC system. While the system has drastically changed, remember that it is not the fault of those front-line Cast Members who will issue your DAS card or provide you with a return time at an attraction.
DAS cards will begin to be used in Disney Parks October 9, 2013.
Thanks for reading!