HANDS-ON REVIEW: New Disability Access Service Begins Operation at Disney Parks

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There has been a lot of talk lately about the new Disability Access Service (DAS) Program coming to Disney Parks to replace the Guest Assistance Cards (GAC). Last week we gave you detailed information about the new DAS system (please read that post first) and received many questions about how the new program would work. Yesterday the new system debuted and we tried out the DAS for ourselves.

We arrived at Magic Kingdom at park open. I was expecting long lines at Guest Relations and wanted to do my best to avoid those (especially since the whole point of the card is to help those who can’t wait in long lines). The outside of the building was swarmed with Guest Relations Cast, managers, and security, but not many guests. Surprisingly there was no wait at all when we got to City Hall and we were able to go right up to a Cast Member. We explained that we were there because we knew the system had changed and we needed a DAS to replace our GAC. The Cast Member asked what type of concerns we had with waiting in standby queues. After explaining our needs the Cast Member said we did qualify for a DAS and pulled out an iPad to issue the card.

The Cast Member collected all the same information as before with the GAC program: name, number in party, dates of visit. A couple of things have already changed since Cast were originally trained. They have capped the party size at 10 (instead of having it be unlimited as they were told in training). However, they are encouraged to keep the party size at 6 or less and if your party is more than 6 people they will need to see everyone to issue you a DAS for that number. Cast were also trained that the new card would be good for a maximum of 7 days. They have since decided to extend that to 14 days. So, the card will be valid for the length of your stay or 14 days if you’re a local or Annual Passholder. If your length of stay is longer than 14 days you will need to get a new DAS after two weeks.

After entering all of my information the Cast Member then used the iPad to take my picture. This picture will appear on the card to ensure that I am the one using it and I can’t give it to someone else. As we said in the previous post, if the card is for a minor a parent can have their photo taken instead. You can also opt to not have any photo on the card, however, if you choose to not have a photo the card will not be valid for multiple days and you will need to get a new one every day of your trip.

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My information, photo, and where the card was issued is all printed on the front of the card. After ours was printed the Cast Member went over the terms and conditions also listed on the front and had me sign the bottom. The Cast Member then also explained how the new system worked and showed us the back of the card where our return times would be printed.

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All in all the process of getting the new card took less than 5 minutes. It may take some guests more time, especially if there is a long wait or if they have a lot of questions, but for us, we were ready to try out the new card by 9:05am.

There was only problem…nothing really had a line just after park opening. We headed over to Jungle Cruise where the wait was only 5 minutes. There were several Cast Members at the entrance (including 2 coordinators) and I asked them how the DAS program worked with such a short wait. Since the return times they normally write on the card are 10 minutes less than the posted wait, if the line is less than 10 minutes the guests can go straight in the alternate entrance. In this case, that would be the FASTPASS queue. They said that it would work this way at all attractions.

After grabbing some coffee and breakfast we headed over to Buzz Lightyear. The wait time was 20 minutes so we knew this would be our first return time. Again there were several coordinators at the entrance of the ride and one of them was holding a clip board and pen. We approached him, showed him our card, and he filled it out with a return time and his initials. It was a very quick and simple process. We received a time to come back 10 minutes later. All it took to kill that time was a quick loop on The Peoplemover and then it was time to ride. When we returned to Buzz Lightyear we showed our card with the return time, the Cast Member voided the entry by crossing it out, and we were directed in through the FASTPASS queue.

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We were travelling with another guest who was in a wheelchair and were curious to see how queues that weren’t wheelchair accessible would work under this system. Tomorrowland Speedway uses an alternate entrance for wheelchairs so we went there to check it out. Previously we would have just been sent straight in through an alternate entrance. Now, guests in wheelchairs will receive a card that looks similar to a FASTPASS with a return time 10 minutes less than the posted wait. In this case the posted wait was 20 minutes, so we got a card to come back in 10 minutes. When we returned they took the card and directed us through the alternate entrance. Guests in wheelchairs do not need a separate DAS and can enter all inaccessible queues using this system (or wait in the standby line in accessible queues).

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After trying out a couple more rides we felt familiar enough with how the program worked, but had a few more questions:

Is the DAS valid at Character Meet and Greets?

The GAC wasn’t valid at any meet and greets. The new card is valid at meet and greets that are more like attractions and have a formal standby and FASTPASS queue. That means you can get a return time with your DAS at Town Square Theater, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Princess Fairytale Hall, etc. The DAS is not valid at informal meet and greets such as Pluto and Marie in Town Square, Dug and Russell at Animal Kingdom, or Wreck It Ralph characters at Hollywood Studios.

What do I do if I am vision impaired since they eliminated the stamps on the cards?

On the GACs they would put stamps explaining specific needs the guest may have. One of these was a stamp for guests who needed a front row seat or alternate entrance due to vision concerns. Unfortunately, these guests will need to explain to the Cast Members at each attraction what their concerns are to ensure they get the correct entrance and seat requirement.

Can I use FASTPASS and FASTPASS+ along with my DAS?

Yes! The DAS program was designed to be used in conjunction with FASTPASS+. Cast Members are encouraging guests to use Legacy FASTPASS (while they still can) and plan FASTPASS+ reservations as much as possible and use the DAS in cases where that isn’t an option.

What if I can’t wait in line at Guest Relations?

Many guests have expressed concerns with the long lines keeping them from even being able to get a DAS. We saw several Guest Relations Cast Members with the iPads used to issue cards coming outside and assisting guests needing cards as quickly as possible. Even when lines were long we saw Cast Members coming outside and helping guests while they were sitting on a bench or in a shady area so they didn’t have to wait in line behind guests who were there for other reasons.

Overall, we had an excellent experience with the DAS. However, I am aware this may not seem ideal for all guests who need assistance. If you believe you need more assistance, explain what you concerns you have to the Cast Member at Guest Relations when they are issuing your card. We saw several examples of families calmly explaining their concerns with the program (especially those with children on the autism spectrum) and getting extra help. Some families received re-admit passes (basically a pass for immediate access to the alternate entrance) or were assisted with FASTPASS+ planning to help ensure their day go as smoothly as possible.

The Cast Members we encountered yesterday were all extremely helpful and patient. They are aware that this transition is stressful for many people and are willing to do anything possible to make sure everyone gets the assistance they need to enjoy the parks. If you have problems with the DAS or unhappy with the changes, do NOT take it out on front line Cast Members. These folks are there to help you and had nothing to do with the system changing.

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Paula Hilston
Guest
Paula Hilston

thank you so much…..our trip is in February and our family of 12 will include 3 people who need DAS for different reasons. Hopefully they will continue to assist in the original getting of the passes as that is where we had problems even with GACs…thanks again for taking the time to find out as much as you can about this new sistem

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

I'm sure they will continue that. I think they will do everything they can to accommodate as best as possible.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

Great blog Scarlett!

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

Thank you!

Aut
Guest
Aut

" Some families received re-admit passes (basically a pass for immediate access to the alternate entrance) or were assisted with FASTPASS+ planning to help ensure their day go as smoothly as possible." To my understanding the re-admit passes are not going to be something used on a regular basis, they were something just being offered yesterday. Were you able to talk to a CM and confirm this? Also I am already seeing reports in other blogs that went and tested the system that show CM's blatantly not using the system the way it is suppose to work, do you know… Read more »

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

My understanding was that if this is truly needed they will continue to provide them. That is what we were told by CM's. I did not see any cases of Cast not using the system properly and think it would have been especially difficult yesterday with the amount of coordinators and managers we saw at each attraction. I would hope that management will do whatever they need to do to ensure everyone is doing things correctly. Also, yesterday was the first day and we witnessed some confusion with some Cast still getting used to everything. So maybe someone just made… Read more »

R
Guest
R

My guess is, if you qualify for the GAP pass at Uni, you will qualify for the re-admits pass at Disney. Which GAP passes are very difficult to get at Uni. I am not sure what the qualifications are to get the pass, the only one I know of is if you are on a ventilator they sometimes give you a GAP pass. I think this system was needed, the old one was really abused and I had a handicapped child, so I understand the different special needs of people. I see nothing wrong with this system. Most times your… Read more »

McDonuts
Guest
McDonuts

See that is great for everyone with that kind of Handicap but it doesn't touch on the subject of those who can not stand in heat, sun, mentally challenged etc. Basically those without a physical handicap. Do we know how that will work?

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

Those who can't stand in the heat/sun will be able to wait for their return time wherever they would like…in the air conditioning or the shade or anywhere that works for them. Every guest has different needs and I don't know exactly how well the program will work for everyone. Guests who have a difficult time understanding the need to wait may have a more difficult time, but as I mentioned in the post if the concerns are explained to Guest Relations they may be able to help.

Scott Parker
Guest
Scott Parker

Great writeup and we experienced the same at Epcot yesterday.

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

Thank you. I'm glad you had a good experience at Epcot as well.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Hi Scarlett – Great post, and thank you for the info! Do you have any idea how they decide on the "return" times for each attraction? Is it as simple as, say, half the current standby wait, or maybe just a nominal wait (5-10 minutes) at each stop to prevent people from hopping from ride to ride and abusing the system?

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

The return time is 10 minutes less than standby. So if the wait is 30 minutes, the return time will be 20 minutes from the current time.

Michael
Guest
Michael

…And you mentioned that in the post! Sorry about that; must've skimmed right by it. Thanks again!

Cynthia Witham
Guest
Cynthia Witham

Any experiences at Disneyland or California Adventure?

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

Not yet. My understanding is that the system is very similar except that instead of going to each ride to get a return time, you will go to one of several kiosks located throughout the park and speak with a CM there.

Martha
Guest
Martha

Thank you SO much for sharing your experience and including pictures of the pass. My son (who has autism) and I go several times a year and, based on initial information, I didn't think this new system would work for us. I now think we can navigate the park with the new system! I am also relieved that I do not have to put my young son's photo on the card and can have my picture taken instead. Thank you. Your information is so valuable to so many people!

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

I'm glad we could help. Hopefully the new system works out well for you guys.

Cam
Guest
Cam

can you go on the ride any time after your return time is up? or is there a window in which you can return?

Scarlett Litton
Guest
Scarlett Litton

Yes, you can arrive any time after your return time. Just remember that you can't get a new return time until you use or void the first one.

Scott
Guest
Scott

So if a wait time is 90 min they are going to tell me to come back in 80 min. My daughter has mental & physical disabilities and trying to explain to her we can't go on the ride for another 80 min is going to be dificult. I understand why Disney is doing this and I can thank the people who abused the system for this.

Carol
Guest
Carol

What is to prevent people from just writing in their own times and next attraction? Just wondering since there are those who tried to take advantage of the system in the past.

Jerry and Sue
Guest
Jerry and Sue

As I read all the posts, I see it has worked for us we are concerned for a different disability, and what about cheaters. Lets face it folks, there will always be that someone as the saying goes that will try their best to squeak past the rules. Hopefully Disney has a back up plan. Yes it is going to be a huge adjustment for some families who have come more often and their GAC pass has for them been a better fit. I see in above posts Disney is doing their best to accommodate those with extra concerns. As… Read more »

iamdollie
Guest
iamdollie

We were at Epcot on Wednesday around 11. I was hoping there would be a back-up plan, too, but the CM we had said there was none. I even showed him the GAP we get from Universal, not the return time one, but a second tier that I believe is only given in certain circumstances. Actually, the CM we had didn't even KNOW about Autism, let along cognitive disabilities, and I spent much time explaining, thinking that would push him in the right direction. But he was programmed for one thing – keep talking about how the DAS works and… Read more »

Shannon
Guest
Shannon

Thank you for the info, as I have been waiting to read a hands-on experience with the new system. However, I'm still confused about guests who need assistance but will not be in a wheelchair. Walking and standing in line won't be an issue for my mother-in-law, however she will need to bypass stairs and have the moving walkway of the continuous-loading rides slowed down or stopped altogether… but again, she will not be in a wheelchair. This will be our first time traveling with my MIL to Disney World, so I'm not sure how this will work for her… Read more »

R
Guest
R

They have alternate entrances when stairs or moving walkways are involved and I imagine they will still be used. Go to guest services and they can assist you with these. I have seen some people not even have cards and when they get up to toy story just tell the cast member they need the alternate non-stair ride entrance and they tell them where it is.

R
Guest
R

My understanding from talking with Uni Guest Services that people are sometimes grandfathered into GAP passes, but they do not give them out for Autism anymore. So basically if you already have them then you get to keep them in certain circumstances. So I can understand Disney not just seeing the GAP pass and giving a different pass at Disney. Also, some employees don't even know what a Uni GAP pass is. Also, there is no way Guest Services can know about every disability out there, so to expect that is a bit much. I totally get it and I… Read more »

Sheri
Guest
Sheri

Privilege? Do you know what a privilege? Having a child without autism. I’d give up my “privilege” in a skinny minute. I’d much rather hear my child speak, have friends, go to college, marry and have children than save 45 minutes of standing in line for Space Mountain. That being said, I hope this system works.

margaret
Guest
margaret

Thank you so much for this explanation. Going with dad (73, arthritis patient) in December, although we understand when we go it will not be busy…he can't stand too long or walk too far. So, in looking for wheelchair/scooter rentals, etc., I was looking for information on senior/handicapped access, etc. You've been of great help.

Marcy T
Guest
Marcy T

My 3yo son has autism. I emailed Disney (sorry I can't remember the email address) & explained our situation. We are going in November & were concerned about the new system. Some one called me back within a week & explained everything to me. She did give us 3 passes a day that we could use immediately so we won 't have to return. The cm sent me an email with a magic # on it for us to print out & bring with us. This way it should go smoothly & quickly when we arrive. They are encouraging people… Read more »

Cheryl
Guest
Cheryl

I just came back from Disney world and it is a disaster!!! The parks were crowded because of Halloween and the food and wine festival. I wrote to guest services before I left and asked if I should cancel my trip because I am having treatments at a cancer center and I have lupus. They told me that they would accommodate accordingly. I got to guest services at magic kingdom and brought the email that stated they would accommodate to my needs. I brought my oncologists paperwork explaining I could not stand in the sun for long periods of time,… Read more »

Marilyn Brown
Guest
Marilyn Brown

Cheryl, we just got back ourselves, and I 100% agree with you. Never have I felt more patronized and treated like a second class citizen that I did this past weekend.

Marilyn Brown
Guest
Marilyn Brown

We just got back today and I have to tell you: Don't count on it. The Cast members will issue a DAS at their own discretion. We have no idea what qualifies them to determine what accommodations our specific disability requires, but for some reason, not only do they slyly ask "what types of concerns do you have with waiting in line" they are basically asking you what your disability is. If they deem it a "mobility issue" you WILL NOT be issued a card. My husband's disability is NOT a mobility issue, but through the Disney training, 4 cast… Read more »

Alli
Guest
Alli

Disney should allow a doctor's note explaining necessary accommodations, and anyone with a disability should be happy to offer it to guest relations. The cast members are not doctors and shouldn't be expected to know what is needed. We need documentation to get a handicap parking placard, why shouldn't we be willing to offer it for this.

john
Guest
john

My experience with the new ststem has been very very mixed. dl offers more access than accomodation. it should be redeveloped for it is in some violation with the spirit of the ada if mot the letter

M. White
Guest
M. White

We had a terrible time with the "new system" today! My 9 year old daughter, who has Cerebral Palsy, literally told me she "has never felt more disabled than today at Disneyland." We have been going there for 8 years as annual passholders and today may be our last time. We were told to come back in 90 minutes for 3 different rides. When I asked what we were supposed to do with my wheelchair bound daughter for the 90 minutes, we were told to "shop, eat or sit and wait." My 9 year old does not want to shop… Read more »

catqueen87
Guest
catqueen87

Sorry you felt singled out. But tbh, 3 rides in 7 hours is about what the rest of us get. Why should disabled people get to fit in MORE rides???

Stacia Lynn
Guest
Stacia Lynn

It seems to me that these people with disabilities aren't mad because they're being treated poorly, they're mad because they're being treated like everyone else when we go to the parks. The rest of us wait and go through all this hassle too, especially with young children. If you want to be respected and treated like someone who doesn't have a disability, this is it. Also, if heat/sun and crowds cause problems, Disney is not the place to be and there's nothing they can do to change that. It's a busy Florida amusement park. Your best bet is to go… Read more »

Specialneedsmommy
Guest
Specialneedsmommy

Oh Stacia – I am thanking God right now that you were not blessed with a special needs child because you don't have any compassion. I would give anything for my child to have the ability to stand in line like "everybody else." It would be great if he could even stand for longer than 5 minutes. An anxiety free day would be Amazing and stress free. Live one day in my sons shoes and see if he shouldn't be granted with a little extra for 1 day. SHAME ON YOU! I pray you are not teaching your children this… Read more »