Disney’s Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program is changing, and starting Oct. 9, will be called the Disability Access Service Card (DASC).
The idea behind the DASC will be the same as the GAC, in that guests with disabilities will still be given alternate access to attractions when they are not able to use the mainstream queue. However, instead of gaining unlimited “front of the line” privileges (not how it was supposed to work), guests with special needs will be given an assigned return time to one attraction at a time.
Questions on how exactly the “disabled FastPass” process will work remain of course, and as the parent and advocate of a special needs child, I’ve been following news about the changes as closely as many of you have. Not just for my own son’s benefit, but to ensure that the information I share with you is always based on fact. Not fairy tales.
Last week, Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Operations, U.S. and France, sent a letter to organizations that represent the interests of the autism and disabled communities. A copy of that letter was shared with me this morning, and I encourage you to read it:
Disney Parks holds a cherished place in the hearts of the millions of Guests who visit us each year. We know that is especially true for those of you who have a loved one with a disability. For many families, what would be impossible elsewhere is not only possible, but magical, at our parks and resorts. We are proud to play such an important role in so many of your lives.
Unfortunately, our current program for providing access to attractions for Guests with disabilities has been abused and exploited to such an extent that we are no longer able to effectively sustain it in its present form. After careful consideration, and with the needs of our Guests with disabilities as our foremost concern, we are modifying the current program so that we will be able to continue to serve those Guests for whom the program is intended.
Over the past few days, you have likely heard about these upcoming changes and how they might affect our Guests with disabilities. Our relationship with you is important to us, and we want to take the opportunity to clear up any confusion or misinterpretation.
Our commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all our Guests has not changed. We have long recognized that people may have different needs, and we will continue to work individually with our Guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.
As with any change, there will be a period of adjustment, particularly for those families who have developed and refined their preferred ways of enjoying our parks with their loved ones over the years. I thank you in advance for your patience as we fine-tune our new program to mitigate the current abuse, while still providing the special experience our Guests have come to expect from Disney.
Most of all, thank you for entrusting your treasured time with those you love to Disney Parks.
Being disabled at Disney has obviously gotten a lot of negative attention in the media and across social networks. This in turn, has a lot of mainstream guests asking why those with special needs even attend the parks if they need so many accommodations. To that I say this: Because it’s still the Happiest Place on Earth. Being disabled doesn’t prevent you from flinging pixie dust as excitedly as a mainstream child or adult does. Special needs just means you do it differently.
Look, we all know why we can’t have nice things (yes, I’m looking at you, disabled rent-a-guides), and if nothing else, Crofton’s words reaffirm my gut instinct to give Disney the benefit of the doubt on this one. When you’re in the business of making magic, you keep doing it. You don’t stop because of an obstacle. You meet it head on and work through it to make something negative positive. Any advocate within the special needs will understand that.
The reassurance that Disney continues to be fully committed to all of its guests – both atypical and typical – should give us all pause before we assume the worst, and I look forward to learning more details about the DASC as they become available.
Disney officials have invited me to ask them questions about the DASC directly. If there is something you would like to know about the new program, please leave a comment in the thread below.
Photo credits: Pilar Clark
Travelhound Pilar wouldn’t mind being at Walt Disney World eating the ears off a Mickey ice cream bar right about now. But, since she can’t be at her “second home” year round, she curates happy thoughts on Disney Social Media Magic, a virtual springboard where breaking news and other Disneyfied thingamabobs are shared. For more mouse-minded geekery, join Pilar on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and personal site, One Mom Media.