Once upon a time, Disney decided to offer a way for kids and adults who have disabilities (seen and unseen) that make it hard for them to wait in traditional lines to get a card that allows them to enter rides differently and still enjoy the theme parks.
Because of privacy concerns, Disney couldn’t, and wouldn’t, ask for medical documentation when people asked for the Guest Assistance Cards. And people asked for the cards who didn’t need them, just to skip the lines.
And then some secretive businesses sprung up. Disabled “tour guides” started offering their services for a price – joining a vacationing family at Walt Disney World so that the family could avoid lines by riding with the disabled person, and his or her Guest Assistance Card.
And as we all learn sooner or later in life, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. People gamed the system, and now the fairytale is ending.
Starting Oct. 9, Walt Disney World has announced that it is doing away with its Guest Assistance Card and replacing it with the new Disability Access Service Card.
If you have traveled to Walt Disney World with someone who is disabled or has issues that make it hard to wait in crowds, you are able to go to Guest Services with medical documentation and get a card. The Guest Assistance Card allows you to enter through a special entrance and avoid waiting in line to get on attractions.
The new Disability Access Service Card will still keep guests with these issues from needing to wait in lines, but will not provide immediate access to attractions. Instead, guests will be given a time to return and ride without a wait, based on crowd levels. It sounds like a modified Fastpass system to me.
No exact details on how the Disability Access Service Card have been released by Disney yet. The official word is that more information will be released next month when the cards become available.
Disney has provided the following Q & A about the program change:
How will the new Disney 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 Disney receive assistance in developing the Disability Access Service Card?
Yes, Disney is engaging disability groups, and Autism Speaks was instrumental in providing feedback as we developed this new process.
Why is Disney making these changes?
Given the increasing volume of requests Disney receives 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.
I have not used a Guest Assistance Card or been in the parks with anyone who did, but I know that they are very useful for some families and perhaps the only way that they can enjoy a Disney Park. I hope the policies surrounding the new Disability Access Service Card will also work for disabled people and not inhibit their enjoyment of the parks too much.
Have you used the Guest Assistance Card in the past at Walt Disney World? What do you think about what we know so far about the changes?