Walt Disney World news

Disney to make changes to Guest Assistance Card program

Leah Zanolla | Posted: Sep 22, 2013 | Updated: Oct 19, 2014 - 9:25:27 AM
The current Guest Assistance Card (GAC) at the U.S. Disney theme parks will be replaced October 9 with a new program called the Disabled Assistance System (DAS). The GACs are used for guests who may require extra assistance in the parks. The DAS will be similar to the way the GACs work at rides like Star Tours, where the card holder is given a hand-written return time for the ride. This time is determined by the wait time in the standby line. Kiosks will be set up around the park where participants in the DAS program can go to set up their return time for the next attraction they would like to visit. Using the same method currently used with the hand-written Star Tours return card, guests will be given a return time based on the published standby wait time. Like with the current FastPass system, only one DAS return time can be had at one time. Currently, GAC holders can walk up to any attraction and use their card at any given time.

Unlike the current system, DAS cards will only be valid for one day. Guests will need to check in with Guest Relations to get their card, and will have their photo taken to be printed on the card. This will ensure that the correct cardholder be present to experience the ride or attraction and that the card cannot be used by another individual.

Changes involving wheelchair accessibility at the Disneyland parks are being enacted as well. At Disney California Adventure, "all queues and park facilities meet ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility." Because of this, no extra accommodations will be extended to persons using a wheelchair or ECV and they may not qualify for a DAS card, unless there are other factors to take into account. There are 55 ride vehicle attractions at Disneyland; 38 of those queues are equipped for wheelchair access. At Walt Disney World, there are 46 ride vehicle attractions; 38 queues are wheelchair accessible.

When a ride queue is not accessible by wheelchair, a special accommodation of using the exit or FastPass entrance will be available, just as it is now. Eventually, all ride queues will be converted to be wheelchair accessible.

This new system will not apply to Make-A-Wish children visiting the theme parks. They will still have an unlimited FastPass so they can experience the parks without the long waits.

The GAC program has long been plagued by misuse and most recently, made national news when a travel company began selling the opportunity to take a disabled tour guide into the parks and use their GAC to have faster access to the attractions. The hope is that with this new system in place, the opportunity for this abuse will disappear.

Disney's goal with this new system is to still provide needed accomodations for guests with disabilities, but at the same time, make the park touring experience more consistent for all guests. The company has been working with disability groups such as Autism Speaks to determine the best way to move forward with the program.

Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register, "The current way certainly has been problematic, and we wanted to curb some of the abuse of this system."