Dear Disney: Your New Disability Assistance System Fails My Family

Disney castleEditor’s note: On September 17, 2013, MiceAge reported that Disney’s Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program will end on October 8, and the newly developed Disabled Assistance System (DAS) will take its place beginning October 9. The GAC program allowed visitors with physical and mental impairment to qualify for special, immediate access to any attraction at any time, bypassing lines. Abuse of the GAC program led executives to design the DAS, which limits users to one ride-time reservation at a time for high-wait attractions.

Dear Disney,

I am writing because I just read about the revamp of the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program. First, as the mother of a child with severe autism, let me say that the GAC program has been an absolute godsend, allowing our family to have some wonderful experiences in your Orlando theme parks that we would not have had otherwise.

I was appalled to learn about the ways the GAC program has been abused, and I understand your company’s need to overhaul it. However, I am angry and dismayed that you’ve decided to lump autistic families in with the entire population of “people with disabilities” under the new plan. It’s obvious that none of the powers-that-be at Disney have a child on the autism spectrum, because the new Disability Assistance System (DAS) assumes that autistic children require the same accommodations as those with mobility issues. Unfortunately, in an attempt to deter fraud, you have alienated an entire segment of the disabled community and their families. I am among them.

Please allow me to list, in detail, the reasons that the new system you’re putting in place on October 9th will prohibit our family from visiting your theme parks:

1. My son cannot wait in line. 

OK, this is not completely true—he can wait in line if you’d like to put everyone in that line at risk of being disturbed, touched, and possibly physically assaulted. The main features of his disability are  sensory processing disorder and lack of impulse control, and both make waiting in a line for longer than a few minutes equivalent to a torture chamber for him. When agitated, he has been known to lash out.

The description of the new DAS you’ve proposed suggests that my family and I “could go and do anything else in the park in the meantime; watch a parade, see a show, have lunch, go on low wait-time attractions, pull a regular Fastpass for any other attraction, etc.” while we wait for our appointed ride time. And this brings me to my next point.

2. My son only likes four rides at Disney due to his desire for sameness (also a criteria of his diagnosis), and we ride them repeatedly. 

Under the previous Guest Assistance Card program, we could go right into the ride, without having to come back at an appointed time and without waiting in a long line. Riding Space Mountain eight times in a row, without having to get out of the seat, is fun for him. Because of his vestibular issues, this does not make him dizzy or sick as it does most people, and the fast speed makes him feel happy. You know, like that dwarf on your $60 T-shirts? Our kids with autism don’t get to experience a great deal of happy in their lives. They are intelligent human beings locked away in bodies that don’t process the world the way others do, living in a society that views them as “Dopey.” Part of the magic of Disney is knowing my kid can ride Soarin’ repeatedly and dream of being the airplane pilot he may never actually have the opportunity to be.

3. There are very few activities suitable for our family to pursue in the meantime, while we wait for our appointed time to access a ride. 

We cannot “go get something to eat” in the overpriced restaurants, because most of our money is spent on expensive therapies, which include therapies to ensure my husband and I can stay married and to help our neuro-typical daughter adjust to being “the kid with the weird brother.” We have also established a savings account to pay for a decent place for our son to live when we are gone, so that he has access to the best facilitated care he can receive.

As for the suggestion to “watch a parade”—as I mentioned before, a sensory processing disorder is a common feature of autism, and as a result, we don’t do parades. In fact, we often specifically schedule our rides on Space Mountain during parade times.

And where can I find one of those “low wait-time attractions?” Is that in the same section as the affordable meals? I believe that’s the place referred to as Never Land. So, thanks for the tip, but those other activities won’t work for our family. As a therapist who works with other families living with autism, I know it won’t work for most of them either.

Kidding and sarcasm aside, I do have a few recommendations. Put on your “ears” and consider this: Current estimates for the prevalence of autism fall between one in 50 and one in 88. The new DAS alienates all those people with the condition, and their parents, grandparents, and siblings as well. Perhaps that’s not enough to put a huge dent in a multibillion dollar company like Disney, but as a small business owner, I realize that the appearance of empathy and professionalism trumps wealth-making as a good business practice.

Please, for the love of Piglet, consider creating an autism spectrum pass—one that would consider the specific needs of these families, such as safety (our kids also like to run away when stressed) and comfort (not having to check-in and come back to a favorite ride or wait beyond 15 to 20 minutes for anything, including food and transportation if possible). What if a pass were created that could include just three favorite rides where these special accommodations could be made? Would it really be that difficult to think outside the box a bit?

I’m asking Disney to exercise some compassion for families like mine, who already have so much to deal with on a daily basis and dream of taking a family vacation just once in their child’s lifetime that isn’t riddled with more stress. Until that day comes, our family will find our “happy place” someplace else.

Sincerely,

Janeen Herskovitz

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC, therapist in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 39 comments
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  • Person

    Person

    September 30th, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Dear Person,

    Blame the people who abused the system. They are at fault. Disney has all of it’s patrons to consider. Not just you.

  • Andrea M

    Andrea M

    June 24th, 2017 at 11:54 AM

    Good article and we’ll written , I totally agree with you and the ones that are abusing this pass at Disneyland , shame on them they don’t know what it’s like to raise and live with austic children , I agree they need to make it better for us to visit and make our visit memorable

  • Patricia Francis

    Patricia Francis

    September 30th, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    This article was well written and much appreciated by a mom of an autistic daughter. It is so hard to have people feel empathy for our situation if they have never walked in our shoes. This change will not allow us to be patrons any more. It is very sad that Disney had to take these measures, and I hope they will evaluate all the pros and cons that have been suggested. My fear is that our kids don’t bring in enough revenue to Disney Corporation to make them want to make the change for the autistic population. It will have to be someone at the top of the company that realizes how important a day at Disney can be for a family with a special needs child.

  • Janeen

    Janeen

    October 1st, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Thanks, Patricia. I wrote it specifically for and on behalf of parents like you. The others who don’t walk in these shoes will truly never know.

  • Sandee

    Sandee

    October 1st, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    @Patricia Francis: You don’t want accommodations for your autistic child, you simply feel your kid is ENTITLED not to stand in line. I have a lot of empathy for parents who raising kids with special needs – it is unquestionably challenging. But that doesn’t entitle your girl to skip lines.

    The author of this blog, raving about how her son loved riding Space Mountain (a ride that often had 60+ min wait times), EIGHT (!) times in a row? That’s royal treatment, not an accommodation. No neurotypical kid would EVER get to ride Space Mountain 8x in a DAY – let alone in an HOUR!

    Here’s what a sane reporter had to say about the changes:

    “As we’ve written before, Disney did not intend to create a system that gave visitors with disabilities no-wait, front-of-the-line access to its attractions. That’s simply the way the system evolved, for maximum operational efficiency. It simply was easier for Disney attractions personnel to move parties with a disabled visitor immediately onto a ride via the exit, than to make them wait and block the exit area, or to come back later.”

    themeparkinsider.com/flume/201309/3695/

  • Samuel

    Samuel

    October 1st, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    I understand that in your situation you guys are not at all abusing the system and have used it in the past to make the best posible Disney experience available to your son.

    But you also then have to think about the hundreds, no thousands, who have used that same privelege and then abused it and made things tougher for those of you who have tried to do things right. I am mad at them for you, but I understand that Disney hands are tied. What else can they do? They are trying to make it fair and a wonderful experience for everyone but it is being ruined by those who abuse the system.

    Stop then abuse and we can all have the fun back the way it is meant to be, just not sure how to really do that in all sincerity.

  • John

    John

    October 1st, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    I’ll tell you how. Require proof of disability from a doctor. Sure it’s a bit more work. Sure a document could be forged. So can a passport or drivers license. Should we eliminate driving or traveling to another country as a result?. Of course not. Disney is taking the easy way out. It is wrong. Ignoring the unique needs of autistic children is simply wrong! As parents of these wonderful special children we see them marginalized and discriminated against every day. Our kids are denied so much in this world. Disney needs to do the right thing. And how does the abuse of the system affect you? Because it makes you mad to see a very small number of people stand in a shorter line? Excuse me if I can’t sympathize. I would gladly stand in a line for the rest if my life if my son didn’t have to suffer every moment of his life with autism. Two times a year he is able to enjoy disneyland like any other child. Most if the rest of the year he gets to live in hell. Disney is taking away one of the few things he truly enjoys and looks forward to. What am I supposed to tel him now? Sorry son…Mickey Mouse doesn’t think you are worth the trouble. Shame on you Disney and shame on the people that comment here that have no idea what they are talking about.

  • Sandee

    Sandee

    October 1st, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    The GAC provided only ACCOMMODATIONS to those with special needs, an alternate entrance or air conditioned place to wait for a ride. It was never ever intended to allow people to skip to the front of the line — but it often did. Skipping the line is a PERK. Perk. PERK.

    The new Disney disability system sounds like it will provide the ACCOMMODATIONS to those with special needs, like your son, as required by the ADA. But that isn’t good enough for you Janeen — your want the PREFERENTIAL treatment (no lines! eight times in a row on Space Mountain) that you feel your special little snowflake of a son is entitled.

    (Your son hurts others when he gets frustrated? Taking him to a super duper crowded amusement park filled with young children is a fabulous idea!!).

  • Terri

    Terri

    October 1st, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Sandee, you are a small minded person indeed. You have no idea of the stressors that some families deal with. Disney has now tipped the scales towards “it’s just too hard and painful, let’s stay home”. Disney was a beacon of hope and a little piece of normal. No more. Shame on YOU

  • Sandee

    Sandee

    October 4th, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    @Terri – I understand that parents of kids with autism face many challenges, but having a sometimes difficult life does not ENTITLE your kid to skip all lines at Disneyland and ride Space Mountain 8x in a row, without having to get off or stand in line.

    Why should your precious little snowflake (or the author’s son) get BETTER treatment than the “average” visitor to a theme park? Seriously. I am curious and want to know.

  • Erica

    Erica

    June 25th, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    Did you ever think that the cast members allowed them to do that. That they didn’t just assume. Cast members make their own decisions as they see fit and if they can help bring joy to a young and special individual, well isn’t that what Disney is all about? Well was about.

  • Hank

    Hank

    October 1st, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Honestly, I think that Disney is trying to do the best that they can with what they have encountered. Everyone everywhere is going to try to take advantage of it when they can so they have had to draw the line somewhere. I know that this causes a huge inconvenience to some families, but you have to understand how much of an inconvenience all of the lying also caused us too. This may not be the end all and be all and I am sure that there will continue to be tweaks to the policy ans they figure out what works and what does not, but you have to at least applaud them fro trying to continue to keep the best interests of all of their customers in mind. Disney is a magical place and it should be for all of their patrons, with or without all of the rides, and we all have some responsibility to play in maintaining that.

  • John

    John

    October 1st, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    You couldn’t be more right on with your comments. The responses I have read to your post are just an example of the ignorance that exists out there. Obviously it exists at the highest levels at the Disney corporation as well. Like most people…they just don’t get it. Disney is one of the most respected companies in the world. When they decide our kids aren’t worth the trouble many other companies will follow their lead. This is a terrible decision. Shame on you Disney. With a little effort the problem of abuse can be eliminated. How about requiring proof of the disability from a doctor? Neither I or anyone that loves my autistic son will spend another dime on anything Disney ever again. And to you people with your short sighted and completely idiotic responses…shut your mouths. You have no idea what you are talking about. Spend a few days with my son or any other autistic child. You will understand. Until then comment on things you have a clue about.

  • Janeen

    Janeen

    October 1st, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    Well said, John. It appears there is much more ignorance out there about our kids than I realized. It saddens me that they and we, their parents, are so misunderstood. Thank you for your comments…on behalf of myself and both of our “little snowflakes” who might never have a voice.

  • Helen

    Helen

    October 1st, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    I’m the mother of a severely autistic 18 year old. He is 6’2″ and a VERY large young man. We live 30-minutes from Disney and visit MULTIPLE times a year. I am VERY confident that Disney will work out a solution that will be reasonable.

    While providing proof of a disability is a wonderful ‘idea’, it also violates ADA laws. Disney is not above the law and cannot request information from visitors that they are not legally permitted to request.

    When I take my son to Disney, he enjoys 3 or 4 rides, depending on which park we visit. Under the current system, we receive a pass that permits us to enter through the ‘Fast Pass’ entrance. Depending on the time of day or year, we typically have to wait approximately 5-15 minutes prior to getting on the ride. When the ride is over, we exit the ride. If he wants to ride again, we repeat the process. I have NEVER been permitted to remain on a ride for 8 rides, without exiting. Furthermore, I find this to beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation. The GAC riders are staggered with the general public and on *some* rides are assigned to specific ‘car’. I would NEVER expect my child to make other guests with disabilities wait, while my son rode 8 times. Imagine if EVERY child with autism were permitted to ride 8 times – the lines would be longer than the general public lines.

    It’s a theme park. If you are expecting Disney to board you immediately and let you stay on the ride for 8 times, you’re NEVER going to be happy. As I mentioned, I’m a Disney regular and there is always a short wait. When my son was younger, he remained in his stroller with his games to entertain himself during the wait. Now, Disney Parks offer FREE WIFI and my son will play his iTouch while we wait in line.

    YES, my 230 pound, functionally nonverbal son has meltdown. YES, my son has sensory issues. YES, my son has a difficult time with personal space and touching people.

    It is my understanding that Disney is planning on assessing EACH person’s needs individually and providing accommodations to meet their needs. I’m expecting that my son will be assessed and receive the exact same accommodations we are currently receiving. A pass that will give us access to the rides through the Fast Pass entrances.

    Which is a REASONABLE accommodation for him, a severely autistic individual to enjoy Disney. If however, you are looking for Disney to provide you with immediate boarding and unlimited turns on a ride, you need to ask yourself, “Is that truly reasonable?”

    Disney is NOT responsible to compensate for the fact that YOUR CHILD doesn’t receive a great deal of ‘happy’ in his life.

    I must say that I found the tone of your letter to be insulting and hurtful to our community. AS a professional, perhaps YOU need to think and relax before you respond.

  • Cherie

    Cherie

    September 16th, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    It is not against the law to request a doctors note requesting accommodation so long as they do not say they need proof or explanation of the specific disability. I have a doctors note that simply says my son is under the care of dr. so and so and the doctor requested a “no wait pass” to accommodate his disabilities. Nothing about diagnosis or anything illegal about it.

  • Karen M

    Karen M

    October 1st, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    I agree with everything you said. My son is disabled, and I tried the exact same system at another park it did not work, but Disney worked great for him. It is already hard enough for our disabled children in life, and shouldn’t they at least be able to have Disney. My son has trouble with school, making friends, and is an only child. My husband and I have always worked and took things from ourselves just to go to Disney, because that was the one thing he loved in life. I now have to cancel a trip he was looking forward too, because they are getting rid of the old system that worked for him, and to all the people saying it only was perk. NOT TRUE! My son cannot wait in a line, and he would simply not understand having to leave a line to come back later. Also the dinner reservations I always have to book ahead of time. He may not get to do his favorite ride, and if that were to happen I can honestly imagine him crying for weeks. Disney has to help the disabled, their lives are already hard enough, and this is only hurting them.

    If you would like to help the disabled please sign this petition petitions.moveon.org/sign/disneyland-discontinues

  • Clara

    Clara

    October 2nd, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    Well I for one think that Disney is trying to extend a hand to all of their patrons. There is never going to be a policy that makes everyone happy.

  • Melissa

    Melissa

    October 2nd, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    Sandee you are very self centered. if you only knew what these parents of autistic children go through. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Alex

    Alex

    October 3rd, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I have a special needs son that has been so challenging. I have taught special needs kids and helped parents to be as affective as possible at each stage of development, or issue. I believe that accommodations should be made to facilitate the enjoyment of special needs children/adults at Disney, so that they too can enjoy the “magic kingdom”. However, I do not believe that it is the responsibility of any corporation to have to bend so far over, as to affect the ability of everyone enjoyment of these theme parks (riding repeatedly and a no wait policy). The ratio of special needs children has risen drastically, and to make this kind of concession would, as someone else put it, make it even harder for everyone to have fair access to each ride. Most children, not just special needs children, are challenged by waiting in line for 15-40 minutes, and most parents understand the frustration of trying to keep little ones engaged while waiting. I also have to say that it is a sad state of affairs, if we as parents of special needs children, are counting on corporations like Disney to bring our children some sense of joy. Most if not all children on the autism spectrum are greatly challenged by being in such an environment that these theme parks present, and I can think of so many other ways to have fun and experience joy, without subjecting the children to an environment that is stressful for them at best to begin with. And as parents of special needs children, we should have the insight to see that although we want all our kids to be able to experience the same things as other children, that it is not always in the best interests of the child to put them in a situation where it would be so hard for them to process all the stimuli (depending on the level of disability, of course). Let’s not be so “disabled” in our thinking and approach to helping our children, that we fail to see that there are many other avenues of activities to pursue as families that don’t have to contain so many triggers.

  • Kerry

    Kerry

    October 3rd, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    I have worked with the severely disabled for thirty plus years. Mostly people in wheelchairs with CP, mentally handicapped, etc. a lot with behavioral issues, a lot. Now at age 49, I’ve been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I love Disneyland and I’m going to WDW in February 2014. I’ve gone from caregiver to patient in a year.

    I am terrified about this trip. I know I am in fine physical shape to stand in lines and be part of the Disney experience right now but in four months, I have no idea how this disease is going to affect me. I don’t want special anything, I just want to enjoy the little time I have left.

    I think parents of autistic kids think that the world should revolve around their special circumstances. That’s just nuts. Just like I don’t think the world revolves around my neurological disease. I’m sure in a few years I will be just as unruly as a eight year old autistic kid, but by then I sure hope no one is taking me to a Disney park.

  • JoJo

    JoJo

    October 5th, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Someone who had their kid riding Space Mtn 8 times in a row with a GAC was part of the problem of abuse and why the GAC is being replaced.

  • Thor Swenson

    Thor Swenson

    October 6th, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    It still has not been explained to me why an autistic child has the right to ride Space Mountain eight times in a row and be told by his parents that a trip to Disneyland (or the copy out in Florida) means he doesn’t have to wait in any lines. No other private business or government agency with lines has an Autism Front Of Line pass, so why does Disney have to do this for you?

    I know plenty of non-disabled 10 year olds who would love to ride Space Mountain repeatedly and have a pass that lets them skip any line they want. What makes your kid better than everyone else who is waiting in lines and planning their day around Fastpass times?

  • Dennis M.

    Dennis M.

    October 6th, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    Wow. Eight rides in a row without leaving the ride and you have the audacity to complain about Disney creating an even playing field for everyone? If you have a child that is unable to wait in lines, perhaps a theme park isn’t an appropriate destination for your family. I, for one, applaud Disney for taking measures to prevent abuse such as that you describe. Your whole post screams entitlement, why am I not surprised?

  • Lori

    Lori

    October 6th, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    I am so glad that we went to Disney before the new system was put in place. I have a 14 yr autistic son that really wanted to go to Disney. He has a very hard time waiting in lines so we don’t normally go to theme parks. We were able to enjoy the park and no major meltdowns was present. No, we didn’t ride any rides more than once a day. He just wanted to experience the rides once. If we had to wait in hour lines or just use the fastpass times his anxiety would of cause major meltdowns. We have only visited Disney once and probably won’t be back until he can wait better. I didn’t see very many people with the disability pass but it was February.

  • Jeff

    Jeff

    October 6th, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    This article is fake: you cannot ride Space Mountain multiple times “without getting off the seat.” There are clearances because of boards between the unload and load station, so everyone has to get out at the unload platform and go back to the load platform to get back on. Unless you want your head lopped off, you need to get out of the seat, walk around, and get back on. Also most every attraction at WDW is like that where you cannot ride twice even with a autistic pass, you need to get off and go around.

    “And where can I find one of those ‘low wait-time attractions?’ Is that in the same section as the affordable meals?”
    There are a ton, there are probably more low wait time attractions than long wait times. Just walking around Epcot there is Spaceship Earth (rarely ever has a wait over 10 minutes), Universe of Engergy (never has a wait), Seas with Nemo and Friends (never has a wait), Living with the Land (never has a wait), etc. Magic Kingdom same deal: Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, Peoplemover, etc all never have long waits.

  • DD

    DD

    October 7th, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Jeff is correct. I’d like to know how they rode Space Mountain 8 times without being decapitated.

  • Wow, you've really raised the bar on ridiculous

    Wow, you've really raised the bar on ridiculous

    October 7th, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    I usually don’t bother commenting on these kinds of things, but you are just not even making sense. I understand it is very challenging bringing a child with severe Autism to Disney World, but I have a few questions for you:

    1. If you are so financially strapped that eating lunch in the park is completely out of the question, why are you spending thousands of dollars to go there in the first place?

    2. Did you know that Disney worked very closely with many Disability groups including Autism Speaks and the local Orlando chapter of Autism Speaks to develop this system? So, I’m thinking they maybe aren’t alienating everyone like you seem to think. Those parents who are realistic understand that there is a give and take that is long overdue.

    3. When was the last time you actually rode Space Mountain 8 times without getting out of the seat? I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible.

    4. Have you ever READ your GAC? It specifically explains that it was never intended to provide immediate access. That’s not what it has ever been for and quite frankly, from the entitled way you talk about it, you seem to be one of the people who are taking advantage of the system. You are not entitled to anything. Autism or not…this is a courtesy that Disney does not HAVE to provide. Their parks are accessible and you really should be thankful for what you get. When you go to the grocery store, does you family get a special check out line because your son can’t wait?

    5. When was the last time you actually checked the price tag on a Disney t-shirt? I’d really like to know where you found one for $60.

    Next time you try to call yourself an “expert”, try to sound a little more intelligent when you do it. Your argument is completely ost in your ignorant rant. I hope you don’t go back there, the place will be better without you.

  • Trying to do Right

    Trying to do Right

    October 18th, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    Clearly letting a kid ride 8 consecutive times is an abuse of the GAC system. I am a parent of an autistic kid who loves Disney. When we went (I was in a wheelchair w a broken foot) and waited on the same line as fast pass guests. Now, from what I read, in order to get a GAC pass, I’d have to go back multiple times to the GAC station to receive an assigned time. That part doesn’t seem fair when Fast Pass patrons can make arrangements in advance. I think Disney will have to work out the kinks. I have to say that I am appalled that people have abused the original system. We would never have let our kid ride multiple times. As a matter of fact, we would never run (wheel) back into a shorter line because part of being autistic is that the person has to be taught social skills so we explained “Those other people have to wait a very long time. It is not fair to make them wait longer. We will go ride other things and come back later.” Shame on those who have abused the system! Now we all have to pay for your selfishness.

  • Kay J

    Kay J

    November 24th, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    I agree that Disney has made a huge mistake by cancelling the Disability Pass. However, we must be careful not to fall into a “my pain is worse than your pain” comparison or else we will not have the strength of a united handicapped interest group. I too need the Disability pass to have an enjoyable Disney visit. I’m 60 and am a survivor of flesh eating disease attacking by buttock, upper leg and abdomen. Five surgeries later, I can walk short distances and use a scooter for longer distances (this means I am subject to ridicule by people who think scooters are unnecessary and, for some reason, disgusting. I am subject to having my photo posted by people on the scooters at Disney websites). After the flesh eating disease was stopped, I fell ill to an infection which moved from my bladder to shut down my kidneys and cause all the organs to start shutting down. That required treatment with dialysis. And if that wasn’t enough, I underwent a quadruple heart bypass. All of that has left me with breathing difficulty, constant pain, and PTSD. Why Disney didn’t improve the triage system of giving out passes is beyond me. Their corporate statements about how they still want to help the disabled sickens me. Like you, we will have to find a happy place somewhere else. Perhaps all disabled people should vote with their feet until someone is able to challenge Disney in court.

    Best wishes
    KJ

  • Brooke

    Brooke

    December 26th, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Actually it wasn’t “scammers” that caused the GAC to be discontinued. Disney stated that it was “use, not abuse” that caused the GAC to stop working. There were simply too many people with GACs and the system was overloaded. I won’t go on about that point because you can ask Disney or look it up elsewhere.

    If you were riding the same ride over and over without having to wait in line, or were being moved to the front of the line with very little wait, then, yes, you actually were one of the scammers, though, because Disney only must provide equal access, they do not have to provide preferential access, which it seems you are looking for.

    No one is saying that your life isn’t difficult or that anyone else would want to be in your place. BUT, Disney’s job is simply to provide access, they do NOT have the responsibility of making up for all the troubles you go through in every day life.
    Also, Disney has to provide equal access, not equal experience. Many people for a variety of reasons can only spend 2-4 hours in the parks, so some people think Disney should let them do more in less time because they can’t stay as long- this is not true, Disney doesn’t have to give you an experience that will be equal to those without disabilities. They are only supposed to provide equal access, not equal experience.

    Finally, this is not meant to be cruel but perhaps a crowded, busy, noisy theme park is not the best vacation spot. You mentioned that your son could actually physically assault someone if he had to wait his turn.
    If that happened, and I’m sorry to say this but it is the honest truth- your family would be escorted from the parks and the person assaulted could actually press charges against your son. Disability or not, it is NEVER okay to assault someone else and even a person with disabilities can be sued for damages.
    As the parent, you already know that it is YOUR responsibility to make sure that your child does not harm others. Not disneys, but yours.
    If you know your son could cause physical harm to someone, then it is your job to NOT place him in that position. It is irresponsible for you to take him to a place where you would be allowing him to assault someone.

  • Lizzy

    Lizzy

    March 22nd, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    The parent does have a responsibility; however, a person on a wheelchair can wait a bit longer than a child with autism. Additionally, autism children are allowed to be walking, breathing, eating on this earth as much as anyone else with a disability under ADA. We are all creatures of God and are loved equally by him, we should not look upon others as less than us and be more understanding and not put the blame on others, look at yourself. Parents with children with autism have life harder than what people think, give them a break. And no I do not have a child with autism, but I am humanbeing and see the difference. Shame on you people and Disney…ask for proof of disability, problem resolved….

  • michele

    michele

    January 11th, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    I am a disabled single parent. When we went to Disney I was unable to go on many rides, so I just waited for the kids. What was hard was I could not afford a rented electric chair and had to have my kids push me in a wheel chair. It was very hard for them to push me up the hills. I wish something could be done to make all attractions more affordable for special needs parents who are mostly on very limited incomes.

  • Alicia

    Alicia

    January 18th, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    So here I am trying to arrange a visit to Disney and I’m uncertain if I should even spend the money to do so. My husband is in heart failure and as such he can not wait in the heat for extended periods. I think this is handled at most rides. He suffers from several ailments which undoubtedly will require us to have limited time in the park, but this vacation is his “bucket list” vacation. He sleeps over 12 hours per day, uses a wheelchair etc… I am not supposed to mention what his disabilities are but only what he needs. Add to that we are traveling with my Autism Spectrum daughter and I have to accommodate her as well. to believe that there are never circumstances where one might actually not be able to wait because they might only get 3 hours in the park before having to leave is absurd.

  • Erica

    Erica

    June 25th, 2015 at 9:08 PM

    I just experienced Disneys guest assistance program and I have to say it fails more people than it helps. I am no longer sure this is a place I will ever be able to return to which is terribly sad since it is one of the only happy parts of my childhood. I also have to say how surprised I am of how much better universal’s guest assistance works more than Disneys, I thought the role would be reversed.
    I understand the frustration of all patrons regular and special, it’s a long day, it’s hot and you just want to ride your rides and get on your way. But for those of us who have special needs and requirements consider this. How much extra time goes into planning a trip here. The breaks and rest periods have to be planned, time is limited because our bodies can only handle so much, and with how people are these days well good luck finding sympathy from any of them.
    I also want to mention stop the ugly looks for people who you think are getting preferential treatment. You don’t know why they go to a different entrance. I used to one of the regulars and wouldn’t mind waiting double the times in line if I could get back to that state but I cant. I also don’t look like I need accommodation because I refuse to use a wheelchair until I absolutely have to and I am young but that doesn’t mean I can stand in line, my knees will pop out of place and when that happens to you and you feel that pain then you can complain. Or the PTSD that makes crowds, people, things I used to love and enjoy ulmost unbearable to stand for more than a few minutes without my body going into a panic attack. There are reasons special accommodations are needed and I’m not asking much but I shouldn’t be stuck at a park for nine hours and only able to ride 4 rides and then not get out of bed the next day because I was so swollen in the knees from standing too long.
    There has to be some middle ground.
    And those who say you want proof of disability, I understand autism isn’t hard to hide and for you that would be easy, but for myself I know people who work their and no one has a right to know my medical issues. There is HIPPA for a reasons and the ADA made it illegal to protect individuals.

  • Jennifer

    Jennifer

    January 1st, 2016 at 3:41 PM

    Why is it no one speaks up for children with ADHD and anxiety and SPD? My childrn have ADHD and they are very impatient, they get distracted and they can just run off. They get bored very easily, then they start acting out climbing on things fighting, turn out of control, bother those around them, their ADHD gives them anxiety and they get restless and have tantrums and meltdowns. They can run off when they are upset. They also have some sensory processing issues. And get overly stimulated and get too excited and can’t calm themselves down or just complain about noise or smells, everything starts to bother them. My oldest has the worst time. It can be very stressful and embarrassing for us parents. Fortunately their medicine is helping right now and they are in therapy, but the trip could cause them more stress, fatigue or extra arousal and expectations and excitement. And who knows when their meds will fail them. Long lines or having to leave and come back could cause some major meltdowns.

  • janeen

    janeen

    January 2nd, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    Jennifer, excellent point. I don’t think most people realize how difficult ADHD and SPD (Sensory processing disorder) can be. So many people still think that if we just increase the behavior modification, or “give them a good talking to” or worse, that they will “behave”. There is little to no understanding and empathy for the sensory challenges. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that some places are just not the best fit for my kiddo. We recently spent time at the Disney Wilderness campground- NO parks- and it was a wonderful experience. As parents, it’s our job to scope out these environments and keep our kiddos from them if the accommodations are not adequate.
    Thanks for your comments!

  • Cindy

    Cindy

    August 18th, 2018 at 9:07 PM

    I have to tell you that rarely have I ever read a more exact fitting excerpt that clearly states my thoughts and feelings as your review above. I am sitting at my hotel room in Orlando as I write this, having visited Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World today. This will be our last visit to Disney. Today was so frustrating with Disney’s DAS pass. When I inquired where locations were for quiet and wait times, I was clearly told that we don’t have wait areas and that these places are first aid places. When I asked if he could point these out on my map in case I needed to use them, the cast member was visibly put out like I didnt’t here what he had said and I stated that I had read in line that there were locations for quiet locations. Finally, he pointed them out on my map, and I had to ask if he could circle these on my map. We finally received our DAS pass to use on SpaceMountain. We received the wait time of 50 min, which resulted in the first 20 minutes of a melt down with verbal innuendo. Then while we waited outside the ride, the ride was shut down and we inquired what was happening. We were told that the ride was shut down for a minimum of 60 minutes. So now our 50 min wait was now a minimum 80 min wait while we maneuvered all the way back to information to see what could be done, while losing my son in the crowd numerous times. At this point we were ready to pack up and go home. My money and time and sanity are better served elsewhere. Disney is alienating families with children on the spectrum. So thank you for your blog and your Disney review. And as for Disney, here is a message for you : you should rethink your alienation of kids on the spectrum and their families. It probably comes down the almighty dollar for you, so here is a summary on that one: We went from visiting every year to two years to 10 years to never again! With an average spend of roughly 4K very year to two years, you do the math! Oh and like many of others who have found a new calling, I too work with families with special needs. I too will share my experience and how their and our $ is better spent elsewhere.

    Thanks for your blog!

  • Jake

    Jake

    March 31st, 2019 at 5:07 PM

    Most families don’t go to a Disney park every year. But it sounds like children with disabilities go (or went) more often. If one in 20 children these days have some sort of processing disorder or other issue where waiting in line causes “meltdowns” (hate that word) then all of these children would need to skip to the front of the line. And it seems these children only enjoy the handful of the most popular rides. So if each of these children went once a year during the summer months of which there are maybe 100 days available.

    Now, children all over the world go to Disney parks but lets just keep it to the US. There are 75 million children in the US, and if 5% are special needs that makes 15 million children. Lets say only 10% of those children attend the parks (accounting for those who visit multiple times and those who visit once in a lifetime) that makes 150,000 SN children visiting the parks each year. Divided by 100 that would make up to 1,500 SN children visiting the park EACH DAY on peak days.

    And that’s just the kids. Many people here commenting were adults who have all kinds of special needs including heart failure(!), PTSD and other issues where going to any crowded amusement park would usually be out of the question without low or no wait times for attractions.

    I think it’s not out of the ballpark to assume that cast members deal with hundreds of SN patrons per day if not thousands on peak days in the summer. And trying to get all those people front of the line access is impossible.

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