Like so many other Disney fans who are touched by special needs or a disability, my family has been reading everything posted about the changes to Disney's Guest Assistance Card. It didn't come as a shock to me that Disney was having to make this change. I, like so many others, knew of the abuse to the system and knew there needed to be some change made. However, the thought of change made me anxious. Was Disney going to be able to continue to meet our needs? When the information started coming out about this new system, I first saw so many things that I felt like it was lacking but as the weeks have passed and I have been able to read more about it and think more about how Disney has always tried to make EVERY guests stay magical, I remembered that Disney knows how to do things right. With that in mind, I am looking at this change in a more positive light. I am looking forward to trying out the new system with my daughter. I know, just like with anything new, there will be a testing phase so to speak. There may be things Disney has to tweak about the new system and when my family gets the opportunity to try it out we will do our best to offer any thoughts, in a positive light, we may have to help make this system work for all families with special needs.
The new system started in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks on Oct. 9th. Instead of getting a Guest Assistance Card (GAC), guests with special needs will now get a Disability Access Service Card or DAS Card. Just like before, the guest with special needs will go to Guest Relations in any park to request their card. You do not need a doctors note to receive a DAS Card. There are no longer different stamps for the cards. Guests, whose disabilities are based on the need for a wheelchair or scooter, do not need a DAS Card. Guests in a wheelchair will either wait in the regular queue or receive a return time. Now when the guest requests a DAS card they will go through a registration process and have their photo taken. This way other guests cannot use the card. With this new card guests will receive return times for attractions, much like Disney's Fastpass service. At Disneyland there are Guest Relations Kiosks set up to request return times for attractions. At Walt Disney World, guests will go directly to the attractions to request return times. For many family's, this brought concerns about having to go to the attraction to request the return time. Once my daughter sees the ride she wants to go on it immediately. Having to go to the attractions to receive a return time could cause distress for many families. With this new system the card holder does not have to be present to request a return time, the cardholder only has to be present for the attraction. Once an attraction has been visited and the return time has been used, the guest can acquire another return time. This card can be used in conjunction with Disney's Fastpass & Fastpass+ service which would then allow the guest to have multiple attraction return times. Unlike a Fastpass that expires at a certain time the return times are valid until redeemed by the cardholder. This allows families to not feel pressured to be back at an attraction by a certain time. So often things come up, melt downs, diaper changes, medication administration, or just the need to leave the park for a little break, families do not need to worry that they will not be admitted to the attraction if they are late.
I know many of you have been concerned that this new system is not going to meet your families needs. My family has had that same concern. Disney has stated that if the guest feels their needs are not being met, they can go to Guest Relations to discuss their individual needs. As I mentioned at the beginning, Disney wants all of their guests to have a Magical vacation and Disney has always done it's best to meet each guests individual needs.
As before with the GAC, the DAS Card is not the only service that Disney provides for guests with disabilities. Some of the other services provided include, wheelchair access, Disney's Handheld Device that offers assistive listening, captioning and audio description, and Disney's "Guide For Guests with Cognitive Disabilities". Here is a link to this guide. https://wdpromedia.disney.go.com/media/wdpro-assets/help/guest-services/cognitive-disabilities-services/wdw_cognitive_guide.pdf
My family is looking forward to trying out this new system. There may be bumps along the way as Disney gets this new system going but just as Disney has always done, they will continue to make improvements on it until it is meeting the needs of the guests to the best of Disney's abilities.
Tabitha Nixon is a Travel Specialist with Wishing Well Travel. Connect with her on Facebook or contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.