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How should Disney respond to dismay over Disability Access Service?

Posted by on Apr. 9, 2014 at 8:28 AM
  • 75 Replies

Moms Criticize Disney's New Rules for Kids With Disabilities

by Maressa Brown

disney mickey ears gatesDisney World and Disneyland are destinations for millions of families every year, but these days, it's become so difficult for some to enjoy the parks that they're skipping them altogether. The reason: Disney has done away with the "guest assistance cards" that parents of children with special needs have relied on for years to be to make much-anticipated trips to the theme parks. The GAC (or GAP) program had been known for providing accommodations for children and teens with physical, cognitive, developmental, or behavioral challenges.

But after certain wealthy parents reportedly abused the system by hiring disabled "family members" to come on vacation, so they could get special perks, Disney axed its GAC program. Now, its successor, the Disability Access Service, or DAS, is under fire, as the subject of a lawsuit filed in California last week.

The suit alleges that both Disney theme parks have violated the Americans with Disability Act and California laws that prohibit disability discrimination.

Considering how many moms of children with special needs feel about DAS, the legal action comes as no surprise. Shannon Rosa, who writes the blog Squidalicious, and whose son Leo is on the autism spectrum says she's "downhearted about the way this story continues to play out, as the people who were truly benefiting from the original Guest Assistance Card passes are being penalized because other people were abusing the system."

Rosa explains how the changes have affected her family:

We have not been back to Disneyland since the pass system has changed. I'm too nervous about how my son will react -- he loves Disneyland so much, but his kind of autism means transitions are hard, and he won't understand why there are so many steps to go through to ride his favorite rides. So on our last visit to Southern California we went to Legoland instead -- which still has a pass system like the original Disney GAC (Guest Assistance Card) -- and we had a wonderful, fully accomodated time there.

Similarly, one CafeMom member shared:

I do think the new program has done a disservice to certain people.  ... Disney does not ask questions to figure out what kind of accomodations a person needs. I used the new pass for my son a few months ago and came prepared with a doctors note and they did not want to see it. My son can wait for only about 15 minutes ... and the times he did have to wait longer, it was very stressful. I really wish Disney could ask for proof of a disability as this would cut down on the fraud and let them assess what accomodations should be made.

Rosa suggests "a pre-certification system like that used to get disabled parking passes, plus an option to pre-issue passes (as Leo has occasionally had a very tough time just waiting in line to enter the park, due to the crowds and noise)." She notes that changes such as these "would benefit everyone, and could definitely reduce casual abuse of the existing system. Last-minute visitors could still use the current system." 

These are valuable suggestions for the parks as they face backlash over DAS. However, moms of kids with special needs like Rosa hope that ultimately, change will come not as the result of fear induced by a lawsuit, but because those running the show at the "happiest place on earth" realize a revamp of the existing program is the right thing to do.

How do you think Disney should respond to dismay over DAS? Have you been personally affected by the change from GAC to DAS?

by on Apr. 9, 2014 at 8:28 AM
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Replies (1-10):
krysstizzle
by on Apr. 9, 2014 at 9:50 AM
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I have no idea what the answer to that question is.

We've never been to Disney land/world. My kids wanted to go when they were younger, but for the life of me, I could not understand paying so much money to spend the majority of the time standing in line. I've just never understood the draw, it's beyond me. 

Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Apr. 9, 2014 at 9:56 AM
It sucks that a few abusers ruined it for others.

We were planning on taking our son and using the GAC but now we can't and honestly we probably won't go now at all.

Oh well...

ETA: after reading the new rules I don't think there's that big of a difference.
We won't go anyway but it's more to do with the large crowds. R just can't handle that many people.
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gdiamante
by Silver Member on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:05 AM

I had this problem in mind the last time we went to Disney, not because of my son but because of my husband, who now needs one of those scooters to get around the park. We went last summer, and there were no problems with access then but the rules hadn't been changed yet.

As Jes said, a few abusers ruined it. Perhaps Disney needs to go back to the original system and accept that there WILL be people who abuse it, just as there are line jumpers and thieves. You can only do so much.

4evrinbluejeans
by KK on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:07 AM
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The problem is that Disney legally cannot ask for proof of disability and doing so would open them up for further penalty and litigation. 

My issue with this article and slant is that it doesn't talk about the changes specifically made and how this new system discriminates against people with disabilities.  

Here is the FAQ on the system

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a Disability Access Service Card and how does it work?
    The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). A Disability Access Service Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another. This service can be used in addition to Disney’s FASTPASS Service and Disney FastPass+ service.

  • What will Disney Parks do if a Guest is concerned the DAS Card doesn’t meet their needs?
    Disney Parks have long recognized and accommodated guests with varying needs and will continue to work individually with guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances. Guests should visit Guest Relations to discuss their individual needs.

  • Who will be eligible for a Disability Access Service Card?
    Disney Parks’ goal is to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). Guests should visit Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.

  • How will guests get a Disability Access Service Card?
    A Disability Access Service Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations. Guests will participate in a registration process, which also includes having their photo taken.

  • Why is Disney Parks doing this?
    Disney Parks is modifying the current Guest Assistance Card program so it can continue to serve the guests who truly need it. The new program is designed to provide the special experience guests have come to expect from Disney. Disney Parks also hopes it will help control abuse that was, unfortunately, widespread and growing at an alarming rate.

  • Does the DAS Cardholder have to be present to obtain a return time at an attraction?
    No. Another member of the DAS Cardholder’s travel party may obtain a return time but the DAS Cardholder must board the attraction with his or her party.

  • Where do DAS Cardholders go to receive return times?
    At Disneyland Resort, guests will go to Guest Relations kiosks located throughout the parks to receive a return time. At Walt Disney World Resort, guests will go to the attraction to receive a return time.

  • Does a DAS Cardholder have to ride the attraction at the exact return time listed?
    No. Return times are valid until redeemed by the DAS Cardholder.

  • How long is a DAS Card valid?
    A DAS card is valid for up to 14 days depending on a guest’s ticket entitlement.

  • Is a DAS Card issued at one Disney theme park valid at other Disney theme parks?
    Yes, the card will be valid throughout the resort at which it was issued.

  • Why doesn’t Disney Parks ask for proof of disability, such as a doctor’s note?
    Disney Parks takes Guests at their word and there are legal restrictions around asking for proof.

  • Is this the only service available to Guests with disabilities?
    Disney Parks offer a variety of services to guests with disabilities, such as Disney’s Handheld Device that offers assistive listening, captioning and audio description. Additionally, Disney Parks has developed a “Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities.” This serves as a tool on how best to experience its theme parks and is expected to be available online by mid-October.

    Disney Parks will continue to provide excellent guest service and accessible experiences. Guests should visit Guest Relations at any park should they feel they need assistance due to a disability.

  • Does a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter need a DAS Card?
    No, a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter does not need a DAS Card. Depending on the attraction, the Guest will either wait in the standard queue or receive a return time at the attraction based on the current wait time. For some attractions at Disneyland Resort, these guests will go directly to an alternate entrance. Guests with additional needs should discuss them with Guest Relations.

  • Will Disney Parks continue to provide a service to wish-granting organizations? 
    The change will not affect those who are visiting on trips organized by wish granting organizations. There is a separate program for children with life-threatening illnesses.

So can someone explain what changed exactly?  Were people with disabilities moved to the front of every queue with zero wait time?  If others are required to wait in line how does the change of giving them a designated time so they do not have to stand and save their spot discriminate against them?    This lawsuit sounds more like parents wanting over and above treatment not discrimination against them.  

SlightlyPerfect
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I just don't understand why some people choose to live in filth.
Yesterday at 9:27 AM
by Silver Member on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:16 AM
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We're going to Disney soon, so I've been thinking about this lately. DD is not disabled, though, but I still heard about it in the news, and it got me thinking.

Disney's program--along with every other similar program theme parks have--should not have these programs. And it's not just the potential abuse that is to blame. Aside from having the parents prove a child has disabilities (which would somehow violate HIPAA, I'm sure, and even doctor's notes can be forged), there are also the criteria that would have to be met. Which disabilities would qualify, according to the park's definitions (or the legal definitions)? (Which, by the way, is exactly what this lawsuit contends with.) So right there the parks are open to liability and discrimination. It doesn't make any business sense, and it's not in any park's best interest to offer a program they cannot provide quality assurance for.

I get it is tough to travel and enjoy a family vacation while at a theme park with a severely disabled child, but there's no way a park can pick certain disabilities over others as a way to grant this privilege. Passes of this nature do not equate to equal access across the board. It just doesn't make legal sense. I'm surprised parks can get away with having these programs at all, and quite frankly I'm appalled (but not surprised) by the fact they're getting sued.

Plus--and I ask this because I'm not sure--why doesn't the Fast Pass option take care of this?


4evrinbluejeans
by KK on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:17 AM
5 moms liked this

Ah so more reading it seems what went away was the "front of the line" access to those with disabilities and their families (even when the disabled person wasn't riding) so now the wait times to return are more in line with what their other guests experience with the benefit of not having to wait in the actual queue and it requires the disabled person actually ride to use the service.  

So it seems pretty solid that this isn't about discrimination but loss of privilege, it also sounds like Disney has not shut the door to making those accommodations but it will require more work to obtain.  

romalove
by Roma on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:26 AM
1 mom liked this
Yes.

The problem aside from abuse was that so many people had GAC and would bring their whole family with them through the FastPass line that sometimes the regular line would be faster than FastPass. Also Disney instituted new FP+, which encouraged even more people to use FastPass lines. They had to make a change to accommodate everyone.


Quoting 4evrinbluejeans:

Ah so more reading it seems what went away was the "front of the line" access to those with disabilities and their families (even when the disabled person wasn't riding) so now the wait times to return are more in line with what their other guests experience with the benefit of not having to wait in the actual queue and it requires the disabled person actually ride to use the service.  

So it seems pretty solid that this isn't about discrimination but loss of privilege, it also sounds like Disney has not shut the door to making those accommodations but it will require more work to obtain.  

4evrinbluejeans
by KK on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:28 AM

I'm not seeing how this violates anyone's rights or any disability access laws.  

Quoting romalove: Yes. The problem aside from abuse was that so many people had GAC and would bring their whole family with them through the FastPass line that sometimes the regular line would be faster than FastPass. Also Disney instituted new FP+, which encouraged even more people to use FastPass lines. They had to make a change to accommodate everyone.
Quoting 4evrinbluejeans:

Ah so more reading it seems what went away was the "front of the line" access to those with disabilities and their families (even when the disabled person wasn't riding) so now the wait times to return are more in line with what their other guests experience with the benefit of not having to wait in the actual queue and it requires the disabled person actually ride to use the service.  

So it seems pretty solid that this isn't about discrimination but loss of privilege, it also sounds like Disney has not shut the door to making those accommodations but it will require more work to obtain.  


funny_girl3
by Member on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:28 AM

If you go in the off season, there are many times that there is no line at all.  We went in January for my son's birthday and it took forever to walk through the long line queues, they wind around forever inside the ride buildings and it's a lot of walking, but once we got through to where the rides load we got right on the ride.  We joke about it because our son wanted to ride Pirates of the Caribbean over and over and over again, we must have ridden it 6 or more times in a row, there was no line. 

I think it's a real shame that people abused the system so much that Disney had to do this.

Quoting krysstizzle:

I have no idea what the answer to that question is.

We've never been to Disney land/world. My kids wanted to go when they were younger, but for the life of me, I could not understand paying so much money to spend the majority of the time standing in line. I've just never understood the draw, it's beyond me. 


JakeandEmmasMom
by Platinum Member on Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:29 AM
3 moms liked this
I fail to see the issue.
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