In mid-September, in response to reports from the national media that its Guest Assistance Cards were being rampantly abused, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would be revising its guest assistance policies in order to curb fraudulent use of the assistance system at both of its American parks. The Company slated an October 9, 2013, launch date for its new assistance system and was mostly close-mouthed about the differences between new and old policies, despite insistence from the blogging and travel agent community that official word had been released about how the new procedures would function.
Last week in both Disneyland and Disney World, the new protocol, now called Disability Access Service (DAS), rolled out. Because we know you have so many questions about DAS, following is a two-part overview. First, I’ll look at how a DAS card is obtained if you have previously used GAC or are new to the assistance system. Once the process has been described, I’ll answer some FAQs that I’ve collected over the past couple of weeks and revised as information has been revealed over the past few days.
WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO I GET ONE?
According to the official literature, Disability Access Service “is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).” In order to indicate that you are a guest in need of accommodations under the DAS, you must obtain a DAS card. Here’s how to do it.
1. Go to Guest Relations at your park of choice. Once obtained, the DAS card works in all of the parks. Tip: Get to Guest Relations as early as possible – at opening if you can. Lines at Guest Relations build as crowds peak during the day.
2. Let the Cast Member know that you’d like a DAS card. If you have an old GAC card you’ll need to hand it over (it will be used for your personal information and then destroyed). If not, they will need to see I.D.
3. Describe. At this point, the Cast Member will ask you to describe your (or your child or family member’s) limitations. While this may feel like an invasion of your privacy initially, or an attempt to make you “prove” that you need accommodations, understand that the more information that you can give the Cast Member, the better he or she can assist you with the accommodations that best work for you. For instance, if your child is on the autistic spectrum and has trouble waiting in long lines without melting down but also has sensory issues that make it difficult for him to stand or be subjected to loud noises, you need to let the CM know all of these things. “He doesn’t wait in lines” doesn’t give the Cast Member much to work with.
4. Smile for the camera. The new DAS card requires a photograph. Pictures are taken with an iPad, so don’t worry if the DAS holder is unwilling or unable to make it up to the counter – Cast Members have been more than willing to do what they need to get the photo without causing additional stress. If the DAS card is for a child, you may use the child’s photo or you may substitute your own if you’d rather not have the child’s photo on the card.
5. Sign. The DAS card requires a signature stating that you understand the policies and procedures and agree to abide by them. The DAS card can be revoked, along with your privileges, should you be found in violation of these policies.
That’s the process for receiving your card. Here are the front and back. I’ll go into how they work in a moment.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
WALT DISNEY WORLD: Guests with a DAS card will present the card to a Cast Member at the attraction they wish to ride. If the ride’s standby wait time is less than ten minutes the guest will be escorted through the ride entrance or the FASTPASS entrance if their limitations dictate that the FASTPASS entrance would be more suited to their needs.
If the standby time is more than ten minutes, the Cast Member will make an entry on the back of the DAS card with the attraction name, time of day, wait time at the attraction, and a return time. The return time will be the current wait time minus ten minutes. So, as above, if you get to the ride at 12:20 and the standby time is 40 minutes, your return time will be thirty minutes later at 12:50 (40 minutes minus ten minutes).
When you return at the specified return time, you will be granted entry to the FASTPASS line. You may return at your specified return time or any time thereafter. The DAS cardholder does not need to be present to obtain a return time, but must be present with their party in order for anyone to gain admission to the attraction. Tip: You can only have one active return time on your DAS card. If you choose to return to a ride after your specified time, you may not ride any other attractions with your DAS card until the active attraction has been ridden or a Cast Member has crossed it off because you’ve decided not to ride.
DISNEYLAND: At Disneyland, Guests will receive their return times not from each individual attraction, but from several kiosks centrally located to several rides each. The system will work the same way as the Walt Disney World system with that one exception.
Q1: If I am in a wheelchair, do I need a DAS Card?
A1: No. Guests in wheelchairs or with ECV’s will go through the standby queue as usual. If the queue is not accessible, a single-use card will be issued with a return time. When guests return they will be allowed alternate entrance.
Q2: Can guests still use strollers as wheelchairs if needed?
A2: Yes. Tags much like the ones issued with the former GAC cards are being issued currently. Old stroller tags will be removed and destroyed and a new one issued.
Q3: How many people can be in the party with the guest using the DAS card?
A3: DAS cards are good for six (6) people. If your party consists of more, all members of the party will need to be present when the DAS card is used.
Q4: How long can one DAS card be used?
A4: Your DAS card is good for the duration of your vacation OR 14 days OR until the back of the card is full, whichever of these times is shortest. If you fill your DAS card, you must return to Guest Relations and get another. The process will be much shorter as there is a QS code on your current card that is associated with your file and will make for rapid creation of a new card. If you are an Annual Passholder your card will be active for 14 days, after which you will be required to get a new one.
Q5: Can DAS cards be used at all attractions and meet and greets?
A5: DAS cards can be used at any attraction or meet and greet that has a FASTPASS or FastPass+ line, including Princess Fairytale Hall.
Q6: I used to have a stamp on my GAC that allowed special accommodations for my limitations. Will I still have that stamp?
A6: No. However, if you describe your need for accommodations as specifically as possible, Cast Members have the authority to assist and accommodate you as fully as possible.
Q7: Can I use FASTPASS or FastPass+ in conjunction with my DAS card?
A7: Yes, and in fact Disney Cast Members will suggest that you do so. It may take some extra planning on the front end, but it will be beneficial to use FASTPASS and FastPass+ to supplement your DAS accommodations.
Q8: I’ve heard we can get “re-ad” or readmission passes to ride an attraction multiple times for our children who are on the spectrum. Is this true?
A8: While it is true that some guests have received what are essentially open-ended FASTPASS vouchers that allow repeat rides, this is not a standard feature of the system and may have been offered in the initial days to help ease the transition for both guests and Cast Members. Do not count on being offered these “re-ad” passes, as some Cast Members will tell you they do not exist.
Special thanks to Aunesty Janssen for the use of her photographs.