Changes at the Happiest Place on Earth?

By Lisa Ackerman

sad mickey

A few things can get TACA families really upset. The one that is making many families EXTREMELY upset: changes to Disneyland Parks Guest Assistance Card Program for individuals with disabilities.

The Disneyland Parks Guest Assistance Card Program allows certain guests access to shorter lines based on their disability. For many families living with autism, this card is the difference between going to Disneyland and never being able to visit the park ever again.Why is the guest assistance pass changing? Because of abuse from non-disabled guests: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-disney-disabled-guests-20130923,0,7640208.story.

Don’t think folks with disabilities need a pass? – read more from TACA Friend Jo Ashline: http://specialneedsoc.com/2013/09/23/why-we-arent-entitled-and-why-what-disney-does-next-matters-more-than-you-think/

A mom from Jo’s article put the problem into the right context:
“I would trade my assistance pass and parking placard in an instant for my kid to be able to tolerate a long line on a sunny day like a typical kid. To see my son waiting in a line for an hour, tolerating it, and running to the next ride all day long? One man’s dream is another man’s complaint. The meds, the sensory stuff, the confusion, the inability to communicate, the braces, the tube feedings, the seizures, the lack of endurance, the wheelchairs……and that is just OUR day at Disneyland.”

For folks confused about what the new pass system will be– read this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
http://specialneedsoc.com/2013/09/21/disneys-new-disability-assistance-system-confirmed-to-begin-october-9th-disneyland-disney-california-adventure-park-and-walt-disney-world-to-be-affected/.

It is hard to know exactly what this new pass will be (hence why it has taken a week for a TACA response since the hint of the change.) Only Disney knows what the new pass program will and will not include. We were waiting in hopes to see what will happen.

How to drive change: Families need to let Disney know how a change in the current program will affect their business with Disney.
Please note: I am not a big fan of sites that collect digital signatures for a variety of reasons. I would recommend going straight to the source to have them understand what this change could potentially do for your family. This is the perfect time to voice your concerns as this change is scheduled to take place starting October 9th. It is time for a respectful exchange of information that should include the following points:

– What will the change to the Guest Assistance Program do to your family?
– What happens when you child diagnosed with autism has to wait in line?
– If the changes to the Guest Assistance Program occur, will you continue to go to Disneyland?

Voice your opinion by reaching Disney via phone or email:
Guest Information & Ticket Sales
(714) 781-INFO
(714) 781-4636
Hours to Call
• Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Saturdays and Sundays: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
• Holiday hours may vary between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Annual Passport Member Services
(714) 781-PASS
(714) 781-7277
Hours to Call
• Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Saturdays and Sundays: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
• Holiday hours may vary between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Or email: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/help/email/
Please tell Disney your concerns so that any change or new policy regarding this program will hopefully help and not hurt your family.

19 Comments Add yours

  1. To me, the only problem with item #3 on your discussion points is that I think the “do X or I’ll never come again” is rarely a factor to any company. I find it a very ineffective, childish threat… and frankly, one that too many of us use and then go back on oh-so easily.

    I myself have written my thoughts on what we know about the changes in their program, but I’m going with a “wait and see” kind of aspect towards it. I /think/ that what they’re doing is going to make it very difficult for some of us to go to Disney… but I also think that, honestly, they’ve already taken that into account and are prepared to accept that they’re going to get bad press and a loss of a very small part of their audience, and that the rest of us are going to suck it up and just deal with it.

    1. Hi there. The third link has details on what the new pass will be. No wait and see needed.

    2. Kristine says:

      I did email Disney and tell them we would not be able to go with the proposed system and I also said I’m not making a threat and not “taking my money elsewhere” but that we legitimately would not be able to do disney without the current accommodation (or something very similar). Several theme parks have something like what disney is proposing and that is why we don’t go to them! Won’t work for my kid! I’m not putting us in a situation that I know will cause my son to fall apart and leave his siblings disappointed again. Unfortunately I think you are right that Disney will go ahead with their proposal because it won’t affect their bottom line. Judging by the comments on the articles, it appears the general public is fed up with our kids getting “special treatment”. Where is all this awareness? And I’m not at all surprised that Autism Speaks had a hand in this- they are so out of touch.
      Another thing: How exactly will this cut down on the abuse of the pass that Disney claims is so rampant?

  2. Jamie Davis, Anti-Aging Consultant with Beauty Society says:

    Add to the list to let them know how many times you visit Disneyland annually nd how much your group will spend at a time there. Might also include the people that you know that go to Disneyland that will change their mind now because of this.

    Oh, and I want a refund now on our four annual passes.

  3. This is what I wrote to Disney:

    Dear Sir or Madam:
    Due to your new Disabled Guest policy, I will no longer be able to bring my daughter with severe Autism. What sucks is the Inside Edition report of scamming that started all of this interviewed people that weren’t even disabled. One was a man that has been faking disabilities for years just to get the pass and the other was a Disney EMPLOYEE who says he gets the pass via his work connections and both of these men were then selling themselves out as guides. So it was the non-disabled that took this accommodation away from the disabled. What Disney doesn’t understand it’s not just the wait in lines that is difficult for autistic children/adults, but it’s the amount of time in the park itself as they gets sensory overload. With the old system we could buzz through Disney in 3 hours and leave before our daughter had a serious meltdown (biting herself, punching herself, biting someone else). We’d get in at least 6 to 8 of the most popular rides in one trip. With the new system now we would have more lines…first the one to get the card at customer service which is always long, then one at every kiosk, there is still line waits with the pass to get on the ride as well. Now with only being allowed to get a time for one ride at a time which can be 90 minutes or more, we’d only get in maybe 2 rides in the same amount of time. Disney is so expensive we’ve never been able to afford a pass as there are too many blackout days on them, so the single day admission is NOT worth 2 rides. Our little Sarah so loved Mickey Mouse, this is a sad day indeed. She so loves It’s A Small World, or the Pirates of the Caribbean, Matterhorn, etc and we’d top off the day with a visit to Mickey Mouse. There is so little that makes her smile…Disneyland was one of them.

    This is the change I propose… Why not have an approval process similar to what you do when you get a handicap placard/plate where your physician has to sign an affidavit stating that due to your disability you are unable to stand long in lines? This would eliminate the majority of the fakers, as no doctor is going to want to risk losing their license so that their patient can get in faster at line if they are NOT disabled. So the guy that would limp up to the counter or the Disney employee would be eliminated. This could be renewed once a year, eliminating the line at the customer service desk and the handicap child/adult could have their photo taken once a year so that Disney can see that the correct person is holding the card. This could be attached to the disabled person’s season pass via the scanning strip on the card, and there could be a card for those just buy their tickets the day of use. Problem solved. Then the GAC could continue on and children can continue to smile.

    Please send my message onto your corporate management for review. Thank you.

    1. Very nice job, Jill. I agree about the need to ride the rides quickly to stay ahead of the meltdown. Also, my daughter’s meds make her stamina pretty quick to disappear, which is another reason for the shorter time in the parks. We get park hoppers so that we can go back to our hotel in between parks and can do some creative fast paced touring. Also, I haven’t ever used a fastpass, does anyone know what we do for rides that do not have fast passes available? or what about when the fast passes run out, do our passes run out? And also when you are awaiting one fast pass time to arrive are you forbidden from getting another one for the next hour?

    2. Kathy Waring says:

      I borrowed from your post Jill for my own letter. I hope you don’t mind. Here is what I sent:

      Dear Sir or Madam:

      Sadly with your new Disabled Guest policy, the 1 in 50 kids who have Autism (which is the current statistic) and their families will no longer be able to enjoy visiting the Disney theme parks. And that’s just the kids with Autism. That doesn’t even account for all of the hundreds of thousands of people (not just children) with all sorts of disabilities. What you are doing is giving into the scammers while adding just one more disappointment to the disabled. What Disney doesn’t seem to understand is that in addition to the inability of Autistic individuals to wait in lines, too much time in the parks causes major sensory overload for many of our special folks. With the old system we could actually enjoy a good portion of the park in a few hours and leave before the major tantrums start which can often include safety hazards such as running away from their caregivers, or causing harm to themselves or others. With the new system and the multitude of lines – customer service, each kiosk for each ride, and then each ride themselves – this basically makes it impossible and unfeasible for these thousands of people to go to Disney anymore.

      I saw a proposal from someone else that makes a lot of sense. “Why not have an approval process similar to what you do when you get a handicap placard/plate where your physician has to sign an affidavit stating that due to your disability you are unable to stand long in lines? This would eliminate the majority of the fakers, as no doctor is going to want to risk losing their license so that their patient can get in faster at line if they are NOT disabled. So the guy that would limp up to the counter or the Disney employee would be eliminated. This could be renewed once a year, eliminating the line at the customer service desk and the handicap child/adult could have their photo taken once a year so that Disney can see that the correct person is holding the card. This could be attached to the disabled person’s season pass via the scanning strip on the card, and there could be a card for those just buy their tickets the day of use. Problem solved. Then the GAC could continue on and children can continue to smile.”

      As one mother (among thousands) of an Autistic son and a typical daughter, I urge you to consider this proposal. Our son has sensory issues with the sun and heat, as well as hypotonia which means his muscles can’t withstand him standing for long periods of time. And like most kids with Autism, he just can’t tolerate the lines or the sensory stimulation for long periods of time. So not only do we have to disappoint him but we have to disappoint our typical daughter because we just can’t risk the safety of our son with this new system.

      Please send my message onto your corporate management for review.

      Thank you.

  4. Lea Googe says:

    I would email guest communications at disneyland at guest.services@disneyland.com and email directly WDW wdw.guest.communications@disneyworld.com
    They handle all communications

  5. Lori White says:

    Please reconsider your position on the handicap pass. My son is 8 and has autism. We also have twin girls that are 10 years old. It doesn’t help us if we can not particate as a family. We have had our happiest family moments at Disney. We do not go all day long and with all of our medical expenses I don’t think we can justify going to the park and ride 2 attractions ,pay for hotel, and go home. I’ve been really upset all week but have come to the point that maybe our Disney days are over. My son doesn’t have friends so family trips to disney were a great way to celebrate his birthday. Our autism kids are robbed of their childhood due to the disorder… Please don’t take this away too. Their are so many things they miss out on of a typical childhood.. Camps, sports, boy scouts, even just being a part of a class and now the happiest place on the earth has told us to suck it up and wait.. You do not know what we live through on a daily basis. I’m emotionally, mental and physically burnt out from my life of autism. Society sends us the message you do not have value for us to accomondate you into our world.

    Please please reconsider your position. Do you know how much you have meant to our kids? I just told someone the other day, if I had all the money in the world my dream trip would be to stay in the Grand Floridian Resort. I guess I’ll have to rethink my all time dream.

    1. Lori – I hope you share these comments with Disney directly. The contact information is above in this blog.

  6. Cynthia says:

    This is what I sent them.
    I saw an article that your accessibility pass is changing. We went in 2008 and it was great because my son can’t stand in line for long periods. He has autism, and will disturb the other guests. Without bypassing the lines, we just wouldn’t be able to visit Disneyland, which is rite of passage for most American and Canadian kids. He loked forward to it for years, and when we went, it was fantastic. There is no way it would have worked without the pass. Thank you for providing it, and please let your non-disabled guests know that sometimes the line bypass for people who can’t wait in line is for the comfort and enjoyment of everyone enjoying the Disney experience. Without having to wait in line, there were no issues, and everyone had an amazing time in the most wonderful place on Earth.

  7. Nicolee says:

    Please please dont change the rules for autistic children. We are planning to visit in 2014 with our 7 year old twins. One who has severe autism. This allows us the chance to do something normal for our typical son amd would never be possible without the short pass. Never. Please dont let those unfortunate fakers hurt it dor the rest of us. Require additional items of proof…. doctors note, school documentation, full IEP. Just please dont kill this dream for those of us that could not come without it.

  8. dzucker2 says:

    Emailed Disneyland and voiced the concern….Disneyland listens to customers they are the life blood of the park…especially the locals. Every voice counts to them….as they translate into dollars and cents.

  9. This system will fail miserably as this flies in the face of the ADA and discriminates against those with disabilities. At DLR, you will be made to go to kiosks thought the resort to obtain return times. This, in and of itself, is in violation of the ADA in that it is creating a separate and distinct environment for the disabled, Further, it violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act in that it sets up “separate” areas for the disabled to go and get return times for their desired attractions. Disney is setting themselves up for a whale of a federal class action lawsuit and I have told them as much.

  10. Dandy woodruff says:

    I will not be spending my money at Disneyland, I think you not being fair to people who have handicaps, do you really want my grandson standing in line out of control, He screams kicks and could take off his clothes when he gets upsets, sounds like a fun day for our family and all you visitors, he has Austium, Wow I can Walt Yelling out of his grave at his people, this doesn’t sound like his heart or dream for a wonderful place for families, Sansra Woodruff of Carlsbad, Ca

  11. Nancy Hansen says:

    Disney Rally
    When: Saturday October 19, 2013
    When: 10:00-12:00PM
    Where: Disneyland Entrance
    1313 S. Disneyland Dr.
    Anaheim, CA 92802
    The entrance is between Ball Road and Cerritos Ave. on Walnut Street. You can see the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure.
    Quiet and organized presence of families and those who care of families with special needs individuals. Bring your homemade banners and posters and wear any awareness shirts to support the disability you face each day.

    The meet up destination is at the Disneyland Entrance on Walnut Street.

    Follow us here:

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/McClain-Special-Needs-Advocacy/209798819087791

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Autism-Through-Jacobs-Eyes/152203194847226

    Meet with other families to protest this segregating change and let our voice be heard.

  12. I recently went to Disneyland/California Adventure this past weekend with my 12-year-ol-son who has autism and have first hand experience with the new DAS system. First of all, I want you all to know Disney WILL WORK WITH YOU on a case-by-case basis! This policy is not set it stone. We waited in line at City Hall for 25 minutes and when we met with a Cast Member, I calmly and politely explained my son’s situation to them. They listened and offered a program that helped me navigate the parks for my son that, while not like the former GAC program, was pretty close to it! They took into account the time we were going to spend in the park and my son’s ability to stand in line. They then had me fill out a form and the information I provided was input into MAGIC (their internal computer system) so I won’t have to repeat the information everytime I need to get his DAS card and other items.

    The main thing is to remain calm and politely explain your situation to them and THEY WILL WORK with you! I heard other families literally yelling at the Cast Member’s and I can tell you the only thing that they were receiving was intervention from Diseny Security. Further, the DAS system is due to be re-evaluated by October 23rd to see the effectiveness of it and to see how well it is meeting the needs of those for whom it is meant to be helping.

    My gut feeling is the system will be changed and it will continue to be changed until, at some point, the DAS system will be back to what the GAC system used to be like.

    All I can tell you is to approach the situation with an open and calm mind. I did and my son and I had a wonderful time at Disneyland. Only one time did I have to explain the situation to him and this was when the Matterhorn went down (or 101 in Disney parlance).

    Feel free to contact me if you would like to talk about this.

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