The blogosphere and Twitterverse is abuzz about the new changes that Disney made to their Guest Assistance Card (GAC) this week. Since we have annual passes to Disney, I went out just with Logan to check it out the day after the new Disability Access Pass (DAS) arrived. I took just Logan so we could hopefully get a handle on it before adding the littles to the mix. Boy am I ever so glad I did. This system is severely flawed. Let me give you the info on it.
Under the old system all we had to do was
- stop at Guest Relations
- explain Logan’s autism
- get a pass that allowed us to bypass the standard queues and go straight to the Fastpass line.
This meant that we didn’t need to jostle around with odoriferous people keeping Logan’s sensory issues at bay. It also allowed us to go later in the evening when it was cooler and the crowds were smaller. We had a great system where we could have the littles get a Fastpass for Thunder Mountain which Logan won’t ride then go ride some other rides while we waited. This allowed us to put the littles in the Thunder Mountain line while Logan and I went to ride Haunted Mansion eliminating the need to wait in the heat for them. It enabled everyone in our family to enjoy the parks. Another great perk of the GAC involved riding the ride more than once. Say Logan wanted to ride Living with the Land so we did. Then he wanted to immediately ride it again . We could do that without a problem. I personally have rode The Great Movie Ride repeatedly to keep him happy while it was raining. One of his sensory issues is that he doesn’t like wet clothes or shoes on his body. Walking through the rain is not an option. That can be a little difficult in Florida during rainy season. It was not a problem with the old program. We could ride again and hope the rain had let up in the meantime.
Under the new Disability Access Pass:
- Stop at Guest Relations
- Answer a host of questions about what your child is or is not capable of doing.
- Have your child’s picture taken and sign the new form stating that you certify there is a disability.
- Take the pass to a ride to attain a wait time based on the queue line to return minus 10 mins.
- Return at the allotted time or anytime thereafter to enter the Fastpass lane and ride the attraction
- You are now free to get another wait time as you can only have one at a time
- Repeat the waiting game again
Disney states that you are free to take in a show or stand in another line to ride while you wait. Find a shady spot. Whatever you choose. They also suggest you utilize their Fastpass or Fastpass+ system in addition to the DAS to help make waiting easier for your child. What they fail to mention is that most Fastpasses are gone by mid afternoon thereby making them ineffective for those families who go in the evening like us . In the Fastpass+ system , you can only get 3 Fastpasses per day for one park. If you’ve paid extra for park hopper tickets or have an annual pass like us which enables you to move from park to park then you are solely at the mercy of the DAS after you’ve used the Fastpasses in the first park.
Disney collaborated with Autism Speaks in an effort to make a system that would work for children with autism. That was their first mistake. Autism Speaks is more interested in research for a cure , proving that vaccines are safe and debunking the biomedical route. They do no research with families or even speak to families with children with autism. They have no basis for speaking for autism families yet they want to be the one that speaks for everyone. Therein lies the problem. You can’t help a major corporation enact a new policy affecting millions of people that you know nothing about in the first place. It’s quite apparent that whoever drafted this policy has never taken a child with autism out in public .
What’s wrong here is that waiting for something involves a higher executive function than most children with autism have. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they are the village idiots. I am saying that their brains are wired differently and that is a function that takes dedicated work to improve. Autism Speaks should know that. They should have been adamant in telling Disney that there needed to be a plan in place that allowed them access without waiting for every ride. Have you ever tried telling a non verbal child with autism that he can’t ride his favorite ride yet? What are they going to do when the child has an ensuing meltdown? Call Security? What pray tell do they expect us to do while we wait for the time to ride? Most children with autism have hyper focus on one thing. That’s all they can think about. There is no transitioning from one thing to another with ease. I know thousands of parents who wish their child could transition easily. Autism Speaks failed autism families everywhere. That’s where Disney went wrong. They need to speak with an organization that actually interacts and knows children with autism . Not one that spends the majority of their time and resources on other things.
One other thing that Disney does not address are the thousands of people who are erroneously in wheelchairs or scooters that have the ability to wait in line. They are still able to access the mobility impaired line which brings them to the front of the line for every ride. There are far more people abusing that than there ever were abusing the GAC. I’ll address that in my post about our experience that not magical day.