Ever since the rumours started a few months back that Disney would soon be changing the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program to a new system or doing away with it altogether, we’ve been waiting for the official word to come. A few weeks ago that word came and the GAC was set to change over to the new Disability Access Service (DAS) effective October 9th. You can find Disney’s official statement and FAQ on the program at this link. Our first visit to a Park under the new program was this past Saturday, October 12th. Here is our experience at the Magic Kingdom.
We started our day with a stop at Guest Services at City Hall. The line was shorter than we typically encounter and we were met at the door by a very nice CM, Vas, who brought us inside. He asked a few questions on Ben’s needs and began filling out a form on his iPad entering this info. He used the iPad to take Ben’s photo and then went behind the desk to pick up the printed DAS card. They are no longer hand-printed, they are printed out using the info supplied to the CM, the Guest’s photo, the issuing Park and the time frame the card will be good for. Vas explained that as Annual Passholders we could only get the card for 14 days. He told us this was due to the fact that Disney is still testing and refining the process and they want to be able to make changes as needed. He also went over the program in detail explaining how the card works. We take the card to the Fastpass entrance of any attraction where the CM will note the current time, the wait time and the return time on the back of the card. The return time is based on the current wait time minus 10 minutes. So if the current time is 3:00pm and the wait time is 30 minutes, the return time will be 3:20pm. We can return any time after that return time, there is no time limit as with a Fastpass. We also learned that if we are given a return time and decide to skip that attraction, we have to go back to that attraction and have the return time crossed out, even if we don’t ride, before we can get a new one at another attraction.
Next we had Re-Entry Passes (sometimes referred to as Re-admittance or Re-ad cards) explained. If a Guest has a cognitive disability that could cause melt-downs when waiting to board or re-ride a favourite attraction, Disney will issue Re-Entry Passes to allow for immediate use of the Fastpass queue to enter. These look like and are used just as Fastpass tickets (photo below). We were issued 1 pass apiece for 3 attractions, a total of 12 passes for the 4 of us.
We entered the Magic Kingdom and decided to first get a set of Fastpasses for one attraction to plan around. We got these for Winnie the Pooh and also received a set for Mickey’s Philharmagic. Our plan was to get a DAS return time, enjoy Mickey and then go forward from there. Jen went to get a DAS time at Under The Sea. The CM was confused at first, it seemed this was the first one she had done, but quickly had the card filled out. We were given a 30-minute return time and then went into Philharmagic using those Fastpasses. After enjoying the show we walked over to Under the Sea and arrived just at our return time. We entered through the Fastpass queue where the CM crossed out the entry and let us enter. We showed the DAS card again at the second CM and entered in.
After riding Under the Sea we still had some time before we could use our Pooh Fastpasses so we used the Re-entry Passes to ride Barnstormer. To use these passes we do need to show the DAS card as well, although the CM at Barnstormer didn’t ask to see it. We were asked to see it when using the passes at Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear however. Afterwards we used our ‘regular’ Fastpasses at Pooh and then moved to Tomorrowland where we used the Re-entry Passes at Space Mountain and Buzz and also rode TTA. At this point my energy was spent for the day and we headed home.
Overall our experience was very positive. The CMs were all helpful and everything worked smoothly for us Saturday. With good planning; by using Fastpasses (and Fastpass+ once available), the Re-entry Passes and the DAS card this program should work out well for our particular needs. We can see how this program might still need refinement for families coming on vacations and for those families with different needs. It does work differently for those needing extra accommodations, such as using strollers as wheelchairs, etc., as well.
Please let us know if you have any questions and we’ll do our best to help answer for you. Please feel free to comment below or reach out to us on Facebook and/or Twitter.
Services for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities
Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities
Social Story Video: DAS vs. GAC (Courtesy of John Saccheri of BigFatPanda.com)
Disability Access Service Card Guide
Disability Assistance Service FAQ
Services for Guests with Disabilities
Guides for Guests with Disabilities
Available at Guest Relations, these guides can also be downloaded in a printable format for each theme park:
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom