DASneyland struggles with new Disabled Program

Written by Andy Castro. Posted in Disney, Disney News, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, In the Parks

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Published on October 11, 2013 at 3:00 am with 92 Comments

Disneyland’s Halloween Time continues, but the big scare this week was the introduction of the new Disability Access Service (DAS), the replacement for Disneyland’s much abused Guest Assistance Card program. Disney prepared for big lines at City Hall for the roll-out of the new program which has seriously changed the way disabled guests will experience the park. Meanwhile, refurbishments and construction projects continue, including the Candy Palace refurb on Main Street, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s ongoing overhaul, the new Fantasyland fall safety additions and new Starbucks construction in Downtown Disney.

DAS Your guide to the magic

The Disneyland resort rolled out their new Disability Access Service program on Wednesday.  The reason behind the change is clear.  With over 2,000 Guest Assistance Cards being issued on busy days over the two parks, and roughly 10% of the crowds being back-doored onto rides, there was a big problem.

While it is a shame that it took so long for Disney Management to tackle this issue, they are to be commended for addressing it now.  The goal of the new DAS system is simple; weed out those taking advantage of the system.  The execution, however, is far more complicated than the old GAC.

To help those who legitimately need Disabled access, we offer these helpful tips on how the system works.

When guests requiring disabled access enter the park, they should go directly to either City Hall in Disneyland or Chamber of Commerce in Disney California Adventure.

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When guests speak with the Cast Members at these locations, they will need to explain their reason for needing more than the usual access.  Impatience is not something that will get you an assistance card.  Instead, they will ask you specifically WHY you cannot wait in the line with regular guests and will assign you a card according to your needs.  Unlike the GAC card of the past, guests requiring this assistance will need to stop by City Hall at the beginning of each visit.

Once a guest is assigned a DAS card the rules will be explained to them.  In short this is how it goes.

  • The card you are assigned for the day will allow you and your party to make a reservation time to return to a ride without a wait.
  • The return times you are assigned will be given to you based on current wait time.
  •  You will only be able to hold a return time for one attraction at a time.
  • You can get reservation times for any ride in the entire resort, from any kiosk in any park.  The kiosks are not location specific.
  • Any member of a DAS user’s party may obtain the return time from the kiosk, however the actual DAS user MUST ride the attraction with the rest of their party for all to ride.

There are five different locations throughout Disneyland Park that one can obtain these reservations.

GUests assigned DAS cards are given this location card.

Guests assigned DAS cards are given this location card.

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The Tomorrowland location.

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The Haunted Mansion location.

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The Fantasyland location near Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

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The Central Plaza Location.

There are also three different locations inside Disney California Adventure.

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The location near Little Mermaid

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The Cars Land location where the Radiator Springs Racers kiosk was.

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The information board on Buena Vista Street

Recently, MiceChatter TiggaPlease visited the park and decided to share his experience.

Once we made it through the line at city hall, our cast member greeted us and asked me what my concerns about their rides were. I explained my disability (2 herniated discs in my lower back have caused nerve damage and chronic pain in my legs).

After my concerns were heard, she explained the new DAS system cards were only being distributed to parents of children who, “do not understand the concept of time” while people with mobility issues are given the recommendation to rent a wheelchair.

The next part was a bit confusing. She explained that they are allowing cast members at the rides to let people in at their discretion. When I asked her to clarify, she only repeated herself. She was nice enough give us two return passes for the rides we wanted to do most, but suggested we utilize the fast pass system and plan out our day. She then attempted to give us an actual fast pass for Space Mountain (one of our chosen rides), but her system had a problem. She asked if we wouldn’t mind going to the ride ourselves and just waiting in line, or did I have concerns with its queue. I let her know the upwards incline of the queue irritates my sciatic nerve. She then went into the back office to ask her supervisor for a fast pass.

After a ten minute wait she returned and stated, per her supervisor, we would receive a DAS given my concerns for the Space Mtn queue. She took down my name, took my picture, etc. and printed out my DAS. We received the flyer with the DAS kiosk location to get our card signed and filled out out first ride based off the latest queue time and took off the time it would get to the ride from City Hall. The overall experience took about 25-30min.

The new DAS card system is a confusing monster of corporate double speak and veiled questions.  It is all constructed to essentially allow the front of the line cast members to handle things on a case by case basis, as opposed to the blanket rules from before.  There are a million variables happening each day that the plaids are having to deal with.  But it all boils down to trying to create a more acceptable experience for everyone.

Is it fair?  No, not at all. But, it’s a tough call and one that Disney is currently grappling with.

Our advice at the moment is simple.  Be kind, patient and understanding with the cast members having to roll out this new system.  They are not the ones that created it, but they are the ones that have to administer it, and they are the ones that will convey your concerns.  This is an evolving story and one that will take a while to play out as there will no doubt be many adjustments made to the system in the coming months.

Starbucks in Downtown Disney

The new Starbucks location in Downtown Disney continues to percolate slowly behind yellow construction walls. Progress may seem iced from a guest perspective, but in addition to the notable visible changes to the storefront’s facade, there’s plenty of work going on inside to convert the space from a retail store to a food service location. This project will be fully caffeinated soon enough.
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Starbuck on Main Street doing well

Meanwhile, on Main Street, the new Starbucks in the Market House is doing well. No matter how you feel about this big change to the Market House, the addition is proving popular with regular guests and is undoubtedly a success story for the suits at Disney who approved it.
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Candy Palace Progress

The facade refurbishments at the Penny Arcade and Candy Palace continues as the October off-season heads toward the start of the hugely popular holiday season.
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Monorail Track Work

A portion of the Monorail track near the old Motorboat Cruise dock is under refurbishment.

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Fanta-safety-land

Not far from the Motorboat Cruise dock, the rooftops of Fantasyland continue to see new fall safety protections installed. So far, the fall safety here in Fantasyland has turned out rather nice, whether it be seamlessly extending existing castle walls or adding new turrets, the additions are mostly well-done and address Disney’s Cal/OSHA issues.
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Haunted Mansion Holiday updates

Last week Disney announced new additions to Haunted Mansion Holiday that celebrate its 13th anniversary. The additions are part of the on-going “Limited Time Magic” promotion and mostly amount to simple decorations that feature the number 13, to commemorate the anniversary.
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Yet another Jack face has been exposed in the advent gingerbread house.

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Ribbons on attic presents feature a “13″ pattern.
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one of the gifts which follow you home is a 13.

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Court Closed

It happened a week later than fans originally expected, but the Court of Angels is now sadly closed. The space will now begin its conversion into the new private lobby for Club 33, which includes enclosing the courtyard’s gated entrances with opaque glass and installing a new elevator.
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Another victim of this Club 33 expansion is the small L’Ornament Magique shop, which will now act as the new front door of Club 33.
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And that’s the Disneyland week in review. Let us know your feelings on the various projects. We hope to see you again soon. . . In The Parks!

Oh, there’s a little matter we forgot to mention . . . Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!

If you have about an hour of time, sit down, put on your headphones and enjoy a REALLY unique podcast episode from Window to the Magic. It’s a Halloween themed radio drama in the classic style. Best of all, it takes place in the Haunted Mansion!

Direct Download | iTunes Link

About Andy Castro

Andy is a Southern California native, raised with Disneyland and a life-long fan of Disney theme parks and animation. Andy writes the weekly Dateline Disneyland column, which can be found every Monday on MiceChat.

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92 Comments

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Comments for DASneyland struggles with new Disabled Program are now closed.

  1. I’m down with DAS. Happy, and hope this helps lines like Radiator springs. Hopefully they can tackle the stroller issue next.

    Sad New Orleans will seem smaller without a courtyard to walk by. The masters put it there for a reason(depth and atmosphere). Those courtyards are an essential part of an authentic representation of New Orleans. Hopefully 20 years from now,,,

    • This past late May I had my adult son with autism/hypotonia at the resort and Radiator was down in the morning and no passes being given out (no idea when it would be working). Later that day we went back into DCA from D’Land and RSR had been up and running for a while and all FPs were gone – there was a small kiosk giving hand-written passes for GAC folks to come back later – exactly what the DAS is now! Anyway, we had an hour to kill and walked into It’s Tough to be a Bug – I had no idea what it was and it was not on our radar. Just a time-killer. ;-) Guess what – Joe LOVED it! I think the DAS will help steer folks into stuff they otherwise might pass by. This was the only ride (at the time) doing what is now the overall DAS system and Joe coped just fine. How this will pan out over the course of an entire visit remains to be seen, and I will be reading posts from DAS-users with great interest.

      • what terrific and positive feedback! Thanks for sharing this story, I hope it inspires other people in similar situations to adapt and find new wonders also. =D

  2. From what I’m reading it is sounding very much like Disney are planning to make the DAS difficult for people who are wishing to use the service. Including the ones like the above who genuinely need it! Its still in the opening phase but its sounding like Disney are going to do there best to discourage people from using DAS. Again I’m in favour of the changes but not if its going to cause a great deal of hassle and time for the genuine cases. But at the same time this will make it very difficult for the few individuals that are taking advantage of the system.

    Sorry to say I honestly don’t care that Court of Angels is gone… And since I’m not a member I also don’t care what’s going in its place.

    • Do keep in mind that the rampant abuse and exploitation of the GAC system was the reason for the change. Disney in no way wants to make it difficult for the “genuinely” disabled. There wasn’t a law that forced Disney to create GAC. They did it to be helpful.
      So don’t be upset with Disney. Be upset with the thousands who have no morals or ethics. They caused all this. And sadly, they may still abuse DAS.

      • I think it’s fair to mention here that it’s been determined that the a major portion of the abuse at DL was coming from Disney CMs and Executives.

        Thanks, Disney!

      • I beg to disagree partially with johntodd. Yes there were many CM’S and Execs. abusing the system. However, there were a lot more people who were not employees of Disney abusing the system. I also know many who are disabled that didn’t need the GAC, but used it any way. It’s a sad society we live in.

    • Once all the cheaters learn that they can’t gain special advantage from the system and overall usage drops, this will be a great system for disabled families. Cast members have been given additional power to help folks in need above and beyond the power of the DAS card itself.

      It is NOT Disney’s intention to make things difficult for disabled folks but rather to make the system more functional by getting rid of the abuse and fraud.

      • So in other words, the power will go to the CM’s head and they will feel like Gods?

    • If a person actually has herniated disks already, what are they doing riding thrill rides?

      Sorry, my late husband had herniated disks and sciatica when I first met him. He also didn’t exercise and spent most of his time moaning on the couch. He was also ten years older than me, so one day I came back from the store without some special can of soup and got chastised — I said, “I’m sorry, but I may need to find someone younger, who can actually walk through a grocery store.” The next day we embarked on an exercise program and, a year later, he no longer had sciatica. Of course it totally helped that he was no longer driving a stick shift in rush hour traffic from Fullerton to North Hollywood twice a day…

      The Cast Member was right. If one cannot stand, one sits in a chair. One can sit in the chair or push the chair if one needs a break from sitting. I once pushed my husband all through the San Diego Wild Animal Park because of his complaining that he couldn’t walk and he found it quite embarrassing.

      Having a bad back or being overweight are not the point of equal access for the disabled..

      • I totally agree with you bout the person having the bad back should not ride let alone Space Mountain. They have signs for each attractions that state persons with back problems shouldn’t ride. Especially having two herniated disc!

      • My Mother has a bad heart, herniated discs, and a cage in her back.
        She has trouble waiting in line as well.
        She doesn’t ride the E-ticket rollercoasters.
        She rides the simple rides like Haunted Mansion, or even Jungle Cruise.

      • I forgot to mention, my Mom’s 5’9″ and about 150 pounds.

  3. Last weekend was the first time I noticed the motor boat cruise loading area. It’s quite a big space that is going unused. With a little creative theming, it could be a great character meet-n-greet location. Anyone heard if they are ever going to utilize this space?

    • Looks like a future Ewok village to me.

      • I hope not….

    • Isn’t it currently one of only two smoking locations in the park?

      • There are 3 smoking areas in Disneyland. Walkway under the Monorail track on the Autopia fence, across from the Matterhorn, another on the Big Thunder Trail and another in front of the Haunted Mansion, along the ROA.

      • the motor boat cruise platform is a former smoking location; late 90s / early 00s.

  4. Leaving it up to individual Cast Members to figure out each and every potential DAS user’s needs puts too much pressure on them, and make it even harder for folks who NEED the DAS to anticipate and plan for their day at the parks. I NEED to KNOW that I can get a DAS for my six-foot tall adult son with autism and hypotonia BEFORE I go (hey, Disney, autism and inability to understand the concept of time is not limited to “children”. Folks don’t magically outgrow either, alas) or I won’t try to take him there in the first place (unless that is what the suits hope I decide?) And don’t tell me I need to put Joe in a wheelchair (hypotonia is muscle weakness – Joe tires very easily) as he is 1. too heavy for me to push all over the park 2. Joe in a power chair, sounds like a recipe for disaster ;-) and 3. he doesn’t not use a chair in “real life” so why would I try and MAKE HIM LOOK DISABLED now? I try and plan Joe’s day to keep him happy and walking and fitting in as much as possible.

    Whether a GAC or a DAS, if I have one of those and space out times when Joe must stand (character meet and greets*) with frequent rests (but he’ll only sit if I get him pizza or soda) I can let Joe have a fun day without him flopping down on the ground cranky and exhausted (and he is not a toddler I can pick up anymore).

    Well, I am sure they mean well. It is just going to take feedback from both Cast Members and the folks needing DAS for all the kinks to get ironed out of the new system.

    Irony is, when I first brought Joe to Disneyland a couple years ago I asked for a pass that would let him wait somewhere out of full sun (yes, he wilts in heat easily too) where he could SIT instead of trying to stand for long periods in line (crowds do not bother this guy – inability to sit does). Sounds like the new DAS is just what I wanted in the first place. Just PLEASE guarantee in advance that I can get one for Joe – don’t leave it up to the whim of an over-worked Cast Member when I al already with Joe in the park!

    * I read one mom’s comments elsewhere that the DAS can be used for the long character lines like for Mickey in his house – is this true? I sure hope so – Joe loves the characters but those lines wipe him out (ever seen a grown man try and sit on a railing or squat on the ground? That was Joe.)

    • It sounds like your son is the exact type of person that the new system is designed for. If you’re really concerned about his accommodations, I’m sure you can call DL prior to your trip and they will be able to let you know what to expect

      • I think that this situation is indeed difficult. The time Joe can’t wait in line for a ride will have to be spent waiting at a kiosk getting a return time.

        The situation calls for a third person to be added to your party, so that you can be focused on Joe and someone else can run back and forth for you…

  5. I’m confused by how you spent a paragraph explaining that DAS is intended to be a personalized approach to deal with person’s individual needs, only to follow it up by a blanket statement that it’s inherently unfair. It seems to me that they are approaching this in a very appropriate manner to accommodate those who need accommodation, while also trying to cut down on abuse.

    • Good point. I should clarify that statement. The system is attempting to be fair. But what is unfair is that those who truly need said system are being made to go through this screening process do to rampant abuse in the past.

  6. I’m more than happy to see GAC cards gone. DAS should help. But keep in mind that Disney “legally” cannot ask for “proof” of a disability. And that’s the loophole that the lowlifes were aware of when they abused and exploited the GAC system.
    For the truly lazy “fakers”, this just might be too much for them to go through, especially now that it’s no longer a “cut in line free, anytime” card. Also, like roaches when the lights go on, having to have their photo taken could scare them away.
    But for the die-hard abusers, they’re still going to be able to take advantage and get a DAS card. That bothers me.

    • I think having their pictures taken will be a big deterrent to people who don’t really have disabilities. People who actually are disabled won’t object…but the fakers will not want to be on any kind of record, for fear it will come back to haunt them. This is a genius thing being done. I like the “light on the cockroaches” line. That’s really true.

      • Those GAC cards were a joke. Cheap card stock with no identification whatsoever. They were passed around and used by numerous people because no ID was needed to use them.
        So having a photo taken, cards being scanned, and records being kept is a HUGE improvement over the easily abused GAC.

    • I think, too, that this won’t deter people who are dead set on abusing the system. I’m sure the above mentioned really had a problem with herniated discs… but someone could fake the same issue and get a DAS card.

  7. I’m assuming the young lady in guest services does not have children of her own, and hasn’t spent much time around children in general – no child really “understands the concept of time” at a young age – I’m assuming the intent is not to give a DAS to every parent with children under 6 or 7 years old – although I’m sure that would be a popular “limited time magic” idea! :) As many have said before, I’m sure it will take some time for staff to be trained and kinks to be ironed out – I feel for everyone on both sides of those conversations right now.

    • Based on 58 years of personal experience, many adults don’t seem to understand the “concept of time” either…nor the concept of the “value of time.”

      I agree, this is going to be a rocky experience. Doesn’t look to me that the spaces designated to facilitating it will be adequate, either, considering the wheelchair and stroller parking involved using the kiosks.

  8. While I applaud Disney for recognizing the abuse of the GAC program, it just seems like any other “security” measure where it’s a constant game of cat and mouse. Soon, the abusers will learn the proper sequence of phrases to be granted a DAS card and once again giggle with entitlement. Although they won’t be able to come in at 5 pm and ride every attraction before the fireworks. Mouse – 1, Cat – 0. For now.

    Regarding The Court of Angels, I was recently re-reading the 1996 book “Imagineering A Behind the Dreams Look at Making Magic Real” and gosh golly, right there on page 22 is a Herb Ryman drawing of The Royal Court. “Walt Disney asked Herbert Ryman to draw up some sketches that would capture the romance of New Orleans. The Royal Court, seen here, would become a central focus of New Orleans Square when it opened in Disneyland in 1966.”

    I’m assuming the Ryman drawing of The Royal Court would become The Court of Angels, giving us a background slice of the intention for the space from Walt, Herb, and the Imagineers.

    • You’re right that people will eventually catch on and figure out how to gain access to the DAS when they don’t really need it, but the system is designed so that those abusers can’t just walk onto any ride — they still have to wait to ride due to the “return time” they are given.

      The whole point of the abuse of the GAC was that people never had to wait to ride anything they wanted, so they could go from ride to ride and get on immediately. This new system prevents that, while still allowing access to people with legitimate disabilities.

      • Yes, but it still allows you to ride twice the amount of rides potentially, as you can ride an attraction while waiting.

  9. Based on the report of the one guest the DAS system seems to be a total failure completely, I was shocked that the reaction of the CM saying to the women “just try getting in the regular line”. Also I think Disney was mad for even trying this at the holiday time period. And right away in your description of how it works there was a problem as you see in your pic the line to get the DAS as city hall goes up steps! So the CM was say the DAS was ONLY for children with no sense of time???!!!! and was turning away others telling them to get in line or get a wheelchair and get in line??? Madness!!

    • Excellent point about the steps!

      I went to City Hall just once, to get a Birthday button, and it isn’t exactly a large space. But access accommodation includes making spaces the size needed to accommodate larger people. People are huge these days! (I am small — wonder if there’s a need for a five foot tall Ewok?)

  10. The DAS system should be tied to the Fastpass system with a separate entrance for the DAS user. Also, there should DAS kiosks with Fastpass machines for rides that don’t have Fastpass, which will direct them to the disabled entrance. This will simulate the Standby wait times for the disabled.

    The problem for Fastpass rides is the Fastpasses can run out for the regular guest. Then, the regular guest will take a chance and wait in the Standby queue. This disabled must use the DAS as their option instead of the Standby queue. Why not just adjust the Fastpass system to issue Standby tickets for the DAS users? This will be the option that’s not currently available and it will remove the unknowns and mystery of the DAS system. It will also give the company a true idea of how guests are using or abusing the DAS system and make quick adjustments.

    My feeling is if the regular guest is waiting 90 minutes in the Standby queue, the DAS guest should wait a bit longer outside the queue. Heck, that’s what Fastpass does anyways. Thus, the DAS guests is encouraged to do the less crowded rides during busy times.

    • I think your idea has a lot of value StevenW. It’s a really good premiss for managing the process easier.

  11. So wait, the reader has herniated discs in his/her back but wants to ride Space Mountain? Huh?If I were the CM, that would have been my first red flag with this particular guest as I believe that for most of the coasters or rougher rides, you need to be free from back issues.

    • This is what I find incredibly challenging…what truly qualifies for DAS? This person has herniated discs…is this “legally” considered a disability? Would the damaged cartilage in both of my knees qualify? And let me clarify that I’m not calling the original DAS posters back issues into question, I’m sure they do have problems. I’m just not sure where Disney draws the line on what is considered a disability. They are truly fighting an uphill battle on this one.

      • The bad knees definitely qualify you to wait in line in a wheelchair.

        Thanks. Our whole society is fighting this battle at the moment.

        Disabled people of all sorts are becoming increasing mobile and less stigmatized. They’re out in public now rather than being hidden away in care homes. And they all deserve a chance to feel the Magic of Disneyland, maybe even are specially deserving.

        But we are unhealthy as a whole in this culture. When does poor health become a disability?

        There are government definitions and there are other definitions but what matters is Disney’s definition, of course.

        I have visions of lines full of wheelchairs…every third or fourth person in a wheelchair…Fantasyland completely gone because we need the space for wheelchair queues…

    • Excellent point – you beat me to it. Interestingly, physical therapy is also the mainstay for sciatica treatment. Perhaps some ramp walking is exactly what the doctor ordered in this case…

    • I definitely agree, the story provided in this article was an example of someone who SHOULDN’T have received a DAS. A mobility device would have accommodated their needs.

      For all this talk of abuse, I legitimately think half the problem is over- and misappropriated-use.

    • Standing ovation stevek! This is what I’m starting to notice on here. People having a negative reaction seem to be making excuses. Seems to me if Disney approves a DAS card to this person ,and said person uses it on Space Mountain and gets hurt, Disney could be held liable.

  12. No more throwing a kid in a wheelchair and going to the front of the line…

  13. Great and informative update — thanks!

  14. I have a family member who had used plantar fasciitis as a reason for the disability access. Complete and total BS. I’m glad that they are finally doing something.

    I don’t feel sorry for the people that have back problems, heart problems, leg pain, foot pain, ingrown toenails, etc, that can’t ride the very rides that specifically warn people with back problems, heart problems, leg pain, etc, not to ride. Ridiculous.

    The main problem is that the people who truly need the assistance are getting lumped in with the chronic fakers.

    • “I have a family member who had used plantar fasciitis as a reason for the disability access”

      You’re right. A couple of Aleve would take care of that.

    • Plantar fasciitis is enough to get you a handicap card. My girlfriend gets it and her doctor recommended her to get a placard. She used it for a month only though then stopped. But she also has the flattest feet ever and can only walk for less than a half day before being in excruciating pain so it might be different.

  15. So much repeated misinformation and speculation regarding DAS. “Case by case basis at the discretion of the front line CMs” is the complete opposite of how DAS was trained to the front line CMs. For those that truly need it, it will help.

    • Sadly my disabled son will no longer experience enjoyment at the Disneyland Resort due to their new DAS. Despite an email received from Debbie Bellavia-Hart stating “Our relationship with you is very important to us. We have long recognized that people may have different needs, and we will continue to work individually with our Guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.”, we were told yesterday that my son would get a reservation time to get on a ride but that when he returned at that time that he would have to stand in the queue and still wait. My son’s special needs include sensory integration disorder, which makes standing in the queue impossible. After over an hour of discussion at Guest Services at DCA with a CM, who just kept repeating the same corporate script he had been taught, I voluntarily turned in our Annual Passes to cancel our contracts. It was the worse day ever….

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