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

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

  1. First ObamaCare and now DAS. Both are completely un – understandable.

    I may or may not need a wheelchair when we visit in January, but I will need to skip stairs. So for most I can use the stand-by line until the stairs, then use the alt-entry (elevator/lift/etc). I am really hoping that someone will have information about what I need to do. Do I need to get a DAS or just take the the CM in line and what about Space, Thunder, Splash that used the exit.

    Then wheelchairs don’t need a DAS, does that mean they still skip the lines in most of Disneyland, since they are not accessible or do they get a return time at the attractions. Can’t this, then, still be abused

    • This is a great question. It would be great if someone would go to Disneyland and visit every single ride and attraction and describe its physical accessibility. Are there not guide books out from this perspective?

    • If you use a wheelchair or have other mobility concerns, you do not need a DAS. Instead, you go through the stand-by queue in your wheelchair, with the exception of certain attractions inside Disneyland that are not wheelchair-accessible. In those cases, you can receive a return time card where you wait outside the queue for a certain amount of time before returning to a wheelchair-accessible area. During the time while you’re waiting for your return time card to become valid, you can go do anything else in the park, just like a Fastpass.

  2. DAS just got off and the problem seems to be that Disney created a hydra of a problem: too many front line people who have to serve the disability population. I’m sure the problems will deminish, which is the hope for the clueless suits that produced the DAS.

  3. What about People with Vision issues where do we stand?

    • Golly, hopefully folks will watch out for you. That would be another great story, Disney viewed from your perspective. Do they make it a good experience for the visually impaired?

    • My son has vision issues.

      I assume someone would be with you if you had vision issues.

      Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not sure what a vison issue has to do waiting in line.

  4. I don’t mean to sound indelicate or insensitive here, but if a person’s medical condition does not allow them to slowly walk on a ramped walkway, what in the world are they doing riding a roller coaster? From both a legal and guest service point of view, once Disney was made aware of a back problem significant enough to require special assistance, shouldn’t they advise that the guest forego such a turbulent attraction?

    • I agree.

  5. I’m sympathetic towards people who have special needs or requirements but waiting in line for Radiator Springs and watching the queue barely move because of all the people with cards cutting in front of us was frustrating, ridiculous, and made me feel like I was Magic Mountain dealing with the disrespectful teens that seem to overtake the park. While some certainly needed this, it was very apparent that most of these folks running and laughing and playing as they looked us like we were idiots for having to wait, were abusing the system. It had to change. Had to.

    Last year is the first year we skipped DL Resort for MM and Knott’s because to be honest, the crowds were about the same. A bunch of disrespectful jerks (would like to use a much stronger word but don’t want to offend) who abuse the system, cut in queues, and don’t watch their kids. Why not pay a whole lot less to have as much fun? I love DL but as my kids hit their teen years and prefer MM to DL and I’m dealing with the same crowds, I figure I might as well save a few bucks.

    We had a better time at MM and Knott’s than we’d had in years at DL. It’s the sad truth. Love Cars Land. Love!

    • You are right about the disrespective teens on Radiator Springs. If you had a GAC card, you went through the fast pass line. When you get up to the CM they ask you if you can do stairs or your card has “no stairs” posted on it. If you can do stairs you go into the regular queue with the fast pass holders. If you can’t do stairs you go to the handicap line that has a seperate loading area that take a single car off line into the area after tons of cars go into the regular loading area. My husband can’t do stairs so we are in the handicap loading area and have waited an hour or more to board. Mean while, while we are waiting in line, you see the obnoxious teens that were behind you with GAC cards and didn’t opt for “no stairs” because they have learned what the real deal is, sailing past you having done the ride, into the regular unloading/loading area and as you say, running and laughing up the stairs.
      So, the abusers at times laugh in the faces of the legitimate GAC users too because don’t do stairs.

  6. I have a couple of questions about DAS. Are concierge at the hotels or anyone working at the hotels, really, able to provide guests with the needed information about DAS? Is there any way a guest can get his or her questions answered or receive a DAS card outside of the parks, like near the stroller distribution? If the answer to these is “No” then TDA needs to get on the ball about helping guests as much as they can even before they step foot into the parks.
    I’ve never had to deal with GAC and I pray I never have to deal with DAS, but I just feel horribly for those people that TRULY need it who and don’t know what they’re getting into when they come to the parks. And, no, I’m not talking about AP’s and SoCal residents. I’m talking about that family flying in from Wisconsin, who may never be able to bring they’re kids to DLR again, and will have to deal with all this added confusion. The gentleman’s experience said it took about 25-30 mins, that is way too long for a family who are trying to enjoy every moment of their once-in-a-lifetime-trip.
    I hope things become clearer and easier as time goes on.

    • Great post. The fact that WDW issued on 250 GACs a day at four parks versus 2000 per day at DLR suggests to me that out-of-town vacationers are not the problem. To me, given what we know about crown dynamics at DLR vs. WDW, its clear from the evidence that Disney gathered in there GAC issuance data that local CA residents caused the abuse problem at DLR. A shame that their unethical behavior is affecting vacationers with disabilities, who could truly have their rare vacations be much less stressful with a GAC, at all Disney parks.

    • Yes, great post.

      It would be great if guests staying at the resort could get their DAS set up through the hotels. It would give folks an incentive to stay with Disney. Planning a vacation for special needs folks is difficult and Disney is expensive — it would be a bonus to have the system in place at the hotels.

  7. Reading this message board you would think that there are great hoards of vactioners faking disabilities to try to get to the front of the line at all Disney Parks, but if you read the MiceAge update earlier in the week, the abuse was/is a Disneyland problem. DLR issuing 2000 GACs per day versus 250/day at WDW. At that’s two parks versus four. On a typical day, even at the most attended Disney Park of all, MK, there were on average 100 GACs issued, so only 600 (max) folks could have been using the GAC to wait in shorter lines.

    We used the GAC for son with autism at WDW on a vacation last year and it was wonderful. We only used it maybe 2 or 3 times per park and never to repeatedly ride. Yes, we could have used Fastpass and planned tightly to get the same effect, but having the ability to not have to wait and come back was big anxiety and stress reliever. We never felt like we were part of an abusive system or got dirty looks and frankly I don’t even think we ever saw another person using a GAC.

    The shame of this is that people who may only get to go to Disney ever other year or so and for whom the GAC made life less stressful, now have to deal with the additional hoops, questioning and a less useful system due to what appears abuse due to CA locals. Since Disney went through the trouble of monitoring GAC issue and usage at all 6 parks, I don’t know why they didn’t question the glaring difference between WDW and DLR and dig further into the root cause of the disparity and try to come up with a less heavy handed fix first. I bet requiring a photo, notifying an employees manager of the disability, limiting GACs to 5 days (maybe 10 at WDW)and perhaps a 5 attraction per day limit on usage would have culled abuse substantially.

  8. Stupid observation, but should a person with two herniated discs and nerve damage really be riding a roller coaster?

    • And, to wait 30 minutes explaining your condition to get the DAS! You can ride space mountiain 3 times in that amount of time before it starts backing up. We always get a ton of rides done in the first hour that the park opens.

      • You rock! I’m over in Court of Angels daydreaming about Walt and you’ve ridden SM three times!

      • I didn’t see anywhere in that piece that said they were there at ropedrop. It may very well have been after SM started backing up.

  9. Thank you for the update. I’ve read both positive and negative reports of the system, both at DLR and WDW. Many of the negative reports I’ve read (specifically to WDW) sounds like miscommunication at the forefront; those in wheelchairs/ECV’s asking for a DAS and not getting one right away because the system doesn’t require it for wheelchairs/ECV’s, as well as CM’s asking very particular questions to try and figure out the needs of the guest without pointedly asking what their disabilities may be. It sounds like its a lot of verbal dancing around and challenging for both the CM’s and the guests, but its early yet. I’m sure they will work out the kinks and things will be smooth in a few months.

  10. This is my solution for visiting Disneyland with my disabled son:

    Don’t go on crowded days!!!

    Use Fastpass.

    If it’s more crowded than expected, go on the less popular rides.

    So far it’s worked every time.

  11. “I explained my disability (2 herniated discs in my lower back have caused nerve damage and chronic pain in my legs).”

    And you are riding rollercoasters because….?

  12. My Back and knee issues destroy me if I have to stand for prolonged periods of time (Example I had to wait 4 hours at a Convention for Registration, I was ruined for days after that). If they try the Rent a Wheel Chair bit with me my reply is going to be “Give me a Complimentary Powered Chair and we are good, otherwise we need to get your Supervisor here now”

  13. Wow,
    Reading the negative comments makes it absolutely clear why Disney management didn’t take action against GAC abuse for years until the main stream media picked up the story.

    I think some things we haven’t considered here are -
    Disney are experts in crowd management – not experts in each guest’s specific abilities. They are only required by law to offer equal access to their attractions. if a que is wheelchair accessable, it’s equal to have people in wheelchairs wait in the same line as everyone else. If a person can’t wait in a sunny line, giving them a return time puts them in a virtual line, and grants them equal access.
    Not being a lawyer (or a politician making laws) I’m not sure how you give equal access to the autistic who will melt down if they wait in the same line as everyone else. But I would say that we are fond of using Walt’s term “guest” for ourselves in the Disney parks. And when I’m a guest in someone’s house, I don’t demand particular treatment. If I find a problem with my host’s home or hospitality, I don’t return. I don’t know why any of us feel we are in a possition to demand anything of Disney. If we all pay the same price for admission, we should all get the same treatment.

    Also consider – there are undoubtedly visitors of this website who were a part of the problem.
    Statistics being what they are, that has to be true.

    And consider this, takling a problem is always going to upset people.
    I don’t believe the sharp language helps at all, no matter how idiotic any of us feel Disney management is behaving. If you call me an idiot, I ignore you because you’re clearly not listening to me any longer. I now marginalize you as unreasonable and nothing will make you happy. Even if you are given what you ask for, you will be unhappy that you had to deal with an idiot like me.

    Some things to consider

  14. “2 herniated discs in my lower back have caused nerve damage and chronic pain in my legs,” yet she fine to take a thrill ride. Are you kidding me!? This kind of person is clearly the reason for the failure of the last system. The cast member should have just said, “Have a nice day and enjoy the park, but we will not be able to make any accommodation beyond the normal guest experience.” Also, having the cast members make the call is going to be a train wreck. This will not work. They just need to stop and make everyone get in the same line.

  15. As soon as the person mentions the words herniated discs, sciatica, and Space Mountain in the same sentence, that’s when I lose it. If you heed the warnings that are posted all over the entrances to many of the attractions, the mention of back problems being a reason to not ride this particular attraction should raise a red flag or two!! What are you going to do, whine and moan that you can’t stand in a line or walk up an incline, only to be bounced side to side and back and forth, possibly exacerbating an already “debilitating condition” ? Now that your legs have degressed from pain and weakness into partial, or complete paralysis, are you going to hold Disney responsible for your, let’s just say it, stupidity? Too bad Disney can’t be the pragmatists in this whole web of lies and charades by the public, and simply stamp a big red X on the forehead of those that claim such horrible ailments and debilities so that the castmembers working the rides can enforce safety concerns and protect themselves, and the public from itself. There are many justifiable instances that there should be a DAS system in place for those that truly need it, but if you are not an appropriate candidate to safely go on any given ride, THEN DON’T!! I may inflame the sensirtivities of many out there that think they can justify their desire to push their envelopes, I really don’t care what you say. If it’s not safe for you, then don’t!

    • This.