Disney Announces Changes to the Guest Assistance Card

It’s no secret that one of the things that keeps bringing my family to Disney World time after time is the thought and care that they give to how they treat their guests.  Since in my party we have two guests with special needs (food allergies and ASD), that care becomes even more important.  It means that I can go on a vacation and not have to worry about things that other guests might take for granted.  Will my daughter get sick from her meals?  Will my son have a complete meltdown because he is terrified of the “stretch room” on The Haunted Mansion?  With the assistance of the cast members at Disney Parks, I’ve been able to relax and enjoy myself and know that my family will be taken care of.

Jordan and his Grandmother taking on the monorail at WDW
Jordan and his Grandmother taking on the monorail at WDW

One of the things that has helped us in the past was Disney Parks’ Guest Assistance Card (GAC).  I found out about the card when I asked the cast member at Haunted Mansion about the availability of a baby swap on the ride.  She looked at me a little strangely and explained that everyone could ride the ride so no, they didn’t offer it.  I sighed, and explained that my son freaked out when we took him in the stretch room and I didn’t want to go through that again, even though he loved the ride in the end.  She told me that we could ask to skip the stretch room and get on through the handicapped entrance which was located next to the exit.  She then proceeded to politely ask me if we had any “issues” – I volunteered that my son had special needs and was quite sensory sensitive.  That was all she needed to take me through the ins and outs of the GAC.  I walked over to City Hall as she explained and obtained one.  We didn’t use it that much as the lines weren’t horrible, but we did find ourselves needing it on Peter Pan’s Flight, as for some reason I cannot explain, the Fast Pass line freaks him out, but he can get on through the exit.

Never did we use it as a “cut the line pass”.  In fact, we felt pretty darn guilty in some cases, like when we got on Dumbo after 5 minutes when other people were waiting for 30 minutes.  Believe me, I’d rather wait 30 hours for Dumbo and have a kid who wasn’t affected.  We were never happy about the reason we had the card, but we were always so very grateful.

Earlier this year, a story broke, a rumor really, of a disabled guide who hired him or herself out to “rich Manhattan moms” so they could take advantage of the GAC and cut the lines with their families on spring break.  No one ever identified the guide, nor did any “moms” step up.  But unfortunately the story was out there and people started saying that the GAC was the subject of a huge amount of abuse and Disney was going to evaluate the program in the long term.

This week, I started hearing from fellow special needs parents about the phasing out of the GAC program.  Some people were alarmed, and rightly so – the GAC allowed them to have the experience that they never thought possible with their special needs kids.  The thought of having to wait on long lines with kids who simply don’t have the tolerance or coping mechanisms to do so is pretty frightening.  I remember a trip where we waited on a line and found him kicking and biting other kids, which is not a usual behavior for him!  What do you do if that has to be your norm.

I received the following from one of my Disney contacts and wanted to share it here.  Until I get there and experience it for myself, I cannot say that this will or will not work for my family.  What I do know is that when I have reached out to Disney cast members for accommodations for my kids, I’ve always found them helpful and supportive of our needs.  I hope that the Disability Access Service Card continues to provide that experience to families. I’m certainly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they will continue to reach out to members of the special needs community to hear our feedback about how the new DASC works for us.

After careful consideration, we will be replacing the Guest Assistance Card with the new Disability Access Service Card on Oct. 9 to create a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities. Until Oct. 9, we will continue to use Guest Assistance Cards. We look forward to sharing more information about the Disability Access Service Card as we get closer to implementation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How will the new program work?

The Disability Access Service Card will offer Guests a return time for an attraction based on the current wait time. Guest Assistance Cards will continue to be in effect until Oct. 9. We look forward to sharing more information as we get closer to implementation.

Did you ask for feedback in developing the Disability Access Service Card?

We are engaging disability groups, and Autism Speaks was instrumental in providing feedback as we developed this new process.

Why are you doing this?

Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process beginning Oct. 9 so that it creates a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities.

Who will be eligible for a Disability Access Service Card?

Our goal is to accommodate Guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).

Will Guests on wish trips also use Disability Access Service Cards?

No. Guests who are visiting through wish-granting organizations will have access through a separate program.

What should Guests do if they have concerns?

Guests should contact Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.

 

Disney Infinity is HERE!

IS IT AUGUST 18th YET?  That’s something we’d been hearing most days from Jordan.  The smallest member of our house has been talking about little else besides Disney Infinity since we attended Disney Social Media Moms earlier in the year.

Recently, we ventured into the city to get a sneak peak at the new game.  In case you have not heard of Disney Infinity, think of it as a massive online world where your favorite Disney characters come to life, interact with each other, and travel around amazing virtual worlds.

 

1184761_10151959434228054_909054315_nHe was a little nervous taking the train.  Not sure why, it’s only a train, but still, he was nervous.  He was pretty worked up about the whole trip in general, which was fine because we were confident the experience would deliver.

We arrived at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center just before 3pm.  When we checked in, we were given name tags with our “character team” on them.  Our team was “Peter Pan” – not sure Jordan could have been happier.

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Right before 3pm, we were led upstairs to experience the game for ourselves.  There were several areas set up for the event = there were the game consoles themselves, a Radio Disney DJ booth in front of a huge replica of the Disney Infinity Toy Chest, and sketch artists – more on them later.

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We were able to find an empty console manned by one of the cast members who had been on the creative team for the game.   His name was Marcus, and unfortunately for me, he didn’t come with the game.  He was super smart, fun, and most of all, patient with Jordan as he explained how to play the game.  First, they picked a character for Jordan to be – out of the 20 or so, he picked Sully.  Not sure why, but he was rather insistent on the big monster.  Next, they switched out the character that was in the game for Sully.  You got to see Sully magically “appear” in the world.  Then, Marcus showed Jordan how a hex-disc could bring in Mickey Mouse’s car for Sully to ride in.  That was quite a bit of fun.

After playing for a good 15 minutes, Jordan decided to let me have a turn.  I told Marcus I was a little worried about Jordan being overwhelmed by the game, which I suspected might have been the case at the loud and pleasantly chaotic event.  Marcus reassured me that you start Disney Infinity at a very simple place and unlock different features and options as you go.  That helps you grow with the game – not everything is available at once so it’s hard to overwhelm yourself.  That also works for moms like me who DON’T play video games and have no clue what to do, but really really want to play a game like this.

Sidebar – it’s not that I can’t figure out this game or any other.  It’s that I’m afraid that if I started, I would never stop.  Sim City and I had that kind of unhealthy relationship back in the day and I’m not eager to revisit that.

So, Marcus kept walking me through the game, even when Jordan came back and pitched a fit because he wanted to bring home a Mario stuffed animal.  That was one of those, dude, keep an eye on the prize moments when he needed to be reminded we were bringing home an Infinity starter pack which was WAY COOLER than a Mario stuffie.  Marcus, you had the patience of a saint.  I, thankfully, had red wine, and was able to deal with the fitful boy.

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We also had a great time with the sketch artists.  There were about 5 of them set up at easels on the other side of the event space.  When the artist asked Jordan if he wanted a Lightning, like on his shirt, or a Mike or Sully, he answered no, he wanted Figment.  The artist. very politely and a little under his breath asked “Where did that come from?”  Hearing his request, another artist called Jordan over saying that she could indeed draw a Figment for him.  Jordan was thrilled and I can say we are going to frame that for his room.  We all decided to get in on the fun – Sarah got a Mike from Monsters Inc and Daddy got a Sorcerer Mickey and I got a Minnie Mouse.  All suitable for framing!

We were able to bring a Starter Pack home from the event.  The Starter Pack is platform specific (you must buy the one for your gaming system – XBox, Wii, PS3, etc) and comes with the Infinity base, the game CD and 3 characters (Captain Jack Sparrow, Sully and Mr. Incredible).  The base is the only element of the game that is specific to the gaming system.  Every other game component can be moved between systems, so if your friend has a Wii and you have an XBox, you can still get the Disney gang together to play Infinity.

Now that we have had the game at home and have been playing with it, you may wonder what’s our verdict?  The good news is the game totally lived up to the hype.  Jordan can play it at a simple level, and hopefully the more he plays it, the more settings and toy boxes he will unlock, sustaining his interest in the game.  I bought some additional characters for him for his birthday (Mater, Lightning and Violet) and that will probably hold him for a while.

I’d recommend Disney Infinity for kids who have some experience with complex game environments.  It would be hard to come into this with no idea what you are facing.  Of course, once you do immerse yourself in this world, you’ll be amazed at the way the characters perform and interact with each other.  It’s really meant for kids 6-11, but it’s one game where boys as well as girls can be equally engaged.  If you’re thinking of it for a holiday gift, definitely consider getting a few additional characters besides the 3, especially if you have a girl.  May I suggest my doppleganger Mrs. Incredible or her daughter Violet?  That was my main issue with the starter kit – it came with 2 men and a monster and no females.  But that is easily rectified.

Have you experienced Infinity for yourself yet?  What did you think?

Disclosure: I received a Disney Infinity starter kit to fascilitate this review.  All opinions about the product are mine and mine alone.