Guest Assistance Cards Vs. FastPass+: Let the Battle Begin

| January 16, 2013

As many know, Disney’s FastPass+ system has been under testing for several months at Walt Disney World.  As a result of this new initiative, which allows guests to book attraction times in advance of their trip, we’ve seen some changes in the current FastPass system, not the least of which is the requirement to return within the allotted one hour timeframe.  But there is one more variable to the system Disney is trying so hard to perfect, and that’s the Guest Assistance Card.  Continue below to find out how FastPass+ could be forcing some changes to the Guest Assistance Card.

I’ll start off by saying I’m sure this topic ranks right up there with ECV usage, various dining annoyances, and any other highly controversial Disney policy.  Having said that, I’ve been told by many who deal with it everyday, that the Guest Assistance Cards and their abuse is increasingly becoming a problem Disney needs to address.

Guest assistance cards (GACs) allow guests with a disability to be given reasonable accommodations based on the nature of their disability.   Although this might simply mean waiting in an alternate area away from the sun, it can also mean being given a reduced wait time.  While Disney always emphasizes that they are NOT a Fast Pass, many times their use leads you straight into the Fast Pass line or wheelchair entrance (which is what those who abuse the system use it for).

Let me be VERY clear, I am not advocating against GACs.  I am not saying everyone who gets one is able to use it as a Fast Pass or that every attraction accepts it as a Fast Pass.  I AM saying, that if you say the right thing, anyone can get one and with many attractions, it will lead to either the Fast Pass line or wheelchair entrance.

I had the chance to see a good friend of mine recently who works in Guest Relations.  He told me the abuse of the guest assistance cards is growing out of control and one park in particular has been trying to push back about it.  Yet, at the end of the day, the cast members are stuck because even if they know someone is abusing it, they cannot legally question the disability.  This leads to people exploiting the system and the problem has been growing.   There are actually tour companies who bring small groups into the parks and utilize the GAC to express the group to the front of attraction lines(through the FP line or wheelchair entrance) as part of the overall tour experience.  Sadly, some of these tour guides working for the tour companies are also cast members, but that’s a discussion for a different time.  Regardless, the problem is growing and Disney has taken notice.

So how does this tie into FastPass+?  The idea behind FastPass+ is having a very controlled guest flow for the attractions which is why FastPass return times are now being enforced.  So the new restriction on return times in coordination with guests reserving attraction times in advance potentially create a well-managed, positive experience for the guests (and Disney’s bottom line because less time in line means more time in gift shops).  But there’s one variable in this tight knit system, and that’s the GAC.  Just how much of a variable is it?

When Radiator Springs Racers opened in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, the large amount of annual pass holders utilizing GACs created a reduction of fast passes available at the popular attraction by as much as 33%.  Additionally, Guest Relations’ cast members were stationed outside the entrance of the attraction, giving people with a GAC a return time based on the current stand-by wait time.  So if the wait time was 2 hours, they were given a hand written pass to come back in 2 hours and then enter the FastPass return queue.  Eventually this reached the desk of George Kalogridis who commissioned the Guest Relations team to come up with a way to reduce the expectations of those using the GAC and create more restrictions around it.

So what about Walt Disney World? Well, Disneyland is about 18 months behind WDW in the next-gen initiative, but WDW is already in the midst of rolling it out.  With George now coming over to WDW and having seen this problem at Disneyland, one must wonder what’s in store for WDW’s GAC program.  If GACs really created that much of a problem for Radiator Springs Racers, imagine the problem it could create with rides like Soarin, Test Track, and Toy Story Mania, all of which will be relying on carefully planned statistics to implement FastPass+.  Clearly these statistics can’t account for groups of 5 at a time randomly being thrown into the FastPass line.

I want to be clear – I have not heard anything saying things ARE going to change at WDW.  However, FP+ relying heavily on statistics, GACs being blatantly abused, and the President of Disneyland becoming the President of WDW as of February 1 all point to the large possibility of a change in the near future.

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  • snaperoni

    I and a lot of other people ( I belong to a DVC group that has 8,000 members) are really getting tired of what we call;” THE BRAZILIAN SPANDEX TOURS” The group tours from South America. These people cut into lines, take all the Fast Passes, and in General, do what they want, while scteaming they’re chants. On a recent visit, we were standing on the curb preparing for the evening parade at MK. The curbs were already taken, but—HERE THEY COME!! Sitting wherever they want, in front of whoever they want, when Cast members asked them to move, they just ignored them! At the end of the parade, as you know, it gets quite crowded on the St. So what do they do? They all SIT DOWN, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MAIN St, and wait for the fireworks. Castmembers and security came out to move them, but they refused, and made believe that they didn’t understand. I couldn’t believe it! Security just walked away. It is really getting out of hand, and Disney seems to ignore it. And why not! They spend a lot of Money. People are really getting pissed off. I don’t need to be pushed and shoved when I go there! I’m spending money too. It needs to be addressed!!!!

  • ohmom

    As obnoxious as it is that tour groups are using GAC…the statement in this blog that stuck out to me was “Yet, at the end of the day, the cast members are stuck because even if they know someone is abusing it, they cannot legally question the disability.” Would my family fall in this category? My daughter and I both suffer from “silent illness” which means when we walk up to the CM with a GAC we “look” healthy. In reality we each have a different chronic illness and neither can stand for any length of time, such as in a line. And if we stood through one normal long line, that would be it, our day would be done.

  • seurat

    I remember when I first was getting a Guest Assistance Pass for my son. He has an invisible disability (autism), and I came prepared with a letter from his physician when I went to Guest Relations. I was told that they don’t need to look at it out of a concern for privacy. “But I got it and I brought it,” I said. My point is that perhaps people should be required some sort of “evidence” to get a GAC. That way people won’t look at my family and think that we’re abusing the system. I assure you that I would give anything NOT to need a GAC.

  • disdrmg

    I pray that if there is any changes made to the GAC that it will not hurt those who truly need them. My son has a disability that will not allow him to stand for any length of time. Disney’s care for guests with disabilites is one of the reasons why our family fell in love with the Disney Parks. Disney is one place where for once, he is first instead of always being last. Not that we except front of the line acess, nor do we get it by using the card, but it does allow him to to access rides without the stading for long periods of time, or using stairs, etc. which otherwise he woud not be able to do. I always bring a letter with me as well from a physician and present it at guest services our first day when requesting the GAC card. I think this would help resovle those requesting it who do not truly need it.

  • 1oldcrone

    I have been using a GAC for many years and an ECV for the last 10. I have NEVER gone to the front of ANY line with the GAC. (even though I have several stamps.) I am not sure you have your facts straight!! Also, you cannot tell by looking at me that I have problems (Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Neurofibromatosis, type I, degenerative disc disease diabetes, high blood pressure, previous stroke and unfortunately a few others.

  • Thommy Sandvick

    There are several attractions where the GAC allows access to the Fast Pass entrance.

  • Thommy Sandvick

    I want to be clear, I am not commenting on the usefulness of the GAC, nor am I commenting on people with invisible disabilities needing them. I am informing that due to the abuse that exists, there could be changes coming to the GAC based on activity going on in DCA.

    Regarding the CMs being stuck, know that while there absolutely are invisible disabilities, CMs are pretty good at figuring out who is abusing the system. However, this is the exact reason Disney can’t do anything as a company about issuing the cards, because it COULD leave it up to the CM’s judgement and that’s not a good idea legally or otherwise. So, the solution may be something similar to what was implemented in DCA, which is the CM at the entrance giving a manual wait card equal to the current stand by time length.

  • faceleg

    I used to work at Knott’s and I think they’re system is similar to what this article said Disneyland was doing at RSR. If you went to an attraction with their version of a GAC, you were given a return time to go back and ride, but you could only have 1 ride time at a time.

  • cmwade77

    Actually, there is a simple solution, which Universal Studios has taken to doing.

    When you get in line with their version of a GAC, it is scanned. You then must wait the length of the standby line before visiting another ride.

    This keeps it fair, ensures that those that need the GAC are not waiting any longer than anyone else and that they wait their turn.

    All in all, with my experience as someone who unfortunately does need the card, I would say that the system at Universal works better than Disney’s. I find that I usually have less of a wait than I would at Disney for a similar attraction and don’t have the hassles of having to come back at a certain time. At Disneyland, return times for those with GACs isn’t too much of a problem, but at Disney World, it would definitely be a major problem, as many can handle the walking, but to have to go to an attraction, get a return time and come back would be problematic.

    NOTE: I know that Universal doesn’t call it a GAC, but I am using the term for simplicity here.

    It’s simple, efficient and works to everyone’s benefit.

    The other way that could work, would be to all GAC holders to get an unlimited number of FP+ from their phone and/or stations around the parks, but spaced out based on stand-by times and such.

    As for the rampant abuse of the system, I don’t buy that it is completely out of control, but there is some. The biggest thing I see is people handing off their GAC to a friend or family member when they can’t or don’t want to ride a particular attraction. The simple solution is to require ID or print pictures on the GACs.

    The other issue, which I have indeed seen is the tour group mentality mentioned here. Disney can do something about these, all they have to do is schedule a tour with them, take their GAC and park tickets and ban them from the parks, as this is clearly against the rules.

    Incidentally, I do not understand why everyone thinks that Fastpass+ cannot accomodate GACs, it’s just another “queue” to account for, like the stand-by queue will be.

    Just like the stand-by queues, there are patterns for the GAC queues. Yes, they may not match the patterns of the stand-by queues, but the patterns are there. If there is a pattern, it can be accounted for.

  • cmwade77

    As for Knott’s, it doesn’t work at all, you have to wait almost the length of the line to get your return time, then wait for your return time, then wait again to get on and the second wait can be almost the length of the line again.

    So, bottom line is Knott’s system fails miserably.

  • Lisa Marrott / WaltD4Me on the DISBoards

    According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, legally Disney cannot ask anyone what their disability is. Even if they were able to though, CM’s are not doctors or medical personnel and couldn’t be expected to know or evaluate conditions that guests might have, nor should they. If they asked and a guest told them they had Lupus, (for example) and the CM never heard of it, would they then have to then explain what that is and how it effects them? And how much would it really help matters? If someone is going to abuse a GAC card, if they need to make up something to tell a CM they would.
    I don’t know what the answer to the problem is, but no part of it should include anything that makes it more difficult for those who truly need it.
    Life is difficult enough for them…that’s why they want to come to Disney in the first place.

  • pwdebbie

    Without a GAC, it would be a waste of time for dh and I to go to WDW. One line is all it would take for him to possibly end up in the ER. But to look at him, you would think he was healthy as a horse. But people can’t see what is going on neurologically in him. We know how to avoid the triggers and the GAC has been a great advantage. We have never gone to the front of the line, but we have gone into shorter lines (which is even a bit iffy for him, but we give it a shot). We can only tour the parks for a maximum of four hours, then we return to our room so he can rest until evening. The GAC enables us to do a few attractions in our limited time frame. For those of us that legitimately need the GAC, the powers-that-be are doing a great disservice by allowing those who obviously have no need to use them. Privacy laws aside — I would gladly provide a letter to demonstrate need as most others would who know they have a legitimate need, albeit invisible.

  • cmwade77

    I also must point out that the basic premise of this that those with GACs get on faster is false.

    Yes, on some attractions, they do. Additionally, at some point the GAC line may be shorter than the Stand-By line and yes, there are patterns to this and those of us that need GACs will take advantage of those patterns, just like those that don’t need them will plan out their attractions based on FP and wait times.

    I have done comparisons with friends without a GAC on the same day and they usually end up being able to do about 20% more attractions than I am, even when trying to go on the same attractions.

    Some of this is due to moving slower, but even when comparing wait times alone, they are usually shorter overall without a GAC, the GAC just allows other places to wait.

    Please update the article to be more representative of what is really happening or remove it completely.

  • disdrmg

    “When you get in line with their version of a GAC, it is scanned. You then must wait the length of the standby line before visiting another ride”…. wouldn’t this defeat the purpose for those whose time might be limited in the parks anyway because of their disability??? They might have a narrow window of time to try and visit the attractions and therefore making you wait the lenght of time of the standby line, which could be very long depending on the time of year,before you visit another attraction,would then further the disadvantage of having a disability if you needed to use a GAC card to try and mimize wait times.

  • faceleg

    “As for Knott’s, it doesn’t work at all, you have to wait almost the length of the line to get your return time, then wait for your return time, then wait again to get on and the second wait can be almost the length of the line again.
    So, bottom line is Knott’s system fails miserably.”

    You must have been doing it wrong. Every ride had an entrance marked with the handicapped symbol and you would go there to get your wait time from the attendant there. You never had to wait in the regular line.

  • Thommy Sandvick

    no I’m not updating the article. I’m not talking about overall utilization and attraction time. I’m talking about each individual attraction and it’s relationship between FP+ and the GACs.

    Again, my article is not about the validity of the pass. The article is discussing the abuse of the system which was “discovered” by DL execs and that same review could be on its way to WDW with the roll-out of FP+.

  • airb330

    ^ Well you really should update the article. It gives the impression people are using the GAC to “skip” lines. I traveled to WDW with my grandparents and never received treatment that made it “fastpass-like.”

    THIS IS JUST A FALSE STATEMENT HERE: “Guest assistance cards (GACs) allow guests with a disability to be expedited in attraction lines. While Disney always emphasizes that they are NOT a FastPass, many times their use leads you straight into the FastPass line or wheelchair entrance.”

    The rest of the article is fine, but don’t mislead people about what the GAC actually does.

  • Thommy Sandvick

    The abusers ARE using it to skip lines. That’s the whole point of the article, that FP+ is carefully calculated and having droves of abusers will throw off the careful calculations.

    One way or another, using a GAC doesn’t just put you in the stand-by with everyone else. You end up with a reduced wait one way or another, be it wheelchair entrance, FP line, or whatever each attraction offers for the pass. If it didn’t result in a reduced wait time, no one would be abusing it.

    I think many people here are focusing on the wrong part of the article. This isn’t about the merits of it, you don’t need to defend the GAC itself. It exists, it does what it does, be it the FP line, wheelchair entrance, or waiting area. Lets discuss what could be changed or what Disney might do to change its abuse without hurting those who need it.

  • disneybridein2k3

    1oldcrone and Airb330, I agree. Fortunately, the only time we’ve ever had to use a GAC was when DH was undergoing chemo and was very weak from it. I insisted on a wheelchair for him and even if a CP couldn’t ask what his illness was, it was apparent due to his appearance (and his picc line). There wasn’t any attraction he went on where he was given any sort of Fastpass treatment. In fact, some of the lines seem to take even longer. There certainly wasn’t any “skipping lines” when we went. I’m not disagreeing that there are some attractions that do allow front of the line access but certainly not all (and none at the park we went).

  • mrsnini413

    We are DVC members who travel yearly to WDW with our children, 2 of whom are multiply handicapped, reliant on wheelchairs for all ambulation, as well as severe seizure disorders. We sorely need the GAC cards, and the abuse of them is as upsetting to us as it is to the rest of you. Like a previous poster, we too, would do anything not to need them. But the problem here is the abuse, not the cards themselves. I always travel with my physicians’ letters & also bring my children right up to the window with me when requesting. I think they need to request some documentation, that’s all. The first time I got one, I was asked what the nature of the disability was, so they could determine what type of assistance we needed. Please don’t take it out on those of us who truly need these cards. WDW is the only place we can go where my children’s disabilities don’t matter and they are made to feel special.

  • LilGMom

    While I feel for those guests that honestly need the GAC I do know that some people abuse it and will continue to do so until Disney can find some way to change the system. Unfortunately if they change the GAC system it may end up hurting/hindering the very people that do rely on it to enjoy the parks.

    An example of abusing it is that I have a co-worker that used it when she traveled with her extended family because her grand-daughter has a handicap. She ended up liking how they rarely had to wait or if they did have to wait it was (according to her) “less than five minutes” to go into any of the attractions so on their next trip she got one for her husband. Her husband is a diabetic and even though physically there is nothing preventing him from standing in the regular stand-by lines (he is a general contractor and does a lot of manual labor on a regular basis) she said they used the GAC to either skip the stand-by line or enter through the FP line. My hubby is also a diabetic but as long as his diabetes isn’t affecting him being able to physically stand in line I would never think of getting a GAC to skip lines. I’m sure that, like anything with Disney, it all depends on the CM working the lines as to how they handle the GAC card entry into the attraction but some people have obviously found a way to use the card as a ‘no restrictions’ Fast Pass.

  • tdhickey

    I have no problem with people using a GAC, heck even if it is a fake putting up with a wheel chair or using crutches the entire time will weed out most people. What I dislike is seeing a group of 20 people with that person in the expedited line, that is unfair. Put a limit on the GAC guests that can ride with and we are all good.

  • airb330

    You say “The abusers ARE using it to skip lines. That’s the whole point of the article, that FP+ is carefully calculated and having droves of abusers will throw off the careful calculations.”

    People may *think* they will get to skip lines with a GAC, it doesn’t mean they actually are getting to skip the line consistently enough to throw off Disney’s calculations. I agree that the system should be improved for a more streamlined experience that generally mirrors the standby time line. The evidence from RSR is indeed troubling, and I hope Disney does implement a new system.

    I am sure Disney has factored in the GAC with the FP+ system. I doubt they will be too surprised by hordes of GAC users that throws off their billion dollar FP+ plan. We still don’t know all of the details of the FP+ system as it stands now.

  • Thommy Sandvick

    aahh yes it’s one of those times where you would THINK the worldwide corporation would realize these things, but you would think they could keep a website running too!

    Anyway, the point is execs in Anaheim were not aware of the blatant abuse and when they looked at the numbers, were taken back by it the point of tasking people with finding a way to curb the abuse. To me, that says WDW execs probably aren’t truly aware either. In fact I’m nearly certain they aren’t from what the front line cast handing out the passes are saying about the blatant abuse happening. BUT George K IS aware of the problem in DL, which makes you wonder if he’s going to take a closer look at WDW

  • cmwade77

    Ok, so the person that wrote this doesn’t want to update information that is blatantly false.

    GACs do NOT work like FPs, those of use who need to use GACs can attest to that. And the point is that while some rides may be faster, it evens out by the end of the day.

    That is an important distinction to make, the FP+ is not going to be as carefully calculated as you seem to think, as there will still be stand-by lines and basically this will simply mean that there are 5 people who skipped the stand-by line. Will it make the stand-by line longer? Perhaps, but not by any significant number, so the FP+ stuff is not worth talking about, which is why no one is discussing it.

    As for Knott’s, yes, they have those entrances, but they are rarely, if ever, staffed with anyone and it takes forever to get someone’s attention.

    As for diabetics, I could see some that might need it, depending on the severity of their diabetes, even if it was just one that said they could bring food on the attraction with them.

    Again, I honestly don’t know how anyone gets a GAC that has no restrictions, the way they work doesn’t permit that and they do not provide immediate access nor do they always provide fastpass access. If the stand-by line is too long, I have had CMs ask me to get a FP or if they weren’t available, provide a return time.

    There is only one exception to this that I know of and this is for Make a Wish and other terminally ill children and in my opinion, they should be able to go straight to the front of any and all lines, characters, rides, food, bathrooms, whatever they might want or need.

    As to having to wait the length of the stand-by line before using the GAC again, that works well and that doesn’t mean you can’t go on other attractions that you don’t need the GAC for, see a show, get food, shop, etc. between times. For Universal, they scan it at rides, not shows and they only scan it if the stand-by line is over a certain length. Additionally, it is scanned when you get in line, so any time that you already waited is accounted for, also the length of the ride is considered as part of the “wait time”, at something like Kilimanjaro Safari, that means if the wait time was posted as 45 minutes for the standby line and you waited 10 minutes to get on the ride, you would only have about another 10 minutes before being able to use it on another attraction that the pass had to be scanned for.

    As you can see, this can benefit those that need the GAC to ensure that they don’t have to wait any longer than anyone else, but reduces the abuse because the perceived benefit is no longer there and makes sure it is fair to those who don’t need a GAC.

    As for the 20 people with the person, that shouldn’t happen. In most cases, the GAC should be limited to no more than 6 people. There are exceptions, but they are rare and on a case by case basis.

  • deeskneed

    I also have an invisible disease. When touring the parks I must constantly evaluate if I will be able to make it through the wait time & ride before my disease kicks in. If I am given a 2 hour time to return, there are no guarantees I will make it. Should I just sit outside the ride for each 2 hour wait. Even that could over stimulate my condition. During my trip this past November one of the rides had a side aisle for wheelchairs, it broke off from the regular line. I’m sorry I forget what ride it was. We were instructed to stay on our side of the ropes, BUT to stay behind the person we were originally in line behind. That made all the sense in the world to me. There was a time I let being judged as an “abuser” dampen my trip. Now however, I would challenge anyone to trade places with me. I am thankful I am able to enjoy Disney, as there are many many experiences I no longer can.
    I have a side issue. How is this new system going to affect those of us that need assistance other than wheelchair? I have been escorted around certain areas of rides due to over stimulation of lights, etc. in preshows. How will disabilities like that be handled. Waiting 2 hours to use a separate line won’t help with that. I think anyone that changes how disability access is handled, should be required to live a day in a few different scenarios of being disabled before they change anything to unaccommodate the abusers.
    I also carry a note from my doctor stating the types of circumstances I should avoid. I have one that lists my condition as well as one that does not. Why can’t Disney ask for a note stating what should be avoided without asking what the condition is?

  • cmwade77

    Now again, I have to ask the author of this article to please update it to remove the perception that GACs provide instant access, as we have shown many examples of how they do not do so.

    I am asking nicely, but I have seen Disney take legal action when similar articles have been written, so I would think that it would be in your best interest to update it.

  • Nicole Mancini

    The GAC system is a very sensitive topic, rightfully so, for many people. It mirrors the wheelchair debate. Personally, I don’t think that the normal visitor to WDW knows about this system. It’s been mentioned on the podcast before and on the boards, but I think it’s worth mentioning again: We need to recognize that Disney fan communities are not the majority population who visit the parks. Until I see documented proof from Disney that there is an incredible amount of people abusing the system, I truly do not believe it. Could there be people abusing it? Of course, anything is possible in the world, However, I don’t think that is a large portion of people.

    I’m also a bit concerned about the mentality that cast members “know” who is abusing the system. How is this possible? They are not medically trained to recognize symptoms of any type of disease or disorder. How would a college program employee know that my mother has a degenerative spinal disease? How would a part time cast member realize that my father has cancer if there are no physical signs or they are well-hidden? How would any cast member be able to make a call based on just looking at someone? Perhaps there is an assumption in existence on the part of the cast members who claim they know when the GAC is being misused. If that is the case, then I feel Disney needs to have more sensitivity training so this idea is eradicated.

    Similarly, the GAC card does not offer immediate access to an attraction. In some cases, it provides separate area for guests to wait away from the line or a modified wait time due to medical issues that could be heightened after waiting the full amount of time. If cast members do not realize that GAC is not an “instant access” card, then perhaps they need to review the proper protocol with their supervisors so the system is used correctly.

  • disneyfamily123


  • Thommy Sandvick

    This blog was not about CMs assessing the validity of GACs. Please re-read the blog and do not use caps unless you meant for the entire post to be taken as yelling. Thank you

  • doconeill

    I know about the need to curtail abuse…but I’m wondering if the infrastructure and features hey are putting in place can’t offer a solution very similar to what that did at RSR.

    Give the person a “GAC MagicBand”. They can scan that MagicBand at whatever replaces the FP kiosks. When that MagicBand is used, it tells them when to return, based on the current wait time. Then they have a very small window in which to return. Essentially giving them a virtual place in line.

    The catch? They CANNOT also use it at another attraction, either to enter a FP+ line or get another “virtual placeholder”. It locks them out until they “redeem” it at the FP+ line at the first attraction, or miss their window.

  • doconeill

    I also meant to mention – the original Fastpass was based on statistics as well…I’m not sure how much FP+ really changes that, unless they are pushing the envelope with how many “slots” they will allow at the attraction. But I can’t see them doing that without making existing problems worse and causing the standby line to completely stagnate.

  • peemagg

    I challenge the author of this blog to rent a wheelchair, and be like a person who needs that chair everyday. This means you stay in it! Tour the parks in that chair with say 10 friends. You tour like those of us who use these and half of your group tours as they would without a GAC. Both groups enter the lines identically at every attraction. Each of you mark the time you entered the lines and the time you got off of the rides. At the end of the day then post the times each had, honestly! No fudging times to make a point for your blog.

    Something you don’t even mention in your article, is about the lines that are alternate lines or have wheelchair lines. These are mostly in MK where they were built before the ADA laws, and the lines are not mainstreamed. By mainstreamed I mean that the regular lines are not wide enough or are too tight of turns for wheelchairs or ECV’s to maneuver. There are no wheelchair access lines in Epcot, DHS, or AK. There are lines at those though that because of things like stairs (such as Toy Story), the stand-by lines may split off so someone who can’t do stairs (such as wheelchairs and ECV’s). Many see this as them by passing the line. They do not take into account that many rides only have 1 car that can take a wheelchair (oh, did I forget to mention that you have to stay in your chair like someone who does need the chair, you can transfer to a transfer car though, but only using the cars that someone who needs that car because they can’t stand would need), so you have to wait for however many are ahead of you that need the same car and wait for your turn to ride that car.

    I bet your whole opinion of how a GAC is actually used will change. Most people who complain that others are getting ahead of others, really have no clue about what they are talking about. This includes most CM’s who “know” the people who abusing the system, and you mister author!

  • Thommy Sandvick

    I apologize, maybe something wasn’t clear in my article. Where did I attack GACs? Where did I criticize those who use them legitimately?

    GACs offer several different kinds of benefits, one of which is reduced wait times. People know that and abuse that ASPECT of the GACs which is what this is about.

    And btw, Spaceship Earth has a wheelchair access line and it’s located in EPCOT. Also I have pushed my 80 year old grandma through MK in a wheelchair and used GACs at EPCOT when someone in my party with an invisible disability needed one. However, neither of those points are relevant to the article because it has nothing to do with wheelchairs, nor with anyone who legitimately uses GACs.

    If anyone would like to further discuss my article after reading it entirely, thoroughly, and with a full understanding of its point, feel free to PM me.

  • SueM in MN

    I think that the title of this blog is causing much of the discussion/concern as well as some of the content.

    First, Disneyland is a much different place than DisneyWorld.
    Many of the attractions at Disneyland are NOT accessible thru the regular line.

    At WDW, most attractions are.

    Second, there is not one ‘thing’ that Guest Assistance Cards do – there are different stamps put on the card to meet the needs of the person. In some cases, it is to wait in a different area. In some cases, it is to use the ‘wheelchair entrance’.
    At WDW, that usually means the regular line. There is sometimes a different boarding area, but the bypass that goes there is usually very close to the regular boarding area.
    For example, at Buzz Lightyear, the whole line is accessible, but at the boarding area, walking guests make a 180 degree turn to get into their ride car. When guests who can’t board in the regular boarding area get there, they are directed straight ahead down a hallway to the exit to board.

    A lot of people report what they experience without understanding it.
    First example: my family includes a child using a wheelchair who has multiple disabilities and can’t walk. We were in the regular line at Mission Space, and after getting deeper into the building, we were right behind a person who was using an ECV. She started talking to us, then showed us her GAC and said we should get one for our DD because she had used it and “I got right into this line without waiting at all.”
    Well, so did we. The standby line we were in had a 10 minute posted wait and we basically walked right in.
    We saw the same woman multiple times at Epcot that day and at other parks during our trip. She made multiple comments to us about how glad she was to see we had gotten a GAC and how it was saving do much time. ONLY THING is – we had not used a GAC on any of those times. The standby waits were short and what she took as a short wait because of the GAC was just a short wait. PERIOD.

    Second example: I’ve seen threads where people posted they used a special door or line to get into a show (like Mickey’s Philharmagic , Tiki Birds, Monsters, Inc). They reported they went past other guests who were waiting and went to the front of the line. The parts they did not understand was that they were getting into the same show as those other guests and WHY they were waiting there (because there are limited numbers of wheelchair spots or limited numbers of guests with special needs allowed in at one time).
    So, again, they thought they had an advantage they really did not have and almost all of their posts about how the GAC gave them ‘Front of the Line’ access were things like that where their perception was not fact.

    Third example: I have seen people reports that they got into the ‘special line’ at Small World and because the line is shorter, they felt they did not wait as long as they would have otherwise. Well, that line may be less people, but our experience is that the wait is usually longer. In fact, on one of our last trips, my husband got in that line with DD while I was doing something else. I know when they got in line because he texted me. I was going to join them later, but that area was crowded and I could not get thru, so I got in the regular line. They ended up being loaded a few boats ahead of me (if I remember right, 3 boats). I had waited 20 minutes before boarding. They had already been in line 25 minutes before I got into line, so they waited a bit less than 25 minutes longer than me.

    Someone posted either here or the thread on the Theme Parks Board that they were asking at Jungle Cruise where to park the wheelchair and were directed to go into a wheelchair entrance, which bypassed part of the lines. How this ride works is that there is a parking area for wheelchairs and ECVs to the left of the regular line and boarding area. Guests who are able to walk in the line are usually ‘inserted’ back into the regular line at that point. They might think they got ahead, but there were guests who were moving ahead in line while they were waiting for the CM to instruct them, moving the wheelchair/ECV, etc, so by the time they actually get into the line, they will usually be close to where they would have been otherwise ( we know because we have watched). People like my DD, who can’t walk, don’t get on right away. We have to wait for the special wheelchair boat. Some wait in their wheelchair in the same area where we do, but don’t board right away on the next boat that comes.

    We usually are aware of what the wait in the standby line is and when there is a separate boarding area for users with disabilities, we often se people who were in line just ahead of us getting off while we are still waiting at the exit to board.
    People who have really been watching how their wait relates to the wait in the regular line often find their wait might be less about 25 % of the time, longer 25% of the time and the same 50%.

  • vbailey77

    I believe in equality 100%. I believe in making it possible for everyone to have the same opportunities. Which means if you are disabled, you are entitled to stand-by or fast-pass.

    Do the same people on ECVs or with invisible disabilities skip lines in other aspects of life? Of a disney vacation? No. I’d bet money the reason GACs ever came to existence for attractions, I’m guessing, is because ECVs cannot navigate certain queues. Not because someone cannot tolerate the sun or because another is impatient or doesn’t do well in lines. My father-in-law, following a face-marring surgery for his skin cancer, was told to avoid the sun. When we asked them if they’d like to go to WDW with us, his response was no because he knew he needed to avoid the sun. Life is unfair. We all get gypped out of things in life because of circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes these things are fixable. Sometimes they’re not. When they are fixable, they should be fixed with equality for ALL in mind. I’m sure plenty of minorities wish they’d have been born white in the good old USA…I’m sure there are plenty of kids born into poor families who would like to have the opportunities that we have. Yes, those of us who are SO familiar with Disney theme parks that we are discussing it on this blog. On our computers. Life’s not fair. And that really, really sucks sometimes.

    It sucks that we are not all 100% healthy. We need to see the situation from both sides, though. Fairness and equality are not just for the un-well.

  • LisaMarie McCarthy

    My family are regular users of the GAC. The first time we ever heard of it was on my daughter’s Make a Wish trip. Thank goodness for it! She is small and her wheelchair looks like a stroller, so we get the red wheelchair tag and the GAC and it makes a world of a difference. There are a few things I want to mention.

    Regarding “front of the line” for GACs, yes there are some rides that the handicapped access line kind of skips the regular line, like Peter Pan. It doesn’t mean we ride up in our wheelchair and get right on! A lot of rides are not like that. I’m thinking of Star Tours, where you have to walk what feels like a couple of miles behind the scenes, missing out on the fun preshow to instead see boring gray hallways. Sometimes it’s walk on for the standby line but it still takes me 20 minutes to get my wheelchair all the way through, up the tiny elevator and over to where I need to be. That’s losing time. For shows a lot of time the handicap seats are in the front or the back and have the worst views. Try getting into a packed bathroom with a wheelchair! We have to wait for the one stall that can accommodate us and that takes extra time. People don’t think of that, they just assume it’s great to get to the front of every ride. It’s physically exhausting to take my daughter to Disney World but it’s the one place where our daily lives disappear and her handicaps actually become “invisible” to her. For that I would wait on line twice!

    The last time we were at DW they changed some of the procedures (before they were enforcing the strict fastpass times). Normally at Splash Mountain you would take the wheelchair up through the back entrance because it doesn’t fit in the regular line. It’s pretty far to go all the way around to get there, it’s not like you just cut straight to the front of the line, you have to battle everyone coming out and go around all the steps and curbs, it takes time. The last time they wouldn’t let us go through that way, now you have to wait in the line. So we got a FP and went to Big Thunder instead. When we came back they still made us navigate through the teeny tiny line with her wheelchair ( it barely fit and it’s a KIDS chair) until we got to the stairs. Then we had to stand there and wait a long time before a CM came over and lead us… around the back. So much for a FP! I think in preparation for FP+ they are trying changes but some of them don’t make any sense, like this one.

    We were lucky enough to make to to Disneyland in 2011. They have no idea how to run their FP and GACs! I’m not kidding, the handicap / FP lines were 40-60 minutes. It would be much better if they gave GAC users a time to return, we would gladly do that if we could wait in the shade or AC, my daughter gets overheated very easily. Waiting 30 minutes outside in the blazing CA sun to get on It’s a Small World killed us that day and we almost had to leave the park. I don’t believe Disneyland has a handle on the situation at all. That is probably why they are rolling out FP+ in DW first.

  • LisaMarie McCarthy

    Also, when you get a GAC they stamp it with your individual needs and also the number in your party. But I believe they say it’s not supposed to be for more than 6 people. I highly doubt they would just hand one out for 20 people.

  • lovethattink

    In response to a previous poster,
    Skip, no. Live with disabilities day in and day out, yes. And yes, accommodations are made on a daily basis at home, school, church, grocery store, etc. Because of these accommodations he is able to participate in activitities that other children get to enjoy. These activities may be similar, but they are tailored for his special needs, such a buddy baseball instead of typical baseball. The GAC allows my son to spend some time at Disney and to go on some attractions that otherwise he would not be able to.

  • raeolight

    I really wish people would stop tearing down the author. I think he’s making a good point. He’s just throwing out an issue and wondering what will happen to alleviate those issues with the new systems going into place. I think people are being way too sensitive. There are indeed people you can just tell are abusing the system, not by how they appear physically but possibly in their attitude. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen those kind of people. It’s like when your in a store and you see kids using the electric wheelchairs that you know are not in need of them. I think the author is not putting down people that really need them but trying to defend legitimate users against those who are abusing the passes. Did you all ever think that the intent was to make your wait time shorter but b/c of the high amount of abuse those wait time have now been compromised to the long waits you now have to endure and are clamoring for the author to adjust? I for one haven’t run into this problem in WDW but it might not be as big of an issue there as it was in DL and we usually go in off season. However that’s what the author is curious about. Not insulting people. I do agree that documentation should be required from a physician and that way the stigma might be taken away. I would ask everyone to stop being so sensitive and nitpicky. I don’t see why it matters whether or not you get to go to the front of the line. If you need it than I doesn’t make me mad. You think he’s implying that the fast times are a bad thing. Don’t be upset with the author if that is not happening. I fear thou dost protest too much. Instead of belittling the author maybe focus on the problem and be furious at those people who are taking away your chance to enjoy your trip. And maybe coming up with a solution.

  • millie

    I have had a GAC for years at WDW. I can’t express how helpful it has been. My disability limits my walking, standing, or sitting too long. There was a time that I had to make a choice of using an elec. wheel chair or not going to the parks any longer. I love WDW & therefore use the wheel chair always. Some attractions have really long waiting periods. Without the GAC I couldn’t see the attraction nor could I wait for my husband to go & return. I understand the “privacy” act but my feeling is that getting a GAC is a privilege & also your choice. Disney should be able to ask for a doctors letter to prove a disability. If you don’t like that idea then you have the option of not getting a GAC. If I want a disabled cabin on a cruise ship, I have to prove my disability or I can’t have it. That is the way WDW should be. Anyone who is truly disabled and asking WDW for a favor (GAC) should & I’m sure would be willing to produce a doctors letter. It’s always the lazy idiots that want to cheat the system and cause problems for the people that really need it. Please don’t let this happen at WDW. We’re having enough problems with our government doing it. Fix the problem – don’t go around it & make everyone else suffer. We love WDW and truly thank them for caring about the disabled.

  • Jeff

    The fix is simple for some attractions, simply modify the standby line to accommodate ECVs and the like. When I rent a scooter, it’s not to bypass the line it’s to keep off my feet. So I almost feel like a criminal when I jump to the head of the line at Pirates of the Caribbean (and have to walk through the ugly smelly backstage area)…I’d rather wait in line but I can’t stay on my feet that long (and my brother’s heart operates at about 20% capacity after 2 heart attacks, so we’re both in the silent category). However waiting in line on an ECV is fine.
    One thing I’ve found upsetting is that the new Belle Cottage has NO capacity for the disabled…you can’t wait inline on your EVC and there’s no back-door (not that I want one)…so with the 2 hour wait we’ve seen since it’s opened, we have not been able to enjoy this new attraction.

  • Jeff

    As I was getting in the standby line on 12/30 for the Little Mermaid, a lady on an ECV went out of her way to tell me about the GAC (which I already knew about and didn’t feel I needed). I’m not sure why, because I don’t think GAC helps you at TLM? Maybe she recognized me from a previous trip?
    Nevertheless, the next day at DisHollywoodStudios, when I asked for a GAC, I was told that my ECV IS my GAC, so I didn’t need one…that was new, I’ve gotten them for my brother before who was on an ECV?!? Did that change recently?

  • DisneyDad

    As a father and husband of a GAC holder and a programmer I can see many possibilities for FastPass+ and GAC’s. In this post when I refer to a GAC I am referring to specific stamps that I won’t mention.
    First if the GAC were linked to the FP+ then Disney would be able to track when and where it is being used and then use that data to forecast line capacity. They would also be able to see who is abusing it and flag them for a conversation. During that conversation a cm could put eyes on the situation and take action if warranted. Similar to the abuse of FL resident passes.
    I would have to say having GAC holders booking FP’s would be a disaster of missed or multiple reschedules of an appointment. Sitting in First Aid, as we regularly find ourselves, do I rebook for 30 mins or an hour? Not where my focus needs to be right then.
    Second FP+ info also refers to booking parade and fireworks viewing. Depending on how this is set up, this could be a God send for disability viewing areas. No longer would I be separated from my family for hours and risk the wrath of my fellow park goers for holding a spot because of my families limitations.
    While there is a little bit of the big brother aspect, I think the new FP+ by itself would eliminate a lot of the abuse of the GAC system.

  • cmwade77

    DisneyDad, I think your scenario is the most likely outcome for this all; however, for Parades there are viewing areas that your family should be able to utilize.

    But it would make sense to link the GAC card to the wristbands, this could also potentially lead to the possibility of other types of assistance that aren’t currently available.

    So I think this article is wrong on many, many levels and really does need to be modified or taken down.

  • mrsksomeday

    “This isn’t about the merits of it, you don’t need to defend the GAC itself.”

    When you make the title of your article “Guest Assistance Cards Vs. FastPass+: Let the Battle Begin” people that use the GAC are going to feel like they have to defend the use of it because people state misinformation about it almost every day on the Disboards.

    People need to read and REREAD post #35 from SueM in MN. She states clearly and honestly what is happening with the GAC.

    The GAC is NOT a FOTL pass. At times CM’s make it a pass to enter the end of the Fastpass line. The CM’s need to be trained in how to deal with persons that have the GAC, how to handle situations such as people trying to use the GAC when the person the card was issued to is not going to ride the attraction, and how many people can be with the person with the name on the card since the number of people is clearly written on it. Training seems to be lacking in this or is not enforced.

  • Nicole Mancini

    mrsksomeday, I could not agree with you more. As I mentioned above, perhaps much of the abuse is due to lack of training and follow through on part of the cast members. They are the ones who are expected to follow protocol for GAC. If they are not using it correctly, of course people will take advantage of it.

  • SueM in MN

    There are times at attractions when the wait in the regular standby line is relatively short. The regular lines are often winding with lots of turns. An ECV or wheelchair in that line actually slows things down for the other guests when the line is otherwise moving quickly.
    In those cases, they do send more guests with wheelchairs and other special needs thru the Fastpass line.
    That happens quite often to us at Buzz Lightyear. We go to the regular line and are directed to go into the Fastpass line instead. Several times, we have had someone else with a wheelchair or other special needs ahead of us, who was saying how ‘nice it was to bypass the line.’
    Only, they did not look at the standby line posted wait – we did and knew it was less than 10 minutes, so it would really not matter that much which line we got into, our wait would be pretty much the same. But, it would matter to the guests in the regular line who would be slowed down as we negotiated each corner.

    That is the type of situation where it makes sense for CMs to direct certain people to the Fastpass line for ride efficiency. The problem is, they are not telling people that; they just do it.
    So, the people who were directed there think it was because of their GAC or wheelchair and expect to use that line for everything.
    They argue with CMs who won’t let them enter there and sometimes cause enough of a ruckus that the CM just gives up. I have seen posts on another website where one of the Moderators says that is the ‘handicapped access’ despite the instruction to “obtain a Fastpass or enter through the Mainstream queue” listed in the official WDW Guidemaps for guests with disabilities. You can get links to one for each park here, on the bottom right of the page:

    CMs explaining those things would help.

  • LMS2630

    I am completely supportive of those folks who truly need the GAC for accessibility to the rides, whatever their disability. But I do believe there should be a reasonable limit on how many in their group they are allowed to take with them on the ride/bus (saw 12 people use a GAC to get on Dinosaur via the FP line).

    Having said that, I have a friend who is a teacher and can only go to DW during school breaks (hence high crowd levels). She has bragged to me about how she gets a note from her school pyschologist friend before each trip explaning how her son has autism (he absolutely does not) and can not wait in lines (she too has said Disney never asks to see the note). She has done this on 3 trips and would do Disney no other way…she despises waiting in lines and is able to get everything done that she wants to without significant waits. She uses the GAC as a limitless FP and is clearly abusisng the system and has no remorse for her actions. People like this are the reason behind this blog.

  • lovethattink

    The number of people allowed to accompany the person with the GAC IS limited to 6. The number of people is handwritten on the GAC as plain as day. At the attraction a cm will ask how many. I have never seen them allow more than 6. In fact, I have seen cm suggest that people who had more than 6 split up in two or more groups to ride,separately with the GAC holder.

    I have to say, that what LMS2630′s friend has done is wrong and her friend’s admission of it shows abuse.

    It does bother me that several have suggested that abusers have a look to them and are so easily spotted. Uness a person is omniscient I don’t know how they could possibly tell unless they know the person first hand or have admitted to the abuse like LMS2630′s friend.

    Like SueM explained, perceptions are distorted. I think it’s sad that so many are inclined to write that there is a certain look, makes me shake my head in disgust.