Autism, Disney's FastPass+ and the Guest Assistance Card: What Will the Future Hold?
Sunday, March 3, 2013
the future of the Guest Assistance Card
have been swirling on Disney discussion forums and blogs for the past year and
have reached a feverous pitch since Tom Skaggs announced plans for the FastPass+ ticket this past January. As
you may or may not have heard, FastPass+ will be a "NextGen" system
that allows guests staying at a WDW resort to reserve multiple ride and show times in
advance of their visit, instead of having to collect individual FastPass paper
tickets on the day of their visit. Visitors will make their reservations via
Disney World's new My Disney Experience
website and mobile app, using a process that Disney calls MyMagic+.
I have been
anxious to discover how this will affect families like ours who have relied on
the Guest Assistance Card to make our Disney vacations do-able. As I’ve noted many times, the GAC has been a
true lifesaver for our family, helping my son with autism to negotiate the
theme parks despite his numerous sensory and communication difficulties. In
fact, I honestly doubt that our family could manage Billy’s autism symptoms
while at Walt Disney World without the accommodation provided by the GAC.
there are reports that abuse of the GAC has reached epidemic proportions at
Walt Disney World. Unscrupulous members of the public have caught on to the
fact that Cast Members cannot legally question whether or not a guest has a
disability, making it an easy system to exploit.
take the growing concern on the part of Disney regarding abuse of the GAC and
add it to speculations that MagicBand GAC uses will be limited to once a day
per attraction, or once every allotted amount of time, you end up with one very
nervous Disney-loving spectrum mom!
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.
a family member of a legitimate GAC user, I am concerned by this. I consider
the accommodations that Disney has made for my son to be a privilege and not a
right and I appreciate the difficulty that Cast Members face when attempting to
distribute the GAC fairly.
FastPass+/MagicBand thing has me nervous. Our next WDW vacation is in June and
I do not like planning our trip with such a huge unknown variable looming on
the horizon. So, I decided to go
straight to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and ask the experts. I posted this
question to the Walt Disney World Moms
many years we have used a Guest Assistance Card at WDW so that our son with
autism can better tolerate his sensory issues while in the theme parks. Our
next trip is in June. How will the GAC work with the new MagicBand technology?
an upbeat, albeit vague, reply from Angelo (a Moms Panel Dad):
the Guest Assurance Card (GAC) on a few of our visits, I know how worthwhile it
is for those people who truly require it. As of right now, the use of the card
is the same as in the past. The MagicBand technology has not been rolled out
100% just yet and is still in testing. I do not see any major changes to the
GAC for you or your son with the technology before your trip in June. Thank
you, Kathleen for your question! Maybe we'll see you in June! We'll be there
the second week! Have a magical day!
Angelo; I appreciate your prompt reply. Honestly, though, I think I’ll have a
much more magical day when reliable information becomes available about FastPass+
and the Guest Assistance Card. I have a feeling that it will make or break our
future Disney vacations.
The Many Adventures of a Disney-Lovin’ Spectrum Mom is not affiliated with, authorized or endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with, The Walt Disney Company or Disney Enterprises, Inc., or any of their affiliates. All trademarks, service marks, and trade names are proprietary to Disney Enterprises, Inc., its subsidiary, affiliated and related companies, as the case may be. For the official Disney website, visit disneyparks.disney.go.com