guest assistance card walt disney worldIn the wake of this summer’s scandal over fraud in Disney’s program to make it easier for disabled visitors to enjoy the theme parks, disability communities are in an uproar in about speculation that Disney plans to end the Guest Assistance Pass.

This pass currently makes it possible for families needing special needs accommodations to access the Disney Parks with the help they need to have a successful Disney family vacation. Accommodations can include things like shorter lines, quieter waiting areas, and specific loading areas to wheelchair-ready cars.

This summer, however, news reporters working undercover showed that some families were hiring disabled guides so they could take advantage of the program, which led Disney to announce it would review the program.

Possible Changes to Disney Program for Disabled Visitors

The uproar appears to have started when a website called Mice Age, which is not affiliated with Disney, reported:

…the existing Guest Assistance Card will cease to exist on October 9th.”

Mice Age goes on to say:

In its place will be an entirely new program called the Disabled Assistance System (DAS). The DAS will work similarly to the “return passes” issued at popular rides like Star Tours 2.0 and Radiator Springs Racers, where currently a GAC holder gets a Fastpass-style return time hand written on a card based on the current Standby wait time.

Understandably, people took to the internet with their opinions. Petitions have been started and the blogosphere is ablaze with comments like this one from Special Needs Orange County:

Maybe the Disabled Assistance Pass will benefit some people, and for them, I say hooray. But for families like mine, where the special needs of our loved ones are varied and require specific accommodations, this new system will be nothing short of a nightmare.

And that’s going to leave a whole lot of folks – myself included – pretty damn grumpy with The Happiest Place on Earth.

Michey's Halloween Party at Disneyland CaliforniaDealing with Disabilities at Disney

With a Disney-loving son who uses a wheelchair, access and special needs accommodations at the Disney Parks are high on my radar so this story obviously caught my attention. Disney Parks spokespeople have not officially gone on record about any changes to the Guest Assistance Pass. Here’s the official response to our question about changes being made to the current Guest Assistance Pass:

Disney has long been at the forefront of making our parks accessible to all guests.  At this time, we are reviewing number of considerations and remain  committed to providing accommodations for guests with disabilities.

I understand this topic is near and dear to many of our hearts. Everyone wants to make sure that they or their loved ones are able to experience the magic of Disney. No one wants to see anyone be able to take advantage of the disability services at Disney either.

I personally have talked to many people at both Disney Parks about access issues we have had over the years and they listen. They really do want to get this right and make the magic of Disney accessible to everyone, but it’s a complicated issue with many special needs groups to consider. Let’s wait and see what is officially released before we pass any judgments on the new plan (if there even is one).

I volunteer to throw myself on the sword and go test out any new plans Disney Parks wants to put in place!