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Issues with Disney’s new GAC disability pass program

By now, you’ve likely heard about the alleged scam being run by some enterprising business-oriented folks who would use their disability to a tourist advantage by renting out their services — and ability to go straight to the front of the line — as a Disney tour guide to rich families.

It’s been a long common “trick”, where anyone with a wheelchair could go to the handicap entrance and board a ride at a Disney park immediately.  But due to those aforementioned business transactions, because of the actions of a few Disney had to make dramatic changes to their policies and procedures.

Walt Disney World with Disabilities
Walt Disney World with Disabilities

Web Watch won’t go into the details of how the former Guest Assistance Card has been replaced with a new program, but the main thing to note is that disabled guests no longer have carte blanche to go straight to the front of the line.  Now, they don’t have to wait in any lines at all… but they do have to wait the appropriate amount of time as if they had been in the line the entire time.

So what they have now is a glorified FastPass, which makes the entire system — logistically speaking — fairer for all.

As to whether it’s a reasonable compromise or not… well, that’s a different story.  Taking a look at the stories posted over at TRAGIC KINGDOM, you’ll see account after account of families with disabled children or other members all bemoaning the fact that “Disney has made it more difficult for us to enjoy the parks”.

We certainly agree with the sentiment, but there is a question of what obligations does Disney have to meet an individual’s medical needs?  The park and the attractions all are configured appropriately to accessibility standards.  But the brunt of the complaints all surround the “line waiting” aspect. Children who can’t wait in a line.  Adults who can’t stand for long periods of time.   Where does Disney’s obligation to their guests stop?

As one commenter on the Tragic Kingdom site says:

The GAC was NEVER a front of the line pass. It was an ALTERNATE ENTRANCE WHEN AVAILABLE PASS. We are not screaming and crying about not getting on rides more or faster. We are upset over the treatment of our community because it was abused publicly by so many others. WE are being punished with a system that DOES NOT WORK equally for everyone when the old system did.

Continuning to have the conversation with Disney and the disabled community together can make the new Assistance System better for all users. That’s part of the reason that TRAGIC KINGDOM exists.

What have your experiences been with seeing visitors “skip” to the front of the line?  How did that make you feel, or do you have your own experiences to share?