disney – a work in progress

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Ed note:

I am not a journalist, friends. I’m a mom with a blog. While I will do my best to make this accurate and concise, I’m sharing my, rather than reporting a, story.

Jess

Although changes to Disney’s Disability Policy had long been the subject of speculation, rumors about its imminent demise hit a fever pitch on September 17th when the website Mice Age reported that the Guest Assistance Card program would be terminated on October 9th, to be replaced by the Disabled Assistance System.

This is what they said.

As we’ve outlined for you before, after years of revolving door executives not wanting to get near the GAC issue, the rampant fraud inherent in the 10 year old GAC program was brought to an embarrassing light via an expose on The Today Show last May. Only then did the executives on both coasts admit that something finally had to be done, and the existing Guest Assistance Card will cease to exist on October 9th.

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.

And that’s when my inbox blew up. I waited as long as I could, but finally felt like I had to post something, so I wrote this.

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Followed by this …

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And then this happened.

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Followed by this …

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And then this …

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And then, finally, there was this …

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Followed by this, the very existence of which confounds me and the comments upon which really make me wonder about how people are choosing to use their time and energy …

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(Click on the photo to read the article)

And now here we are.

The conversation was, I believe, productive. While it was arguably largely PR, it was not remotely one-sided. The woman I spoke with is Suzi Brown, Disney’s Director of Media Relations and External Communications. Despite the fact that she is currently juggling fire, it was clear that she was unhurried. She took her time. She listened. She took notes, and she responded to each and every concern that I raised. So here goes.

This has been a PR nightmare for Disney. We all get that. They were completely unprepared to talk about the program when Mice Age reported the story. As we all know, this isn’t how Disney operates. When they roll something out, it’s well-coordinated and well-communicated. Disney is not a company accustomed to being caught on their heels. So they’re scrambling, and it shows.

Clearly, a change of this magnitude doesn’t pop up overnight. But while the new program has been in the works for months, the final procedural nuts and bolts of it were, and actually, to some degree, ARE, still not finalized. The cast-member trainers have yet to be trained. (That should be beginning by the time I publish this.) The details of the new program have yet to be internally communicated to staff. The written information isn’t ready for distribution. But here we all are asking our questions anyway. And, as I told Ms Brown, for those who have saved for years for a trip scheduled to begin on October 10th, the answers matter.

I’m going to start here: Disney gets it. They really do. And in my heart of hearts, I have to believe that they will really, truly try to make this work for our families. It’s Disney. They have long been a leader in accommodating those with differences. There’s a reason we all save our pennies to go there — because they make the effort to bring their special brand of magic to EVERYONE. I can’t, and don’t, believe that this is all just a big scheme to stop doing that.

The GAC cards aren’t just going away, they’re being replaced by a different program.

So why the relative silence from Disney so far? Well, mostly because the kinks are still being worked out and the details are not yet ready for prime time. There will be differences in implementation from park to park, and even from attraction to attraction, and they want to make sure that the procedures are communicated clearly to avoid confusion. Unfortunately, rampant speculation has filled the void, but if Disney comes out now with a half-baked communication, it will only exacerbate the confusion and our community’s attendant frustration.

While it appears that Mice Age has the broad strokes of the program right, not all of their details are accurate. Ms. Brown was not ready to go point by point, but urged our patience as all of the details will be released shortly, along with a series of answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

The company understands that the new program will present challenges for autistic guests and their families. They are keenly aware that our needs, and the accommodations that are subsequently necessary to allow our children access to the parks, can be very different from those with other types of disabilities. According to Ms. Brown, they have every intention of continuing to provide individualized assistance as it is needed, and stand by their unwavering commitment to make the parks accessible to ALL guests.

As an aside, but one that I think is necessary, much has been made over the past few days about Autism Speaks’s role in all of this. Ms. Brown was clear that they consulted with them, along with other advocacy groups, and sought their input on the new program. It’s no secret that I’ve had a number of issues with Autism Speaks in recent times, but this isn’t one of them. They were consulted, friends. They offered their suggestions and input. They did not design the program nor have a final say of any kind in how it would be shaped nor implemented. I’m happy to take aim at them when it’s deserved, but I can’t hold their feet to the fire for the way that an independent corporation ended up using — or not using — their feedback, as it were. Many of you have lamented the seemingly callous pull-quote from Matt Asner that “Change is difficult.” While I haven’t spoken to Mr. Asner, I can tell you from VERY recent experiences with the media (ya know, like yesterday), a single quote is almost never representative of a very long conversation and I am fairly certain that he had a LOT more than that to say.

Where Autism Speaks did have a great deal of impact, as I understand it, was in the creation of a guidebook for our families that will be available when the new program rolls out. According to Ms. Brown, the guide will contain extremely detailed information about each attraction, most notably assessing and describing them in terms of sensory impact, providing our families important insights that will be invaluable when planning our trips.

As for my part, I told her, as I said above, that I have a lot of trouble getting riled up about this. That I wish to God that we could get people as invested in Equal Employment Opportunities, Assisted Housing, and Education Reform as they are about a trip to the Magic Kingdom. But I also told her that I understand it, especially as it relates to those who have trips planned and have no idea whether or not those trips can still work for their families.

I told her that the parks are expensive. That families like ours save for years to make the pilgrimage, to give our kids the opportunity to enjoy something that so many of them feel so passionate about. That their willingness to accommodate our families has made them a coveted destination.

I told her that we are very grateful that they have led the way, as a shining example of a company willing to do the work to make true inclusion possible. And I told her that I was worried, because, from what I’ve heard about the new plan, I’m just not sure that we could ever make the trip work for our daughter the way we’d been able to in the past.

I explained that while it was wonderful that our children were being given the option of waiting away from the crowds that can be impossible for them to manage, that I was concerned about a number of other factors in the logistics of the plan.

I told her that walking my daughter up to a ride to get a ticket that will allow us to ride that ride LATER, would be tough. That explaining time to a child for whom it is nothing but a word would be tougher. That the conversation would likely go something like this:

Brooke, we’ll go on the Pooh ride in an hour, okay?

Okay.

Is it an hour now?

— Rinse and repeat for one hour. —

I told her that figuring out how to fill that hour would be extremely tricky. Do we go to see a character? Try to game the amount of time it will take to wait? What about when the characters take a break? And our kids are confused and on the brink of melting down because they don’t understand what’s happening and we’re trying to figure out whether to leave the line or wait because we’ve got to be back to the ride on which we can now go.

I told her that the biggest problem with all of that is that after two and a half repetitions of the process, there’s a good likelihood that we will have reached the threshold of anxiety and sensory onslaught that our kids can handle and we will have just paid some $600 as a family to ride two rides and then get the hell out of dodge.

I told her WHY waiting on lines is so hard. I explained that my daughter feels physically threatened when she’s jostled or even inadvertently touched on a line. That the perceived threat can send her into flight or fight mode. That she can lash out or run. That the sensory stimulation of the various noises, particularly children talking and crying in an enclosed space, often cause her to cry out and shriek and, when severely over her limit, hurt herself. I told her that while my first concern was always my child, it was clearly not an ideal situation for those around us either.

She got it. She already knew. But I needed her to hear it from me.

I asked her about the provision of proof of diagnoses as a way to avoid the fraud that has run so rampant through their system. She said, in no uncertain terms, that it’s not an option on the table. She explained that the ADA and HIPAA laws prevent them, not just from asking for documentation, but even from asking what disability one has. They can only ask what accommodations a guest needs. So as happy as we all may be to show paperwork, it’s simply not going to be the answer.

I told her that I’d promised an adult autistic friend (and huge Disney fan!) that I’d ask about the character lines. I explained that the characters are just as big, if not a bigger, draw for many of our kids (and adults!) than the rides. I explained that some of the lines for the characters are even tougher to navigate than the ones for the attractions, now that they’ve brought them inside in a number of places. I told her about our experiences in the past with cast members seeing us struggling on those lines and scurrying us to side doors or quiet places in which to wait. I told her that we, well, I, cried in gratitude when we were “saved” from a line that Brooke simply couldn’t handle, for a princess that she desperately wanted to see. I explained that it was experiences like those that had bought them my patience and faith throughout this process.

I told her that as much as this shouldn’t be as big as employment and education and housing, in its own way, it is. Because, really, at its heart, it’s about how we, as a society, treat our children. It’s about respecting difference and understanding that what’s fundamentally fair isn’t always fundamentally the same. It’s about Disney leading the way in corporate citizenship, helping us to educate others about the vast difference between entitlement and access. Hell, it’s about magic, and the fact that in this country, we cannot and will not allow magic to be available only to those who fit a certain mold.

There was more to the conversation, but this is threatening to turn into a book, so I’ll bring us back to where I started.

This was not the way this change was supposed to be rolled out. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you have to sympathize with Disney to realize that the rational response here is to wait until we have all the information about the plan, FROM THEM, before we use our limited time and energy ripping apart others’ speculation. The plan might suck, but it also might be a lot more accommodating than we think.

As for those who have claimed that our families are “being punished” because of the acts of the few who were unscrupulous, I’d ask you to take a deep breath. A guest assistance program at a set of amusement parks is taking a new shape. That’s what’s happening. It might take some time for them to get it right. It might take some hiccups to iron out the kinks. That’s never easy, and I feel for those whose kids might get caught in said kinks and hiccups, because I know — I know — what they feel like when you’re in them.

But I also know that Disney wants to get this right. That it’s not some draconian plot to sweep our kids out of the parks. And that they will not ignore a call from a panicked mom whose family is arriving on October 10th and wants to make sure that their trip won’t be a bust.

So if that describes you, here’s my advice — wait a few days. I know that’s a lot to ask. I’d be freaking out too. But wait. The information is being internally disseminated to Disney cast members as we speak. Let them digest it. And then call Guest Services and tell them exactly what your child’s challenges are and what accommodations are absolutely necessary in order to allow him or her to access the park. Ms Brown assured me that they would triage call backs and that those with upcoming trips would be prioritized.

But also? Don’t be afraid to listen to their plan. To work together to come up with solutions to any problems that arise. The GAC was great. In fact, it was trailblazing. But it’s not the ONLY way to make the magic work.

So, as for me, I’m going to wait and see. And trust that Disney will continue to welcome families like mine into their parks and their hearts. Because that’s what they’ve always done.

62 thoughts on “disney – a work in progress

  1. Jess, thank you for this thoughtful response. I knew I could count on you to be thorough and honest about the issues at hand. It’s always hard to know what to do when things change.

  2. Thank you, Jess. As always, you have represented our community with dignity and sincerity. I could not have chosen better words myself.

    I do agree that Disney will eventually come up with a good system, but we have still elected to cancel our upcoming trip. My daughter has been through enough in her short life. She doesn’t deserve to be a test case for this program. None of our kids does.

  3. I have never been to a Disney park because I can’t stand amusement parks in any way, shape, or form. Maybe I would have learned to love them if they had been accessible to me, but I never had a diagnosis so that station has been passed.

    But it seems to me that Disney is now getting punished for being one of the few amusement parks that went above and beyond what was required of them. And maybe the resistance against the new plan is because it sounds so similar to the plans that other parks have, with sometimes awful results because their staff don’t always know how the passes are supposed to work.

    So I think you’re being amazingly awesome for not only keeping an open mind and talking about the issue in a balanced way, but also for the hardcore advocacy you did with Disney and refusing to point fingers and howl along with the pack. You rock, lady.

  4. Thank you so much for being a voice of reason. Disney was so wonderful to our family and my non-verbal ASD daughter when we visited two years ago that I too have faith that they will try hard to get it right. I don’t know if we will ever be able to afford to go again, but I hope other families will continue to be able to experience Disney like we did.

  5. I am patiently waiting(well trying to at least), I too have been flooded with people sending me links and such on this, as if I didn’t already hear about it. My trip is in 30 days, and even though I do not have a SN child coming along I myself have some fairly severe physical limitations, and I’m not hearing hardly anything about how this is going to effect me(not speaking of you, just speaking of all the news in general). I know it might seem childish for me,as an adult,to be concerned for my own trip, but Disney is the only place I don’t feel “different” I feel normal(well as normal as I can be,lol)….It’s the only time of year I don’t think of my medical issues. I can just go there and relax, soak in the Disney. So,I am waiting with baited breath to hear Disney’s plan for all of us, the children and adults that need a little help, a little boast to see over the fence,as your picture above so well made the point. I don’t want to see the parade any better then anyone else, I just want to be able to see it the same.

  6. I can imagine that Disney has been caught on the back of their heels. I have to side a tinge with Disney in that they are trying to balance fraud with providing a totally viable service for families with disabilities. I LOVE that you were a voice in this. I don’t have children, but I’m so impacted by your unwavering, tireless advocacy…as I would do the same. I know it’s tiring, but I’m so grateful that there are parents who are willing to go THERE and take a stand. Good on your Jess and Luau. I got a bit teary when reading about the characters ushering you off because they could see the struggle happening in the line. That is just fabulous. I hope that there is a bridge that can be built and that is effective for those families who adore Disney and cherish the time there. xo

  7. I hope they get this right and I am trying to be reasonable about this but it is extremely difficult. my daughter is verbal and had Down syndrome but lines and loud noise are unmanageable. She cannot cope. We went last Christmas and the pass made it heaven on earth for us. it was literally the best and easiest vacation we have ever taken-no joke. i am a teacher so we can only go to Disney in the high peak times when the park is full. i sincerely hope they get it right. i am so angry at these people who decided to use our issues to their advantage. i don’t think they could last one day in our shoes. I’m not complaining, I’m just disappointed in people right now and their lack of compassion and goodness. i hope my state of mind changes

    • The new system really does sound like it will accommodate those with special needs, including autism spectrum and sensory processing disorders.

      Skipping to the front of ride lines isn’t an accommodation — it is a perk. A privilege. Simply because life can be very difficult for the family of a kid with disabilities (extra costs! Tons of therapy! A million medical appointments!)…. means the family should get extra-special treatment at a theme park to make up for it. Really???

      • The old system was not a skip to the front of the line, though it did typically make waits much shorter than they would normally be.

        But I take great issue with you calling accessibility a perk. A wheelchair ramp is not a perk, it’s a necessity in order for a wheelchair user to access a building (or, in this case, an attraction at a park).

        We live in a country that, thank God, prioritizes inclusion and access enough that we’ve had laws in place for years to ensure access to public buildings, including businesses, for differently abled people. For my kid, a shorter wait away from the crowd IS a wheelchair ramp. It’s the only way that she can ACCESS the park.

        If you still don’t understand why the lines and wait times are as challenging as they are (for her, us and those around us), then I’d ask you to please read the post that you’re commenting on.

      • .. and to be clear, provision of access has absolutely, positively NOTHING to do with “making up” for anything. It has to do with access. Period.

      • damn, “stan”. you got this one by me. i’m going to let it stand as i think it’s important for others to see, but please stop trolling here. it’s just not the place for it.

      • It is not a “perk”. Without it most could never even go to the park. It gives our kids a chance (!) at having a great day, when every other day is so damn hard. When walking down a hallway is sometimes impossible. It “makes up” for nothing, but it makes it accessible which it otherwise would not be. You obviously have NO idea what you are talking about so I’ll just stop there.

      • Are you just spouting off about perceived “perks”, or do you have actual experience with dealing with disabilities? You speak of the FAMILY getting the “perk” – based on your comment, you seem to have no experience or perception from the position of the actual disabled person – and not much empathy. How very sad for you.

  8. You are the voice of reason, Jess. That is as it should be here.
    I am so proud to be your Mother. I am, again, in awe of your multitude of capabilities.
    Love you,
    Mom

  9. We are arriving on Oct. 12 for our first Disney trip ever (I have a son with autism), so I am taking your advice and trying not to freak out. I just wish they would get on with it and issue a statement already. Thanks for the update; I’m glad to hear they really want to make this right.

  10. Oh thank goodness. A rational, well thought out response to the (leaked) changes. I actually became involved in a debate on Twitter (hangs head in shame) on this issue. Two well known advocates, one a parent and one autistic (and parent) were brutalizing Disney and stating the stories of abuse were exaggerated & overblown, therefore Disney was simply using them as an excuse to eliminate accommodations. There was no reasoning, just statements such as “well, Disney could ask for proof”(they can’t) and “they are not listening to us, they need to accommodate our every desire because!” Such a poor representation of the community. Disney is now evil. Ugh.
    Changes are in the way our community is perceived through collaborative effort, through discussion and yes, occasionally compromise. The big picture, and all that.
    Thanks, Jess. We will find out for ourselves how the changes will affect us in Dec.

  11. In news like this there is one thing that angers me, no one cares about lack of accessibility, that a disabled person can’t go to many places or that autistic people have to suffer with pain because of unecessary sensory input.

    Have you ever seen a news headline about lack of accessibility? Where is the outrage when we lack basic rights?

    For some reason people love to get angry at people faking disability, it’s major news and that makes me very angry.

  12. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to talk with Disney and then write about it, especially since you have 5,000 emails in your inbox (and my anxiety level rises when I have more than 4!). I wish we could all somehow chip in to buy you more hours in the day for everything you’re managing to do. If there is anything we can do to help, just name it.

  13. Hey, we were at disney world the last week of August, with my son who is 14 and has autism, with lots of challenging behaviours. Though the GAP program was still in place, they no longer allowed easier access to character greeting areas that were within buildings, as they had done in the recent past. They just stopped allowing it altogether. So my son did not meet face to face with any characters other than the ones at the two character meals we went to.

  14. I glad that I found your post about this. I think it is important for people to speak out, stand up and make sure that their voice is heard. I am happy to hear Disney is listening. One thing I do want to point out is that there are also serious concerns for others who live with disabilities. There are similar concerns and issues for people like my sister. She has been in a wheelchair for more than 30 years after being struck by a car when she was 5 years old. She suffered a serious brain injury…and lives with severe disabilities because of it. I think it is fair to say changes will also impact her experience… she is also impacted by long waits and noise….the changes have the potential to impact the experience of all people with special needs. The other factor for us is that is it no easy task to push a wheelchair around the park all day….especially for my parents who are in their 70’s. I know that Disney cares… they have always gone above and beyond to make sure my sister has the fully Disney experience. For my sister, her disability limits the rides she can go on and we hope that whatever changes are made they continue to allow my sister to enjoy Disney like she always has. I agree with you … Disney isn’t the “bad guy” here…. it really comes down to people abusing the system. Shame on them.

    I think there should be more tracking of who gets passes. We have no problem having pictures taken, registering for a pass for my sister so park officials can track who is using the passes. I welcome that…I my opinion that is the best way to track people who might be misusing it…but why change how pass users get on rides?

    • “One thing I do want to point out is that there are also serious concerns for others who live with disabilities.”

      absolutely. we did talk about the impact on the larger disability community, including medically fragile individuals and wheelchair users as well as others with physical disabilities, but the post was getting WAAAAY too long so i didn’t include that part of the conversation. Ms Brown actually said before i did that the wait times affected those with physical disabilities as well. as i understand it, the come back times on the cards, while ‘based’ on the current wait times for rides, are not the same as the wait times. they do shave off some of the wait. i hesitate to get into any of the specifics here though until they are released.

      thank you for raising an important point. autism is just one part of the wider disability community, which is a part of the communuty as a whole. we are all in this together.

  15. Are you aware that Disney is a HUGE corporate sponsor of Autism Speaks???? It is totally shady. My family raised $120,000 for them over the past 6 years and Matt’s quote is ridiculous. Anyone who has an autistic child knows that the “new” system will not work.

  16. As a mother of a disabled child this deeply worries me. Disney is the only place I can go with my son, because of his disabilities, and if this does not work… I don’t know what to do. I planned a trip in November, hoping that I could still help him, so I hope this trip won’t have to be canceled. I know my son, and if the new program does not help him, Disney won’t be an option unfortunately.

  17. Disney doesn’t get it. A fast pass system won’t work for our kids. It’s more than just the lines, it’s the time inside the park. My daughter can only tolerate 3-4 hours before she is just overwhelmed by sensory overload. In that time with the old system we could hit 6-8 rides and escape before a full blown melt down. She does a lot of self injury so it’s far more than just a tantrum. We have never been able to do a season pass as they have too many black out days. So we buy the single day tickets…so what we do on that day is all we get for that very expensive cost of entry. Under the new fast pass system, since they’ll only allow us to get one time for one ride at a time…we’ll be lucky to get in 2 rides in the same amount of time. Hardly worth the fortune we spent to go in. Why can’t they stagger the times for up to 6 rides, 1/2 hour apart then…so we can get in 6 in 3 hours….??

  18. Also…how does the DMV require a doctor’s signature and explanation of qualifying condition then when one applies for a disability placard/plate?? Can’t Disney do it the same way?? They don’t have to ask on the form for disability just ask that the doctor sign off on what accommodations his patient needs without specifying the disability….

      • I disagree with that. I have private insurance and go to a private Dr. The government should not have any more access then a private company does.

        “The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for individually identifiable health information held by covered entities and their business associates and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of health information needed for patient care and other important purposes. ” If an entity does not meet the definition of a covered entity or business associate, it does not have to comply with the HIPAA Rules. See definitions of “business associate” and “covered entity” at 45 CFR 160.103.

        A Covered Entity is one of the following:
        A Health Care Provider This includes providers such as:

        Doctors
        Clinics
        Psychologists
        Dentists
        Chiropractors
        Nursing Homes
        Pharmacies
        …but only if they transmit any information in an electronic form in connection with a transaction for which HHS has adopted a standard.

        A Health Plan
        This includes:

        Health insurance companies
        HMOs
        Company health plans
        Government programs that pay for health care, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the military and veterans health care programs

        A Health Care Clearinghouse
        This includes entities that process nonstandard health information they receive from another entity into a standard (i.e., standard electronic format or data content), or vice versa.

        The way I see this is that DMV is not covered under HIPPA and neither is Disney. The doctor can’t bill your Insurance Company or Credit card without you signing the release of informtion for such purposes as billing but you don’t sign a release of information for billing purposes at Disney so that your credit card can be charged. As the Individual or legal guardian of the individual I therefore have the right to go to the DMV and hand in a form signed by a doctor to get a placard and I have the right to hand in a medical form to Disney to provide proof of disability. HIPPA does not allow my insurance company to send information to Disney but it in no way stops the information from being given if the person allows it.

        Just stating this because I’ve always been puzzled by their policy.

      • I just read this on another forum and thought it applied
        “A handicapped license plate or hang-tag is considered “better than equal” accommodation — the user gets to park closer in spots that other non-disabled are not entitled to use. Therefore, proof of disability can be and is required.

        Most public locations do not offer, nor strive to offer, “better than equal” accommodations. The ADA allows for “equal” access, not better. The intent is not to provide a special privilege beyond what’s available to the general non-disabled public. Therefore, proof of disability cannot be required.”

        Then it sounds like Disney does have the right to request the verification. I think they wanted to take the simplest way out and I can’t blame them for that. It is sad that in Today’s society that no longer works.

        I do hope that those of you who have trips planned in the next few weeks have a smooth trip. My experience (before kids and/or before school age kids – over the last 42 years of going to Disney) is that October is a slow month so with a few exceptions the lines won’t be too bad. For my self I am utterly grateful that my son is requesting “Boatship” and we found a 5 day cruise over Christmas that will be cheaper then our previous annual 5 day Disney trip during a discount time (a few years ago when he was in pre-school and could pull him out of school). No not on a Disney ship. I had been looking forward to going for a weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas so he could see all the Christmas decorations but we will now put that off for a year or two until these new changes get the kinks out.

  19. Great article! As the parent of child with severe delays who has been to Disney many times I keep replying to all of the “sign this petition” type of Facebook posts and ask “what are we protesting?” Disney hasn’t even released a policy.

  20. Thank you for bringing attention to this. My child is on the spectrum, has sensory issues, severe anxiety and is legally blind. We spent a week in Disney this year and their prior program made the vacation wonderful. It was our 3rd trip there and I’ve always advocated to my friends about Disney being the one place we could easily go. It was heart breaking but not surprising to hear about the abuse going on. I always felt that Disney did want to make things right for the disabled community and I hope they can nail it. Thanks again.

  21. Jess, thank you for not only being the voice of reason while talking and more importantly LISTENING to Disney but for taking your precious time to do so. Some are still being so unreasonable. It is often more important to listen than to rant. Thanks also for the answer about why the DMV can ask these questions but Disney can’t. I find it unfortunate because it does open it up to abuse. When we used this system 10 years ago (it must have been at the beginning) I thought that it wasn’t advertised or well known so the abusers wouldn’t come out of the woodwork. It is so unfortunate that greedy people have to take advantage. Thanks for TRYING to get the word out about why this is necessary for our families.

  22. We arrive at WDW, from the UK, on Wednesday 9th October, first stop Magic Kingdom and I am worried sick about how my 18 year old severely autistic son is going to cope with the proposed changes after visiting 6 previous times and him knowing the park inside out!!

    I have emailed Guest Services with my concerns, wanting to try to offer some kind of explaination that I can give my son when we get a FP but can’t actually ride the attraction for another hour without the next 60 minutes being constantly asked what time is it??!!!

    I sincerely hope that WDW get back to me before 7th October so that I can have some information about the scheme and to allay my fears for a stressful holiday instead of the normally wonderful!!

  23. The thing that has me a bit skeptical and confused is that you’re right, Disney is typically MUCH more put together. So why were they caught on their heels LESS than a month from roll out? It would seem to me they should PUT OFF the new system until they’re not on their heels anymore. Or were they caught on their heels because they were hoping to just quietly put this in place with no one noticing? I don’t know. And I truly hope you’re right.

    I also hope this doesn’t come across as hateful or arrogant. But I’ve been burned one too many times with the wait & see thing.

    Furthermore, Disney has ALREADY been limiting our ability to experience the parks by not allowing us to use the GAC to see characters (depending on the cast member you run into & park). There was no special consideration or alternate fastpass like option given to people with disabilities. We had to “wait like the rest” to cuddle the characters. Did we complain about that? No…even though that’s the ONE thing my son loves to his toes and doesn’t exacerbate his anxiety which in turn exacerbates his seizures. We didn’t complain because, seriously, how could we? Disney had been so gracious in other ways. And we still saw a fair number of characters because we have to arrive when the parks open to get “the most out of our day”. No sleeping in for families like ours. We have meds to give, seizures to log and the heat of the day to race. We were able to enjoy characters because most people prefer to sleep in on their vacations. So, no, we didn’t complain…but it did give me pause.

    Just as this new system gives me pause.

    I hope to my toes that you’re right. I hope to my toes that Disney figures out something that works.

  24. I have great affection for people who can see the many sides of an issue and exercise patience–all the while maintaining the passion and conviction of an advocate. Consider yourself affected. 🙂

  25. Jess, I have a question/suggestion about Disney documenting diagnosis to reduce fraud. Could they not have TWO options for families with disabilities: A new system for parents who wish to keep their rights to privacy under the law and keep the GAP for parents who VOLUNTARILY opt to share their child’s medical info. Disney could easily keep the private info. in the hands of only authorized employees. While the law ensures privacy and does not allow Disney to ask for information, as parents we also have the right to choose to share the information.

    Anyone with an autistic child in a public school is already sharing this information in order to qualify for an IEP or 504. If public schools can mange keeping the information protected and private, I’m sure Disney could easily do the same.

    My 13-yr-old son has Asperger’s and we were annual pass holders when we lived in CA. Even with the GAP, there were so many times we rode only a few rides and then had to go home because of meltdowns.

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