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December 11, 2013


Maybe a "like" button for your blog? I don't like having to comment. Thanks for sharing your experience :)


Your son was not entitled to "rock star" perks at Disney --- how he is treated outside the park is irrelevant.

It really does sound like new DAS provided the accommodations folks with disabilities are entitled to under the ADA, but without the rock star-like perks that were often (and unjustly) granted with the GAC.


I'd gladly wait in line an EXTRA 15 minutes if it meant someone like Alex got to feel like a rock star for just one day. :)

Joan Byron

i see the mentality that handicapped children are freaks that should be kept behind closed doors, Every child should have the opportunity to feel like a rock star! I have a grandson who is in the autism spectrum and he still would have trouble working with those limitations.
I wish that he could go to Disneyland!


Sigh, as soon as I read that rock star statement, I knew someone would jump on it. That's a feeling, and it's great. But for most people with disabilities, a day at the park is 10 times more exhausting and difficult compared to non-disabled families.

My son loves Disney, but couldn't do a whole day, and can't wait in lines. We got there early, planned like crazy, but with autism (in our case), you can be rushing to get to a return time (or a dining reservation, which had no GAC system) and a stubbed toe or a jostled elbow or even a shiny object can cause a 30 minute delay. Then explain to your ASD kid that you can't ride the ride you were going to (even though you warned him of this 20 times during the meltdown).

I found out about the GAC when I was morosely looking at Disney web sites, sure I'd never be able to share Disney with either of my kids because it would be impossible for my son to handle. I cried when I learned about the GAC and we've gone to WDW every year since. Every day at Disney we consider about 50 things that we never had to consider the one time I went alone with my non-disabled daughter. She had a great time with no GAC, because we COULD plan, we could change the plan, and we could juggle our options to make a day at Disney work.

My son's disability is not visible most of the time, so for us it's not about how he's treated outside the park. But he has felt profoundly welcomed and understood there, and so have we, even during times when his behavior was really bad (ask me about the time I had to take him to first aid during a meltdown because his clothes got wet, where he tried to spit on a CM who tried to talk to him). I've done restraint holds by the bathroom by Tomorrowland Terrace, while being headbutted in the chest over and over. It feels like a "rock star" to the kid every once in a while, but it was a profound message to our family that we were understood and welcomed.

We're going back this February, to encounter the new system for the first time. Happily, my son's hard work in ABA has gotten him to a point that I don't worry that a meltdown will be violent anymore, and he now knows how to self-advocate, and tell us when he needs a break. Will he be able to spend as much time in a park as his NT twin? Not a chance. He'll still probably last 2-4 hours max. (I wish they had a low sensory break environment somewhere so we didn't have leave the entire park to get a break.)

I know there is no way to explain how different things are when there's a disability in play, but I hope they can at least try to imagine a life where these things don't make Disney better, they make it possible.


@mamacate: What I really don't get is why on earth anybody would take a kid with autism -- a disorder that makes it difficult/unpleasant to deal with loud noises, bright lights, crowds and long lines -- to Disneyland, the loudest, most crowded, longest lined place on earth.

Kristi Rowe

Wow Cariee, what an incredibly insensitive remark. So it's ok for neurotypical kids to have boy/girl scouts, play on sports teams, be cheerleaders, in the band, choir, have friends, go to prom, have boyfriends and girlfriends, get married, have children, buy a house, hold a job and every other 'normal' thing in life….and our children who don't have a friend in the world, are excluded from every 'normal' kid participation activity are not supposed to have ONE thing that makes them feel like a "rock star"? The rest of their life is COMPLETELY relevant to the Mom's and Dad's who live their lives broken hearted for their childs exclusion in the "real world" but are totally included and accommodated in this one location. I know MANY parents of handicapped children who ONLY vacation in Disney because this was the only place that worked with their disabilities. Why don't we just take THAT away too!!! I don't know why I both responding to someone who is not compassionate.

Rob Gross

I'm sorry that you have to see the insensitive remarks posted on your own blog. I'd also gladly wait a bit longer for a disabled person to have a special day. It's sad that Disney couldn't find a better way to modify the system.


@Carlee You ignorant snob! Autism is a spectrum disorder, and as such every child is different. Some children with autism crave vestibular movement, and going to a place like Disney is the chance to experience the ultimate sensory feedback. You cannot imagine what it is like trying to give your child that ultimate experience when the system is set up in a manner that causes major stress on them.

Jan Bischak

The GAC was
not broken. The unethical behaviors of people like Carlee took it away. People who are dishonest and take advantage of disabled people cheated and Disney is punishing the disabled to please those like Carlee who have no sense of right/wrong. To not have to wait in a line due to disabling reasons is a right under the ADA. Just as much of a right as the creation of desegregated schools. Carlee and many others have no understanding of civil rights and can't understand they are being discriminatory. Life has a funny way of coming full circle. Some day Carlee will experience the same discrimination she supports. Regardless of law it is the right thing to do. To make a person who has suffering in life feel good about life if only for one day.

Moriah Bettencourt

Carlee, please hear me loud & clear: you are off base here. I'm speaking of the feeling Alex was given by being made to feel special, not weird. Just so you're clear in the past year my child went completely blind & was paralyzed on an operating table during 1 of 2 spinal surgeries so you saying he doesn't deserve to feel special makes you a horrible human. Do you ahve any idea how hard this year has been for him, how much he had to struggle to overcome all if that? He's a boy that was born with CHARGE Syndrome, he's had over 40 surgeries & struggles everyday to do the very things you take for granted. He loves Disneyland more than anything, he asks everyday to know when he gets to go again, we rarely travel anywhere but there because making Alex happy is the best feeling in the world. For you to say anything negative about my son on my blog is rude & insensitive. If you have further comments grow some backbone & leave your email address so I can contact you directly.


To be fair, Carlee wasn't saying that your child does not have disabilities, does not love Disneyland, or that things aren't more difficult for him... She mainly pointed out that the system can be abused by people without disabilities and even by families with people with disabilities. I'm not siding with her by any means. You're right about this being a special experience for him and many children with special needs. I think she's pointing out that most kids want to feel like "rock stars". I work with special needs kids and I'm all about inclusion. Yes, I do point out and consider how things are harder for special needs kids but I am quite aware how life is also very difficult for many children. Whether they struggle with emotional needs, abuse, sensory disorders.. What about the young girl who has lost her mom (either through death or divorce etc..) and her dad decides to take her to disneyland to get a break from the hardship but she still has to wait in line for 2 hours just to feel like a princess for a day? Or the plethora of children who have undiagnosed issues... Hopefully we can teach our children, with or without special needs, that waiting (even for a little bit) and giving up our space in line for another is the most magical gift we can give rather than how many rides we can go on.


@Moriah, I agree that CMs don't all seem to be on the same page regarding how to enforce use of the DAS, and with such a big change, consistency is key to making it work. I don't doubt for a second that your family's life is much more difficult than my life. But outside of receiving necessary accommodations for your son's needs, that should make no difference inside the park. It's no more important for him to feel like a "rock star" than it is or my non-disabled child.

@Kristi, the same goes for your tirade. The fact that my child is able to do scouting, sports, etc., doesn't mean that she doesn't deserve to have a good time at Disney. And when the waits were made much longer because of the unfettered Fast Pass nature of the GAC, it negatively impacted everyone in the park, except for the people that were using the GAC.

@Jan, the fact that you found a 20 year old letter on the internet expressing the opinion of one person in no way means that "To not have to wait in a line due to disabling reasons is a right under the ADA." There has been no such legal ruling. The system Disney uses now is just like the system used at theme parks all over the country - if it were illegal under the ADA, don't you think it would have been ruled so by now? Not to mention the fact that Disney is not making you wait in a long line - you wait outside the line, and can do other things while you wait, unlike everyone else that is actually standing in the line. This system, while necessary for disabled guests, still offers privileges that others in the park don't receive.

The bottom line is that everyone should have to wait their turn, disabled or not. Not in the line, if they can't handle lines, but wait nonetheless.


Also, some of the changes that I think might make the DAS easier to use...

...Provide iPads to all ride CMs, and allow guests to get a return time for any ride at any ride. That would cut down significantly on the running around to get return times.

...Allow two return times at a time, but each must be based on the posted wait time (minus 15 minutes) in effect at the time the DAS is marked by the CM, and the second wait time would only start after the return time of the first ride. So, if it's noon, and you want to ride Splash Mountain (wait time of 60 minutes) and Big Thunder Mountain (wait time 60 minutes), you would have a return time of 12:45 for Splash Mountain and 1:30 for Big Thunder Mountain.

Changes that should be made that the disabled wouldn't like...

...Disney should stop giving out the additional FastPasses. Handing those out to DAS holders not only provides the incentive for the same abuse as the GAC, it is essentially giving privileged access to people that already have the advantage of being able to ride one attraction while waiting for another using the DAS. My child would like to ride Space Mountain over and over without waiting, but that's not how it does (or should) work.

...Limit the number of people that can ride with the DAS to four rather than six.

...For families with multiple DAS holders, the entire party should not be able to use both DAS cards at the same time, as that essentially doubles the rides they are waiting for simultaneously.


@Carlee - Maybe you are right, Alex is not entitled to Rock Star status. What you do not understand is children like Alex get that treatment everyday. They get stared at, pointed at, talked about right in front of their face, can't go anywhere without knowing they will be recognized and be the topic of conversations between insensitive people.

I would trade waiting in lines, hours at a time with a healthy child over qualifying for the DAS policy any day of the week. I am refraining from saying what I want to say. Until you walk a mile in Moriah's shoes, or any parent of special needs child you may want to consider keeping your comments to yourself.


@Dave, I disagree that only people with special needs children should be permitted to comment, especially when it comes to something that impacts everyone.

I don't know of anyone, not a single person, that doesn't believe that reasonable accommodations should be made for people with special needs. The issue comes up with what is reasonable?

I'm of the opinion that it is absolutely reasonable to provide a way for a disabled person to wait outside the line.

But I don't believe it is reasonable to allow that same person to have perpetual Fast Pass access to all rides, as was the case with GAC.

I don't believe it's reasonable to allow a child to ride a ride over and over, with little to no wait, when other children are waiting in long lines to ride just once.

I don't believe it's reasonable to expect to do as many or more rides in 3 or 4 hours than a typical family can a full day.

The GAC went over the line from accommodation to privileged access, and as such, it had an increasingly negative impact on everyone in the park that didn't have a GAC. It made Fast Pass lines longer, which in turn made standby lines longer. Something had to be done.

Moriah Bettencourt

@Betsy, actually the GAC didn't work like that either. It clearly stated that you were not allowed to access the ride over & over, you were supposed to wait the length of the line in between rides. We always abided by that because we are not rude people. For the high interest rides that had super long rides they would write on the back your ride time sometimes.musually for our family we go in off peak times & during the week because crowds make things harder for Alex in several ways.

The biggest difference for us between the GAC & the DAS is the inability to change plans. I'm going to write a follow up blog to explain because I think people have completely misunderstood what I meant by rockstar treatment. Never & I mean never did the lines part & we get immediate access to any ride there was always some waiting. I'm totally fine with the waiting in The new system I would just prefer that we be able to bob & weave to help Alex cope with it. I know Dave, he's awesome, I think Carlee's comments were really hurtful to people like myself with these kids that have profound needs when they act like we're out there with all these perks.

Moriah Bettencourt

Oops sorry iPad typing isn't my best typing lol. What I was trying to say is that we go during off peak/less crowded times so riding a lot of rides in a day is easy for anyone to do. Last Tuesday we rode the Matterhorn twice in a row because it was practically walk on 1st thing in the morning, no DAS required when I'm with enough people to insulate Alex from other people.


@Moriah, I'm not doubting you for a second when you say didn't abuse the GAC,and that you used it as it was intended. Unfortunately, you were in the minority. And in your own post, you stated that you could walk up to any ride and access it without the huge line. If you look at any number of blogs and sites where people are complaining about losing the GAC,the cry, over and over is "My child can't wait, and the GAC let us get right into the Fast Pass line, and bypass the hour long wait" and "My child NEEDS to ride a ride over and over, and he (or she) can't wait for return times between rides".

I understand the need to change plans quickly,and that's why I think that a CM at every ride should be able to mark off an unused time for any ride, and issue a new time for any ride. Going all over the place to get ride times would be maddening to me.


@Betsy - I agree that anyone can post a comment, it is the uneducated comments that are ridiculous. I have a typically developing son and a special needs daughter who is 14 and functions at the level of a 1-2 year old. She cannot talk and communicates by screaming and laughing. She will scream if she has to stay in the same place for a long period of time. She enjoys movement and will remain happy when in motion. She is also in diapers and needs to be spoon fed every meal.

We, did not abuse the system. If my son wanted to go on a ride that his sister could not, we would wait in line like everyone else. You mention we could go in the same amount of rides in 3-4 hours that it takes most families all day to ride. Did it occur to you that the window of opportunity in the park with a disabled child may only be 3-4 hours before that child becomes exhausted, irritable and unable to cope with the overstimulation by all of the sensory input. There are children who need the system that was in place and was removed due to the abuse by people who did not need the access that was intended with the pass. I can't tell you how many times we would run into the family of 12 who brought their grandmother in order to get the pass. Or the group with a wheel chair that each member took turns sitting in going from ride to ride. What you may not know is that due to this abuse, the wait for those with a GAC was sometimes just as long as the regular line due to all the people abusing the system. The line with the GAC at Pirates of the Carribean took 40 minutes one time when the regular line was only 25. We wait in this line so we can keep walking with my daughter in order to keep her happy.

You are picking an argument with the minority who did not abuse the pass. I know Moriah and Alex and they cherish their trips to Disneyland as did my family until the new system was activated. I would gladly wait in any line for any length of time with a typically developing child then have the privilege to surpass the line with a disabled child. This was a nice accommodation that made our trip more manageable. We never went on a ride more than once in a row unless there was nobody standing in line and they offered it to us. There are not too many vacation spots that are fun for my entire family due to my daughter's disability but Disneyland is one of them.

The GAC did not go over the line for families who needed the pass. People went over the line by abusing a system that was not meant for them. We all know the tour guide stories. Do you also feel disabled parking placards are "over the line?" So my family didn't have to wait in lines at Disneyland, shame on me. My family also cannot go to dinner all together, fly on an airplane, take a train, go on a boat ride, go camping, attend sporting events or many other things that a family with typically developing children can do. I do not know you or your situation but I'll venture to guess the everyday things you take for granted are the things I wish I could do with my entire family.


@Dave, I'm sorry you feel that because someone disagrees with you, that means they are picking a fight.

Regardless of why a family can only stay in the park for 3-4 hours, they should only be able to do 3-4 hours worth of rides. When our kids were small, we could only stay in the park for 3-4 hours at a time. Should I have demanded expedited access to rides because of that? Of course not - I knew going in what we could do, and if we didn't feel the trip was worth it, we didn't go, period.

And I disagree that the GAC didn't go over the line - providing unlimited, expedited access to any ride, all day long is way above a reasonable accommodation, in my opinion,and apparently in Disney's opinion as well. What you seem to not realize, or perhaps, not care about, is that your unlimited, expedited access negatively impacted every other person that was waiting in the standby lines.

And no, I have no issue with handicapped parking spots - they provide a reasonable accommodation. A valid comparison to the GAC would be if 50% of the spots in a lot were handicapped, keeping other people from being able to park.


@Betsy -

Funny how other people replying to this post show compassion and understanding for the hardships families with disabilities face and had no problem with the GAC. The GAC had a negative impact on "every other person waiting in line." I remember going to Disneyland before Jillian was born and seeing people with a disabled child skip the line. As I watched them lift their child from his wheel chair and place him on the ride the only impact it had on me was how fortunate that family was to have that accommodation. I had no problem standing in line an extra couple of minutes for that family. I prayed that I would never have to be in their shoes.

Anyone who feels that GAC was unfair is shallow, selfish and insensitive. What you are not comprehending is anyone who needs the pass would give it up in a heartbeat to have their child be healthy enough to wait in line. You act like we are privileged to have the pass, you do not realize the costs involved for the families who NEED the pass.

I like your point about when your kids were small. You are correct you should not ask for a pass for that reason, that would be abusing the system. The fortunate thing for you is that your kids can grow out of being "small." Unfortunately, the majority of people with a disability never grow out of it. Disney tried to make the trip worth it for disabled individuals with the GAC system so families like mine could go.

"As far as picking a fight" I completely agree with every single one of your points if you direct them to the people who abuse the system, not the ones who actually need it - There is a difference.

You are wrong regarding Disney's opinion. Due to the unfortunate ABUSE of the GAC system by people who did not need it (the tour guides especially), they were forced to make a change. Your disabled parking pass comparison is off base as well because 50% of visitors to Disney do not have a pass. I would hate to hear your opinion on the "Make a Wish Foundation." You were probably outraged at the "Batkid" story.

I apologize if my family ever caused you and your children to wait an additional 2 minutes for a ride. Next time you are in line and are waiting for a disabled child to get on the ride you may want to take that time to realize how fortunate you are to be standing in the line you are in.


@Dave, you need to do some research on why Disney discontinued the GAC. The primary reason wasn't because of the tour guide issue - it was because too many people were using it, period. There is no way to manage the lines, especially the Fast Pass lines, when literally thousands of people are roaming the parks, entering the Fast Pass lines with a GAC whenever they want to. That's what was wrong with the GAC - unfettered access for the disabled at the expense of everyone else.

As for Make a Wish, I'm a regular donor, and I'm very happy that Disney didn't change their policy with regards to children on Wish trips.

Finally, if it were a matter of only being held up a few minutes, it wouldn't be a big deal. But it isn't. Over the course of full day, it added up to hours of additional wait time for non-GAC holders. You're insisting that I should be concerned with your experience in the park, but you couldn't care less about mine. And before you say it, no, what your life is like outside the park should have zero bearing on what you experience inside the park. Your ASD child is no more entitled to enjoy Disney than my neuro-typical child.

It's a shame that you choose to resort to name calling and disparaging my character simply because we disagree. I have in no way been disrespectful during this discussion, to you or to anyone else.

I made suggestions about a few things that I think would make the DAS easier for families to use, but it's obvious that nothing short of the GAC will satisfy you. Fortunately, I'm confident that Disney will not buckle to the demands of a few at the expense of the many.



I am convinced you will never understand the difference between people who need the pass and people who abuse the pass. My daughter does not have Autism, she has a rare genetic disorder diagnosed to less than 500 people world wide. I will not waste another minute of my life responding to your posts because you only pic parts of mine to comment about.
You were jealous that children with special needs got services your neuro-typical child did not. You are the only person I have ever met or will ever meet who is jealous of a situation like mine. Be careful what you wish for.
Happy holidays Betsy and enjoy watching your neuro-typical open gifts Christmas morning, something I will never experience with Jillian.


@Dave, no I'm not now nor have I ever been jealous about this.

Since it's obvious that unlike Moriah, you are completely incapable of discussing this without resorting to personal attacks, there is really no point to me interacting with you further. I wish the best for your daughter and your family.


@kristi: Rather a lot of people with disabilities participate in extracurricular activities, have friends, go to the prom, get married, etc -- and the purpose if the GAC/DAS is not intended as compensation for "missing out" on fun.

As I have stated, I have absolutely no problem with providing accommodations to allow people with disabilities to enjoy Disney parks -- but do object to PREFERRENTIAL treatment. While you may not have received front of the line access, a ton of other peoples kids have: google autism mommy bloggers Jo Ashline, Leigh Merriday, Shannon des Rochas.

On average, a neurotypical person at Disney does about 1 ride per 1 hour -- so it is straight-up PREFERRENTIAL treatment to insist that one's disabled child is neu g discriminated against for "only" getting to ride 4 rides in 4 hrs (just like everybody else! It's fair!). Demanding more rides per hour on the theory that a disabled person is unlikely to to spend a full day at the park either -- families with neurotypical toddlers don't last more than 3-4 hrs either.

Why should a disabled person get a BETTER Disney experience?


Carlee, everyone with disabilities will NOT be able to do go to prom or get married. I know that my child never will. So that's false.

With my child, I truly don't know if the new system would work. Because of the severe physical disability, there's very few rides that we can do. I am not going to spend a lot of money to go to Disney World and "maybe" they can work with them. This is what I was told by Disney World guess relations. Maybe.

Have you read some of these stories from families? They are shocking and heartbreaking. The stories of rude and uncaring Cast Members not knowing how to handle this new program.

I don't know what your problem is against people with disabilities. But it's clear to me that you have one. Too many people complain about our kids who will NEVER get the experience your typical child will. And that's sad.


@Evowoman88, Carlee never said that everyone with disabilities would go to prom or get married,so you accusation is false.

What is your problem with waiting your turn, provided that you don't have to wait in the actual line? Why should your child have a shorter wait time than my child?

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