Friday, May 27, 2011

Using a Guest Assistance Card

Re-imagined last year, guests with GACs use
the ramp on the right to access It's a Small World.

On my trip last weekend, I met up with a friend who uses a Guest Assistance Card, or GAC, in the parks.  A GAC is a pass that allows visitors to bypass longer lines for some rides due to a disability. It's not a "front of the line" pass, but it does allow you to enter most fastpass lines if that attraction has one and provides alternative entrances for those that do not.  Any number of disabilities qualify for a GAC.  For example, parents often get them for children on the autism spectrum as long lines can be overwhelming.  Individuals with crowd phobias or anxiety may also benefit.  People with physical disabilities that keep them from standing for long periods of time use them as well.  If you or someone in your party has a disability, simply go to Guest Relations as you enter the park and request one. 

To get a GAC, you'll need to briefly explain why you need one. If you're getting one for a child, that child will need to be present.  Disney is not obtrusive and will not pry; they make getting the pass as easy and painless as possible, however, due to the potential for abuse, you'll be asked a few questions about your needs.   You don't need a doctor's note to get a GAC, but it can make getting one easier, particularly if you have a hidden disability.  Your note does not have to specify what your disability is.   It can simply explain your limitations and why you need the CAC.

Most people get GACs for the duration of their trip.  My friend is an annual passholder and a local, so she gets her pass for three months at a time.  In her case, it covers up to four people in her party (the number of people in her family), but in general a GAC is good for the holder and up to five additional people.  This allows groups to enjoy the attractions together.

We used my friend's GAC twice, once to enter Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios and once for Peter Pan in the Magic Kingdom.   Both times, we entered the fastpass line and waited around ten minutes.  The cast members treated the GAC like a fastpass, taking about the same amount of time to read it as they do a fastpass.  I know that some guests feel uncomfortable about using a GAC or worry that those in the standy line will resent them for "bypassing" longer lines; don't think this way.  I didn't feel uncomfortable or like we stood out in the least.  And if someone is petty enough to begrudge an individual with a disability a shorter line, well, I would suggest that that type of person isn't worth worrying about in the first place.

I'm glad I had an opportunity to try this out with a friend because I find it helps to experience things before I write about it or explain how it works. I often have clients ask about getting a GAC or worse, those who don't know they can get one at all.  If you need help, please don't hesitate to get a GAC. Disney employees are very sensitive to guest needs and this is one area where they really shine.  You deserve to have the same access as everyone else.

14 comments:

Cheryl said...

Thank you for this post! We debated getting a GAC for our son on our first family trip when he was 4 and didn't. He is now 6 and we are returning for our second family trip in October and have been debating it again. He is on the autism spectrum and has sensory issues and anxiety. He has a hard time in crowds and when overstimulated. While we did pretty good using FP's and child swap passes (the other kids were 2 and 1 at the time), along with keeping him well rested and on his normal schedule, he did have some issues when we needed to wait more than 20 minutes. We also got a lot of stares and sometimes glares when he would start flapping his arms or vocalizing. Our main reason for not getting it last time was feeling guilty that we might not really need it, but after reading your post I think we will go ahead and get it this time. Thanks!

Kendra said...

Just returned from Disney World last night after a week. We used a GAC for my 10 year old son who has mild cerebral palsy that affects his ability to stand or walk any length of time. And although he normally does not need one, we opted to bring a wheelchair from home in case he needed it. I'm so glad we brought the chair and that we found out about the pass (albeit not until our second day in the parks). It was an absolute godsend. He would have been completely miserable and in turn so would the rest of the family.

The fast pass entrances are regularly used and most people are none the wiser that you aren't "fast passing", but instead using a GAC. This relieved a lot of anxiety for me as I prefer not to get a benefit that isn't available to the general population just because of a disability. At any rate, it was a blessing for our entire family and especially my son who was able to enjoy the rides pain free.

Chris said...

Cheryl, absolutely use it. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Please let me know how it works out.

Kendra, that is great news. Thank you for your comment and input. I apreciate it.

Cheryl said...

We did end up getting it and it worked so well! It was particularly helpful at the Lion King show at AK. We hadn't even thought about using it there and while waiting amongst a large crowd our son started to have a real problem. My husband wondered aloud if they had an alternate entrance, showed the card to the nearest cast member and asked. They got us right out of the crowd and to the back entrance. If we hadn't had that option we wouldn't have been able to see the show because our son would not have been able to stand in that crowd any longer. Thanks for your post which convinced us to get it for this past trip!

Anonymous said...

Happy to help. Glad to hear it worked so well.

take care,

Chris

Patti W said...

My daughter is 4.5 years old and appears to be a typical child, very bright and friendly. She has low muscle tone and receives PT and OT to help her build strength and endurance. I know she won't be able to stand in long lines. Last time we were there, she was 3 and we had to take turns holding her in the lines. After just 40 minutes at Dumbo we were ready to leave. Now she is just too big for us to do that. If she has to wait in long lines we will be done for the day after a few hours.

If I bring her IEP (Individualized Education Plan) from her school that shows her diagnosis and her therapies will I be able to get her a GAC?

My concern is that upon first meeting her you'd never see her challenges.

Christina Wood said...

Patti, thanks for stopping by the site.

They're not supposed to ask antyhing about a diagnosis. HIPPA laws forbid them from doing so. That doesn't mean that you won't occasionally get a CM who doesn't know the rules, but in general all you need is to do is go up Guest Services and explain the type of accomodations you need. Even if you have a note from your doctor, which some say helps, it doesn't need to state the diagnosis, just what type of accommodations you need.

I would recommend getting the GAC in Magic Kingdom. It will be good for your entire trip.

If you want really specific questions answered, email Bob at Bob@PixieVacations.com. Bob uses a GAC and he can help you out--he's very passionate about this subject and I know he'd want to help, especially since it involves a kid.

Best of luck.

Joan58 said...

Are GAC available for people visiting from outside the US and adults. My adult daughter (24years old) suffers from depression and anxiety. She visited WDW as a teenager before she was diagnosed but I'm starting to dread travelling with her, we booked our holidays for mid Sept, low season to avoid the major crowds. She can be perfectly fine one moment switch completely to a bundle of nerves, crying etc....I'm just wondering would it be wrong if I were to ask for a GAC

Christina Wood said...

Joan they are available for everyone. I would go ahead and ask for one. Sounds like a very good reason.

Jennifer S. said...

I'm wondering if I should ask for one--I am 6 months pregnant and have placenta previa, as well as bleeding episodes during the pregnancy that result from overdoing things. I have a doctor's note (well, ER discharge papers from my last episode) that I had to bring to work saying that I can't stand for prolonged periods of time and should rest whenever possible. We were going to cancel the trip after this diagnosis, but we're only a week away from leaving and it's too late, and wee decided to just take a lot of breaks and go through the parks slowly so I won't have another bleed. I'm not 'disabled', so I'm not sure I really qualify for the GAC, but when we called the resort to ask for a closer room so I wouldn't have to walk as far, they recommended going to guest services and inquiring about a GAC.

Christina Wood said...

Jennifer, I would definitely ask for one. As for cancelling your trip, keep in mind that if you booked with Disney (or with a Disney TA) you can move your trip without penalty. So if you cancelled altogether you'd lose the $200 deposit, moving (and you can move as many times as you need to) saves you that $200. Obviously your plane tickets, etc, are another story depending on where you booked and the carrier.

Just something to consider if you're worried. Email me if you have more questions or just ask here.

Anonymous said...

hi Christina going to Disney at the start of August .I suffer from Osteo Condritis Dessicans which can be painful at times especially if I am on my feet too long and wondered if I should apply for a GAC.What do you think,have been to Disney lots of times and never considered this before

Anonymous said...

I love it! I search on GAC Disney and get this page. Thanks, Chris! ~Lisa

coastisclear said...

I was just wondering...I am taking my 5 1/2 year old to Disney World. I myself was recently diagnosed with crohn's disease in my upper gi tract. I am experiencing a flare right now which has led me to have 5 stomach ulcers too. i also have sibo which is overgrowth bacteria. i can get very bloated where my stomach is distended for long periods of times...for sure if i mistakenly eat something that i shouldn't and sometimes it happens with no explanation whatsoever. my chest area also feels heavy even though there are no breathing issues. in addition to that i take adhd medication and an antidepressant. my daughter is recovering from a bad sprain to her ankle. needless to say with all of this do you think i am going to have to wait on long lines? I get very tired from the symptoms of the crohns. i can't even imagine what the heat will do to me. now, one would ask why am i going now...well we have two young babies at home and the opportunity has presented itself. the other issue is that my daughter has low muscle tone and sensory issues. her endurance is not great though physically when you look at her one wouldn't know that there are any issues as she is 52lbs and almost 48" tall. Her sensory issues can become highly annoying as she doesn't know her body in space. so along, with dealing with my own health issues, i am caring for my eldest who has her own sets of issues. any advice on what to do here? physically when you look at us one wouldn't thing anything...unless my stomach was distended etc.