In October 2013, Disney announced the end of its long-standing Guest Assistance Card (GAC) program for visitors with disabilities. The announcement came on the heels of an expose that showed that some GAC holders were actually selling tour guide services that allowed non-disabled people to exploit the GAC privileges. However, many in the Disney fan community believe that the program was already doomed, a victim of the new FastPass Plus system and the sheer number of legitimately disabled visitors with GACs.
Regardless of the actual reasons behind the change, only a few days after the announcement, GAC was out and DAS was in. The Disability Access Service program replaced the multi-tiered GAC approach with a single accommodation for all. Many who qualified for GACs no longer qualified for DAS, and the new program simply did not work for some. Nonetheless, it does combat abuse by placing the disabled person’s photo on every DAS card.
My dad, an annual passholder, had a GAC that allowed him to use FastPass entrances. Now, like every other DAS holder, he must approach each attraction to get a return time that equals the standby wait minus 10 minutes. Although it is more cumbersome, he is able to make the new program work. The key is to utilize advance planning and multiple tools to minimize backtracking around the park. Here are 6 tips for maximizing your use of the DAS system.
1. Combine the DAS with FastPass Plus
The DAS is designed to work in conjunction with the FastPass Plus program. FastPass Plus allows you to pre-book FastPasses for up to three attractions per day, all in the same park. Once your three FastPasses are used, you are eligible to book additional FastPasses, one at a time, at the FastPass Plus kiosks scattered throughout the parks. You may book these later FastPasses in a different park as long as you are physically in that park at the time of booking.
Using DAS in conjunction with FastPass Plus allows you to maximize your day. Book your FastPass Plus reservations for attractions that are a long way from anything else, such as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, or for those that always have a long standby wait, such Toy Story Midway Mania. Some attractions are tiered, which means that your initial FastPass Plus selections cannot include multiple attractions in the same tier. Use your DAS at other tiered attractions or at those with mid-range standby wait times.
2. Send a runner for return times
The DAS card holder must be present for your group to experience an attraction. However, that person does not have to go to attractions to get return times. If you travel with an able-bodied adult or older teen, send that person to get each return time. That allows you to rest and make your way through the park in a circle, rather than expending the energy or power chair battery charge needed to visit each attraction twice.
3. Get your first return time immediately
Unlike FastPass Plus, DAS return times are open-ended. The time written on your card is the soonest you are eligible to return, but you may return at any time that day. Even if you have morning FastPasses stacked back-to-back, go ahead and get a return time when you enter the park. By the time your FastPasses are gone, you will be eligible to return to your DAS attraction. Keep in mind that you are only allowed to hold one DAS return time at once, so you must experience the attraction or cross out the return time before obtaining another.