- Guest Assistance Cards
- Who should get them, how to get them and how to use them
By Stephen Ashley,
of Walt Disney World with Disabilities
When you’re dealing with health conditions at Walt Disney World,
there’s something you can obtain that can make you’re life go much
easier! It’s called a Guest Assistance Card and it’s referred to as a
GAC. It allows guests with special needs to receive help from the Disney
cast members (Disney’s name for their employees) in the four main Disney
parks. Here’s some of what it can do for you:
- It permits you
to utilize a stroller as if it were a wheelchair. This means that
you’ll be able to use the wheelchair queues, entrances and paths with
- Those who are
not in a wheelchair but still need to use the
wheelchair entrances and exits will be permitted to do so. You’ll also
have the option of using any special waiting areas for attractions.
- Those with
visual or auditory impairments will have the option of sitting up front
where that is available. If you need to make use of this option, try to
arrive as early as possible, because seats are not set aside. If you
arrive too late, they may not be able to provide you with seats close to
the action, and you may need to wait for the next show. Of course if you
do arrive in time and there are seats available, you’ll be given
- If the regular queue is
hot or sunny, and there is an alternative area for that attraction
that’s air-conditioned or at least shaded, you’ll be permitted to wait
there instead. Keep in mind that Disney does not always provide this
type of alternative.
- You’ll be
permitted to speak to the cast member at each attraction, and let them
know about your particular needs. If there’s any way for them to
support you, they will do so.
A GAC can make a big difference when you are dealing with invisible
conditions such as ADD/ADHD, heat and sun sensitivity, autism,
discomfort with crowds and various phobias. The Disney employees can
support you in a variety of ways. For example, they may allow you to
enter the wheelchair queue rather than the main queue. The wheelchair
queues are often much quieter and less crowded. You may have a shorter
walk. For those with heat and sun sensitivity, whenever it’s available,
they can bring you to a waiting area out of the sun. Those who are
uncomfortable in crowds may be able to wait in a less crowded area.
To get a GAC, go to Guest Relations at any one of the four
parks. There’s one near the entrance of each park. One GAC is all you
need for all four parks on the date(s) specified on the GAC. They can
issue you a card which will be valid for your full stay, so be sure to
request this. If you’re an Annual Pass Member, you can get one card
which will last up to three months. After three months you will need to
get a new one. The GAC will usually allow the person that the card is
for to bring as many as five companions along with them for each
attraction. Be sure to let the Guest Relations representative know the
exact number of people in your group.
There are several different types of GACs that are assigned based
on your specific issues. Rather than informing the cast member about the
particular diagnosis’s involved, you’ll be describing your needs to
them. For example, you can tell the cast member that you need to stay
out of the sun. They will then give you the most suitable GAC for your
situation. Before you leave Guest Relations, be certain that you’ve got
a full understanding of what support your GAC allows for.
When you go to Guest Relations, it’s important to have the person
who needs the Guest Assistance Card with you. The cast member will want
to make sure that they’re really at the park that day.
When requesting a GAC, it’s absolutely not required for you to
bring proof the illness. However we have found that it can make the
process much easier if the illness is not visible, depending on the cast
member. In fact, we have heard of people being denied a GAC because the
condition was not visible.
Unfortunately there are
people who try to fake an illness to get a GAC because they think it
will help them avoid lines and I'll talk about that below. However, for
this reason, Disney has had to be careful.
Although the Disney policy
is that no proof is needed, we’ve noticed that over the years it has
become increasingly difficult to get a GAC, so we’ve brought proof.
However once my wife Sarah began using a wheelchair we’ve found that it
has been very easy to get a GAC. I suspect this is because they can see
visible evidence of a health issue.
There are a variety of things you can do. In the past, we’ve shown
them a doctor’s note that was written for another reason. Once we even
brought a photocopy of a legal document that confirmed my wife Sarah’s
health problem. A doctor’s note describing your specific needs can make
things go smoothly. It’s not necessary to state a diagnosis. Just have
him focus on what kind of help and support you need.
Should you decide to bring a doctor’s note, the following is a
sample of might be written on it. Of course it must be signed and on
her/his professional letterhead:
This note concerns __________. She/he has difficulty [with crowds,
sitting, standing, walking (describe your challenge)...] This condition
will make it difficult for her/him to stand in lines. Whenever possible
please provide an alternative so that the need for this will be
reduced. Also, she/he should avoid the sun and should stay in an
air-conditioned environment whenever possible. Please provide any
support you can.
Though it’s rare, we’ve happened upon a Guest Relations
representative who was not familiar with GACs. The best thing to do is
to politely ask for a supervisor. Don’t spend a moment of your precious
vacation time trying to explain or argue. There should be someone else
there who will be able to easily give you what you need.
Those in wheelchairs or electric convenience vehicles (ECVs) may
not really need to obtain a GAC. You’ll be allowed to utilize all of the
park, ride and attraction wheelchair entrances and queues. If an
attraction allows wheelchairs on the ride car or in a theater, you’ll
automatically be permitted to stay in your wheelchair. Yet if you have
other needs, the cast members are
not under any type of obligation to support you if you don’t have a GAC.
For example, if you’re in a wheelchair and want to stay out of the sun,
the cast member may or may not help you without a GAC. Though we find
that some cast members will help wheelchair users with these special
requests even when they don’t have a GAC, we recommend that you request
one. It increases the likelihood that you’ll get what you need!
Those who need to use a stroller as a
wheelchair will need to request a GAC. If you don’t have a GAC that
states this, you will not be permitted to use the stroller in queues or
on rides. Also, you will not be permitted to use the wheelchair
entrances unless you have a GAC.
Most people have the idea that a GAC will shorten their wait times
while getting them to the head of the line. While this does sometimes
occur, for many attractions we’ve found that we’ve actually had a
significantly longer wait time. More typically, we’ve waited about the
same amount of time as those without GACs.
Each attraction has different procedures, and the cast members will
be able to support guests with GACs in various ways. There’s usually a
cast member at the front of each attraction. Just show them your GAC,
let them know what you need and they’ll usually let you know what the
procedures are for that attraction.
On the rare occasion that a cast member doesn’t help you as fully
as you need, request to speak with a supervisor. Now and then you’ll
encounter a cast member who’s lacking in training, experience or perhaps
even sensitivity. A supervisor will almost always be able to take
better care of you.
Have a relaxing and wonderful time on your dream vacation!
Stephen Ashley is the author of
Walt Disney World with
Disabilities: Unofficial in-depth planning guide for your fun,
comfort and safety, designed for minor to major health
conditions. The book is available through Amazon.com and
the official website called Walt Disney World for Everyone™ at
www.Diz-Abled.com. Also visit this site for the extensive
free information designed to help people plan a great vacation
at Disney World with health and emotional conditions, special
needs and disabilities.
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