It’s called the Disney Guest Assistance Card. There is a lot of misinformation about the Guest Assistance Card so let’s take a look at the facts.
Some people think that the card is away for people with disabilities to get to the front of any line at Disney – a magical key to completely avoid waiting. That’s not true. In fact, sometimes it may take longer to experience a Disney attraction with the card – but more on that later.
The Guest Assistance Card is, however, a way for people with special needs to get the accommodations they truly need so that they can also enjoy the Walt Disney World Resort.
Getting The Card
How do you get the Disney Guest Assistance Card? First, let’s talk about what you don’t need to do.
You do not need to bring in a letter from your doctor explaining your medical issue. In fact, a letter from your doctor will be useless. There are two reasons why.
First, Disney is concerned about HIPPA – a United States government legislation called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This law ensures medical privacy, and Disney doesn’t want anything to do with medical data privacy issues. If a Disney Cast member were to keep, read, or even hold a letter from your doctor with your medical information, then they would need to deal with medical data privacy and protection issues – and all the laws, regulations, and legal issues that go along with them. They aren’t interested in all that. At all.
Secondly, Disney Cast Members aren’t trained medical professionals. Even if they had a letter from your doctor and dealt with the privacy issues, what should they do with that? How would they determine medical courses of action? They just wouldn’t know.
So save yourself and your doctor some time. Don’t worry about getting a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition.
How Do You Get A Guest Assistance Card?
Stop by the Guest Services location at the entrance to the theme park and ask for it. The Cast Member should ask not about your medical issue – but instead what accommodation you need in order to enjoy Disney better. When you get this question, don’t explain your medical issues as noted above. Instead, explain what you need to deal with your special needs. Perhaps you need a way to avoid large crowds, or you need a way to minimize the time spent standing, or you need to sit up front so that you can see. It’s that simple.
The Possibility For Longer Wait Times
Some people believe that a Guest Assistance Card is look almost like a FastPass – a special way to get to the front of any line at the park and get on to attractions right away. That is not true.
In fact, sometimes using a Guest Assistance Card will actually create a longer wait. Here’s an example – Spaceship Earth at Epcot. On this attraction, Disney safety guidelines state that only a certain number of handicapped or special-needs guests can be in the ride at a certain time. Why? Because if Disney needs to evacuate the ride, Cast Members will need to walk the entire track and help people get out of the ride vehicles.
Each guest will need to walk or be transported off the attraction manually. For this reason Disney limits the number of special needs guests on the attraction at any one time. So, if the attraction already has the maximum number of special-needs guests who are riding, you may have to actually wait longer – until the attractions holds fewer than the maximum number of special needs guests.
This is a good example: If you ride Spaceship Earth at a time later in the day you can typically just walk on to the attraction with little or no wait. Depending on how many people with special needs are already on the attraction, you might have to wait longer when using the Guest Assistance Card than you would as a walk up rider.
How Do You Use The Special Assistance Card?
In order to use the Assistance Card simply approach the Cast Member at he entrance to any attraction. Tell them what sort of accommodation you need and they will help you access the attraction in the best way possible.
What About Mobility Issues?
What if you are in a wheelchair, have crutches, or are in an ECV (an Electric Convenience Vehicle – one of those motorized scooters we see so much of these days)?
Those guests who have disabilities or medical issues which are visibly evident do not need to get a Guest Assistance Card. If you are in a wheelchair or have other issues that the Cast Member can easily see, then they will make accommodations for you without a Guest Assistance Card. You only need the card for situations medical that are not easily visible.
Concerns About Using The Card
Some people with special needs have said they are concerned about using a Guest Assistance Card that will give them special privileges. They worry that it will be obvious to other park attendees that that they have an issue, and that they may feel embarrassed that their medical situation is exposed. Or, they are concerned that other park guests think they are jumping ahead and the lines, or using their medical condition to get preferred assistance. That just isn’t true.
Often times people using the Guest Assistance Card will be directed to a FastPass line. Other park guests will just think that the folks with special circumstances are using a FastPass, just like so many other people do.
Also, most people in the general public understand that people with special needs require special accommodations. So if they occasionally get to ride and attraction at bit quicker than the everyone else, there are no hard feelings.
If You Need It, Get It
If you have a medical issue where you need special accommodations, by all means stop by the Guest Services desk when you arrive at the park. Whether you have a child who has autism and can’t stand around, a grandmother who is claustrophobic and can’t be in enclosed spaces, or a friend who can’t stay in the sun for long periods of time, Disney will do everything they can to make your visit magical.