Fresh Baked was at the park this weekend and we had an opportunity to make some observations on DAS, the new system by which Disneyland provides assistance to those with disabilities. Actually, I shouldn’t say “we”, as these are mostly just my own personal observations and opinions. But based on what I saw this weekend, I feel like the new system is likely going to be a pointless exercise and will serve only to piss guests off.
You may have heard the ruckus recently where this new DAS system (Disability Access Service) replaced the old GAC system (Guest Assistance Card) due to the apparent rampant abuse by locals here at Disneyland. In a nutshell, guests with disabilities will no longer be permitted to simply move to the front of the line with the GAC card. The DAS system will require guests with disabilities to wait as long as any other guest, but they will not have to do it while physically standing in line. Disney has provided a full FAQ for those interested.
First impressions suggest to me that this shouldn’t be a problem for guests in need, as the basis for most requests for the old GAC card were just that. They weren’t physically able to stand in line. Most guests with disabilities I’ve spoken with are diplomatic about the new system, but still taking a wait and see approach. You don’t have to try too hard though to hear the instant anger some had over the new system, some going so far as to initiate a class action lawsuit against Disney. I’m not entirely sure what the basis for this suit could be, but I presume it would be discriminatory. Without going in to too much discussion here, I do want to say that I find this action kind of gross, and wonder if perhaps these guests don’t fully understand the two systems.
Is this REALLY a problem?
What I really want to talk about though are the early results of the new system, and what Disney’s goals are with it. I want to ask Disney whether their goal was to simply eradicate the abuse, or was it to improve the overall guest experience? The latter coming in the form of reduced wait times for stand-by guests and more fast passes available. In the MiceAge story on the subject, and in our follow up as well, most of the discussion is centered on the vast amounts of people in the parks using the GAC cards (up to 10,000 per day) and what this did to wait times and it’s such a huge problem and maybe this is why Radiator Springs Racers fast passes are gone by noon!
My first thought when hearing this was…meh. The numbers are impressive and striking. But I didn’t really feel like it affected me much. And in follow up conversations I’ve had on the subject I suggested that I was happy to trade 10 or 20 minutes in line so that others could enjoy Disneyland without difficulty. I would hate to have anyone’s Disneyland day ruined by physical pain, or anxiety, or anything! I can take the wait. I’m happy to give you my time. By the way, it’s the same reason I don’t stress out over line cutters or people who join others in line. My happiness will not be interrupted because I lost a few minutes in line.
Problem? Not really
So this weekend I payed close attention to stand-by times and fast pass return times and watched guests interacting with guest services reps in the DAS kiosks and you know what I noticed? Nothing had changed. Except for the system. Space Mountain had a 70 minute wait by early afternoon. Splash Mountain was 80 minutes. Star Tours was 45. Meanwhile, Radiator Springs fast passes were sold out by the time we went by at around 1 pm, and were probably gone well before that. And this is when cast members are at their most vigilant. When they’re freshly trained and ready to say NO to guests who they feel don’t qualify for the program. My feeling is a net result of zero change to the average guest.
If the net result is zero, then what’s the point of all this? The only possible outcome is that you change nothing, but create more animosity and anger. There is no upside here at all. If Disney’s only goal though was to eradicate the abuse, I guess they can still accomplish that. But I have my doubts on that as well. I’m certain that the GAC system was also seen as a wonderful solution to a problem, but is now seen as the problem. Why is it thought that DAS will be any different? Cast members will be vigilant at first, holding their ground. But over time, resistance will wear down and more and more DAS cards will be given out.
And how could it not be? Any normal person could do that for only so long before empathy takes over. Who wants to be the jerk who says your disability isn’t worthy of a DAS card? And so Disney will accomplish nothing with the system. Wait times won’t be lessened. Abusers will still abuse the system. It will always be that way. The only net result will be some angry guests and lawyer fees to fight a class action lawsuit.
Observations on DAS | What’s the point?
And so I’m left with only this. Why bother? Of course the answer to this question from a Disney perspective will be the same as it is often is. Disney hates to be taken advantage of. That’s why bother. It’s why they take guest photos at the gate in order to fight the black market re-selling of multi-day tickets. It’s why they vigilantly fight every single personal injury suit. And it’s why cast members have to fight for every scrap of benefit they receive for work performed that clearly exceeds those benefits. I would ask for them to reconsider their position on this, but I know that even if they were listening, they wouldn’t do it.