Ending Disney's Guest Assistance Card Program: Thanks, Jerks.

Ending Disney's Guest Assistance Card Program 

Thanks, Jerks.

I learned last week that Disney will be ending their Guest Assistance Card program. This program allowed those with special needs a quicker and easier way to experience the rides at Disneyland and Disney World. It made visiting Disneyland a truly magical place like no other. But the program is ending and will be replaced with something similar to the regular fast pass where guests will be required to sign up for rides and return after a specified time. To read more about it and some of the issues that might arise, please read this article.

Hearing this news made me angry, sad, and all kinds of other emotions. But mostly I'm just heartbroken.

I can't say that I'm surprised by the ending of the Guest Assistance Card program. And here's why:

When we visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California back in July, we had an amazing time. Our son uses a wheelchair and finding things that he can truly experience is, well...an experience. But Disneyland delivered. All of the cast and characters were phenomenal. The rides were accommodating and the wait times were nil for us because we were able to access the handicap entry. Rides were also adapted for us so the whole family could ride at the same time. The whole visit was so above and beyond, I ignored some of what I saw taking place.

It was nagging at me. But I squashed the nagging feeling in an effort to let the good rise and the bad go unacknowledged.

As our day at Disneyland progressed, more and more people flooded the park. Along with that came more and more wheelchairs. At one point I just watched wheelchair after wheelchair moving by. Some pushed by others, some were pushed along by the sitting person's feet. Was it disability day at Disneyland? No. These wheelchairs are rented out by Disneyland as a courtesy at the entrance. You just pay a fee and you get to use one for the day, no matter your ailment.

And then there were the handicap accessible lines. They were filling up, too. I personally witnessed a gentleman in what looked to be his eighties enter a ride with fourteen grandchildren on his Guest Assistance pass. Fourteen able bodied grandchildren.

I saw all kinds of people in the handicap entrance lines. Most of which seemed to have nothing wrong with them. Or groups of people accompanying the one person who may have had a pace maker, fatigue, or even so much as a sneeze. 

Now before you get all How do you know there is no disability?! You can't see everyone's disability! How dare you?! Hold on.

I'm not playing the My Son's Disability is Better Than Your Disability game. And maybe a percentage of those "handicapped" patrons are totally legitimate. And invisible. But legitimate, nonetheless. I'm willing to bet cold, hard cash that a majority of them were not so disabled. But were rather acting that way or borrowing the pass of someone who is disabled so they didn't have to wait in the long lines at Disneyland.

My patience was broken when we exited the Jungle Cruise ride. We had a lovely time, we really did. Christian sat up tall in his wheelchair in the adapted boat with a seat just for him. The handicap accessible line is usually at the exit of every ride for faster loading. So when we exited we could see the completely packed handicap accessible line. Filled with seemingly able bodied people waiting for faster loading. Not a wheelchair in the line. No crutches. No braces.

And they were all staring at us. Staring at my five year old, nonverbal, brain injured son in his wheelchair. All of them. From the handicap line! How ironic is that? At that point in the day, after seeing so much blatant disability fraud I lost my patience. As we passed I yelled, "Take a good look, guys! This is what real disability looks like!" 

I'm not sure they got it. You know, they had a ride to catch.

I, like most people, heard the story of New York socialites paying people with Downs Syndrome to escort them as tour guides so they'd get the Guest Assistance pass. While this is vile and disgusting, I wonder why these socialites didn't just rent a wheelchair and pretend they were disabled. Seems to be what's popular and easier from what I saw. 

I'm not blaming Disney. What were they supposed to do? They could ask for more proof of disability before issuing passes but I'm almost positive there is something about that idea that's illegal or an open door for lawsuits. In fact, Disney isn't legally obligated to offer that much accommodation at all. They do it because they are a good company. They wanted to be inclusive. They wanted all children to be able to experience the magic. They relied on the honesty and goodness of patrons to be telling the truth about needing a wheelchair. About using those passes. About needing those passes.

Sorry Disney, people are jerks.

Now to address the jerks.

Hey, Jerks,

This is not about entitlement. This is not about us getting on rides quicker than anyone else. You're right, we are not owed anything. But don't you see? Don't you see?! I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. I would GLADLY stand in the hot sun for three hours with my son standing next to me and complaining, no, articulating how miserable he was with real, live words. You can have my pass. Take it! Get on that ride faster, by all means. 

Don't you understand?! This is not a perk. This is not a fast pass. This is not us getting over on you. 

You know what this is? This pass means my son smiling for the very first time on a ride. This pass means that he gets a break from struggling every day. He gets to be included. He gets to be like the rest of the kids. We get to be like the rest of the families. We don't feel broken. We don't feel tired. We just get to be happy that day. Don't you see that?

I'm talking to you. You, the one who used your grandpa's pass. You, the one that faked a hurt ankle. You, the one who really didn't need it. You, the one who hired someone with a disability. You, the one who pretended the pass was yours. You, the one who just ruined it for all of us.

And do you know what you're teaching your children when you're abusing these "privileges?" You're teaching them to be jerks just like you. 


Cross posted on Christian's Journey.


  1. Oh - I'm so sorry!!! I've never been to Disney (either one) - not my thing but I love that they offer programs that will help people who need it and now I'm sorry that so many people abused that program - kind-of makes me want to punch a few people (but I won't!!).
    It seems like there has to be a way to better monitor the program - I hate to see it removed completely.

  2. I'm sorry to hear this! I have seen people at disney taking advantage. It's a darn shame!

  3. Sad part is the jerks think what they are doing is OK and don't have a problem turning their kids into jerks. I hate that we live in world where people take advantage of "fun". We had to use this card on our honeymoon when I had emergency knee surgery 4 days before we left. Guests were so rude to me in my wheelchair, they could see the problem with my whole leg bandaged up but it didn't stop them from pushing me out of the way or bumping my leg. People can be awful!!

  4. It's a shame that a few bad apples had to ruin such a great program.

  5. that's downright shameful. to take advantage of something like that is awful. I'm so sorry that you had to experience that. and I'm sad for all of the people who will now suffer b/c of it. I'm glad you're sweet son had a wonderful time.

  6. I heard about this too and I think it's terrible. So sad the way people abused the system just so they didn't have to wait on a line. For real? It was so great that Disney had this program for people who NEEDED it! Not people who just want to avoid waiting. I'm sorry to see this go,

  7. hiring a disability? that's grooooss. i'm sorry that this is happening. but i am glad that you so bravely and honestly wrote about it. jerks.

  8. That's the first thing I thought when I saw on the news they had cancelled this program - great thing ended by selfish people who abused it. And regarding the people who lie to get in shorter lines with their kids beside them - is it really worth a quicker wait by teaching your child that lying is okay if it gets you what you want. I sympathize with you, and all the families like you, who truly used this program as it was intended and now is cancelled because some people (too many people) are jerks!

  9. Wow Shauna. I really do hope this post reaches even just one of those people because it really is disgusting. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I, like you, found the news release disheartening. Now please understand, I am not disabled nor anyone in my family - at this present moment. We are Disney Vacation Club Members so we go often. Over the years, I have been amazed, like you, at the high # of rented wheelchairs when not a single one in a particular party seems handicapped. I have been amazed at how many people can get to the head of the line with one wheelchair. And yet I realize that there does need to be some sort of allowance for people with handicaps. When I read the article, I wished that Disney had kept the handicap line for people with children under 16 who have disabilities as children should be able to enjoy their experience at Disney. Families have enough hardship taking handicapped children to the park, never mind having to wait on a long line. Handicapped adults have a better understanding that they need to wait & so should get in line with the rest of the regular patrons. I think that alone would reduce the number of wheelchair rentals & "jerkiness" that goes on. Great post! I visited from the SITS :)
    Have a great Saturday,

  11. I'm sorry the jerks have ruined this for you. I had read that article about people "renting" people with disabilities to help them line jump and I had a feeling that something like this was coming. I agree with the above poster that the benefits should be extended to kids under 16.

  12. I'm so sorry for you, your son, your family and everyone else who is legitimately injured by the abuses done by others. I hadn't heard about the "renting" of handicapped people to gain special access. That's just horrible - exploitation at it's worst. Hopefully Disney will find some way of accommodating families like yours in the future.

  13. Seeing how Disney is for kids, I would totally back them up if they only gave disabled passed to CHILDREN with an ailment. But someone with a hangnail would squawk that it's not fair.

  14. I'm not going to like, this sounds heartbreaking, especially to your family that was able to enjoy the experience in the past there. I'm wondering, though if you would be able to write a letter to them. Perhaps this would change their perspective and make some alterations? Maybe I'm too much of a positive thinker, but I feel like if they heard from a valued visitor, perhaps, they could make some changes to accomodate families like yours who have had such an awesome time there in the past :) xoxo


  15. I totally agree! My husband is a disabled vet, and gets around pretty good for his injuries, he likes to wear pants, because the grafted skin on his legs is numb, very thin, and can infect easily, so sunburns are not a good idea. It was so frustrating, because it wasn't ever other people with disabilities smurking at is, guarantee they noticed the hardware through his pants or his gait, limp, and shakey leg. It wasn't even people in the regular line, it was the people who were obviously faking being disabled, some even OPENLY talking about it, that were staring at us like, "why are you here?" As if my husband's Disability wasn't legit because we are under 30 and in shape. And the few of those people who realized he was a Wounded vet looked at us as if we thought we were better, and they were just settling the score. It was appaulling. We went back yesterday, and it was horrible. Now even the cast members are pulling it. They have already at Disneyland and California Adventure shut down the immediate access, but only once were we offered a time to come back. Instead they just said, " you have to wait in the regular line. That's the point... We cannot, people cannot just stand in prosthetics ALL day. Space mountain was accomadating (they set up a disabled line with SEATING. It was the same wait, which is fine, I don't care about the wait that much, but he just cannot stand that whole time, if we are waiting there has to be seating). People are Jerks, they ruin it for everyone, and unfortunately my Husband and I will not be renewing our annual passes, and probably not returning. It is too much of a hassle for us to make it. We have a dog that we have to kennel (do not use yhe kennel at disney... It is just locker rental for a dog. Absolutely NOT the happiest place in the world). We have to pack prosthetics, braces, 2 different pairs of shoes, he usually has to change items atleast 2 times throught the day. It is such a process. I felt horrible in line, we were made to feel as if we were trying to cheat the system by most, and then I would watch these perfectly able-bodied people with EXACT SAME DISABLED PASS get sent straight to the front? I was very confused. At one point we were in line with a paralized child in a wheel chair, and a teenager with cerebal palsy, and 5 very able bodied, but very heavy people were sent straight to the front. Another time it was a man withs his handicapped son, but five biker dudes got to go straight in. And another time it was a very old woman who obviously just had hip replacement, and 15 teenage girls (who somehow had 3 diasabled) people in their shorty-short tank top giggling group? I understand they have to make changes because of jerks, but what sort of system is this now? What qualifies as a disability these days? Only the ones you cannot blatantly see? Only the disabled people who may have some other form of discrimination law suit on their hands? I agree it is NOT at all Disney's fault people were misusing the system, but they certainly aren't making the problem ANY better!

    1. Maybe I should have waited a day or so to calm down... That came off very ranty... I apologize. People are just so horribly frustrating and "you owe me simply because I exist," these days. I wish people would realize that it isn't a perk, or a freebie. I too would give it up in a heartbeat, to have my husband be able to go back and step two inches to the right that day in Afghanistan.

  16. Disney should RETHINK "THINK OVER" on helping kids under 15 Disney is for bigs! and kids but especially for kids. i have a 3 year old with cerebral palsy. being on her chair looooong time makes her very uncomfortable. how sad! How could Disney not think on the magic on the experience and just act radical because so many jerks!


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