Welcome Guest Author Sunday- Stephanie McKinney
Welcome to Guest Author Sunday! We were amazed to discover that there were still many people out there just like ourselves that had Disney magic, advice and stories they wanted to share, but no place to share it ( and here we thought we were the only people in the universe not to have a Disney Blog). And thus Guest Author Sunday was born. To start us off, meet super mom Stephanie McKinney. Most people know the remarkable McKinney family and their inspirational story. For those who do not, fellow Disney Fan David Mullican wrote a beautiful article about these amazing parents. To learn more about the McKinney family and read David's story, click here. The world is truly a better place because of Stephanie, her husband Eric and their fabulous brood of children! Thanks Stephanie for being our first honorary Disney Gal Guest Author!
Blessings of the GAC
This may very well be a redundant post, I’m not sure. I just want to tell people about how the GAC helped my family enjoy the absolute most of each WDW park! What’s the GAC you might say…”An amazing program”, I will promptly respond! GAC stands for Guest Assistance Card. It allows guests with disabilities, special needs, and severe circumstances to have a chance at enjoying the attractions, shows, and all forms of entertainment just like everyone else. I’ll admit, after reading about Fastpass a few years ago, I was so excited. Re-reading about them here lately, and about how much of a push it is to get in, get one, and get back for ride really intimidated me. It’s not bad, and no I’m not just THAT lazy…I have 6 little ones that will be following me to and fro, and everywhere in the parks.
Let’s start with why my family needed (yes, needed) what the GAC program offered. 1) My oldest son is 16 has Asperger’s Syndrome and likes to stare at people, and talk loud, and pick his nose, and push people. His mind functions as if he were 6. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder issues that are best left un-triggered. Loud sounds, noises, crowds, all make him panic, infuriate him, and terrify him simultaneously. Then there is my 7 year old, Matthew. He has Autism and is about mid spectrum. He is verbal but tends to say very rude uncouth things to people who get too close, look at him, and get too loud around him. He hits, slaps, kicks and yells at others, as well as himself. Then my youngest child Zoe just turned 4 and has Cerebral Palsy. She has the least crippling characteristics of CP, but lots of walking, standing for long periods, and having to go up and down a lot are simply too much on her little legs that barely want to carry her anyway.
So we were beyond excited to hear that Disney offered services that made access easier to guests with all types of issues. When we first arrived at the park we went to Guest Services. I came prepared! I had asked my Dr. to write up on letterhead an informative, but not too invasive letter about why we needed to use a stroller as a wheelchair, plus how lines and crowds affect my two sons’ behaviors. However, when we got there, all I had to do was explain my circumstance, I showed the letter, but it was not a necessity, we were given a GAC and red tape to put on our stroller, which allowed us to take her stroller into most attractions and shows. The other GAC we received allowed us to go to a less crowded area to wait our turn to ride. One GAC card accommodated up to 6 guests, so with two of the cards our party of 12 was good to go!First time up to a ride, we showed our cards to the first Cast Member, who sent us immediately to a cool area away from all of the line crowds. We waited about 7 minutes!!! 7 MINUTES was all we waited to get onto a Disney ride! Oh yeah, what ride was our first with a huge 7 minute wait? SPACESHIP EARTH! I have to say everywhere we went it was the same! It was discreet, and amazing! The longest time we spent in any line was for Pirates of the Caribbean, and our wait was about 20 MIN. Still….AMAZING! But this was more than just a “go faster than Fastpass” experience. Everyone was doing great keeping their cool, no major meltdowns. That was an amazing feat in itself! It was HOT, HUMID, and CROWDED. Without this program, my family wouldn’t have made it through the first two rides. It was simply a blessing to us and allowed every one of our children, special needs to just special an unparalleled Disney experience!