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Old 09-08-2009, 11:59 AM   #1
sharadoc
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Warning info for Universal GAP vs. Disney GAC for autism issues

Hi all,

We got back a little over a week ago from a nice 2 week trip to Florida. This trip we thought we would go to Universal Studios for the kids - see Barney, ET, Shrek, Jimmy Neutron, Dr. Seuss. We thought they would like it. My DS has autism/PDD-NOS and we are so grateful for the GAC at Disney - it makes our trip possible and we are able to enjoy it.

Before I bought my tickets, I called Universal and asked about their GAC equivalent. They told me we would be given a pass to go into the "fast" line. I felt assured that it would work for us.

When we got to the park, we went to Guest Services and were given a "family room" card for 2 of our party. The person explained that 2 of the party would have to wait in line (regular line) and the other one with my DS would wait in a separate area, then be called into line when the party got to the front.

Needless to say, I was VERY annoyed. I told them what I was told on the phone, and that the family room idea wouldn't work for us - that my DS would get EXTREME ANXIETY if our party was split up for that amount of time. Finally, the person relented and gave us "complimentary" FOTL passes for all 4 of us.

That didn't work as well as a Disney GAC. Primarily, the FOTL queue is totally random and not based on any time of day. So, anyone who has that access at any time can get in line. That meant the "fast" lane was sometimes as long as the regular line, or took much longer than a Disney fastpass line.

For some of you, the family room idea could work. I know all our kids are different. For us, it would have been a disaster and we couldn't have gone on anything. Just be aware of the difference. Don't expect Disney service and Disney accommodation for your child's issues.

If you have any other questions, I can try to help.
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Old 09-08-2009, 12:24 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sharadoc View Post
Hi all,

We got back a little over a week ago from a nice 2 week trip to Florida. This trip we thought we would go to Universal Studios for the kids - see Barney, ET, Shrek, Jimmy Neutron, Dr. Seuss. We thought they would like it. My DS has autism/PDD-NOS and we are so grateful for the GAC at Disney - it makes our trip possible and we are able to enjoy it.

Before I bought my tickets, I called Universal and asked about their GAC equivalent. They told me we would be given a pass to go into the "fast" line. I felt assured that it would work for us.

When we got to the park, we went to Guest Services and were given a "family room" card for 2 of our party. The person explained that 2 of the party would have to wait in line (regular line) and the other one with my DS would wait in a separate area, then be called into line when the party got to the front.

Needless to say, I was VERY annoyed. I told them what I was told on the phone, and that the family room idea wouldn't work for us - that my DS would get EXTREME ANXIETY if our party was split up for that amount of time. Finally, the person relented and gave us "complimentary" FOTL passes for all 4 of us.

That didn't work as well as a Disney GAC. Primarily, the FOTL queue is totally random and not based on any time of day. So, anyone who has that access at any time can get in line. That meant the "fast" lane was sometimes as long as the regular line, or took much longer than a Disney fastpass line.

For some of you, the family room idea could work. I know all our kids are different. For us, it would have been a disaster and we couldn't have gone on anything. Just be aware of the difference. Don't expect Disney service and Disney accommodation for your child's issues.

If you have any other questions, I can try to help.
I am shocked to hear how you were treated at Universal as we as a family had the exact opposite happen to us! We were travelling with our deaf blind daughter and when we went to Guest Relations we go an express gap entry card that gave us access to the fast pass line and we could go on the rides as many times as we wanted. We were there from Aug 15th to 31st so the parks were very busy but we never had to wait longer than 5 mins which was perfect as DD would just not understand a long queue. The second day we went we had to go back to guest relations as they do not issue you with a GAC like they do at Disney but the guy told us that if we planned on another day at Universal all we would have to do was produce the old express gap entry card and they would re-issue us with another one on any day we cared to return. So I can honestly say we were treated as good as we were treated by Disney with the GAC. Maybe you were just unlucky with the person who you got on Guest Relations that morning. Hope it didnt take from your trip...we are still recovering from ours
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Old 09-08-2009, 12:28 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmessy View Post
I am shocked to hear how you were treated at Universal as we as a family had the exact opposite happen to us! We were travelling with our deaf blind daughter and when we went to Guest Relations we go an express gap entry card that gave us access to the fast pass line and we could go on the rides as many times as we wanted. We were there from Aug 15th to 31st so the parks were very busy but we never had to wait longer than 5 mins which was perfect as DD would just not understand a long queue. The second day we went we had to go back to guest relations as they do not issue you with a GAC like they do at Disney but the guy told us that if we planned on another day at Universal all we would have to do was produce the old express gap entry card and they would re-issue us with another one on any day we cared to return. So I can honestly say we were treated as good as we were treated by Disney with the GAC. Maybe you were just unlucky with the person who you got on Guest Relations that morning. Hope it didnt take from your trip...we are still recovering from ours
Our experience was like yours. We took my daughter's nannie and her son who is autistic to WDW and Universal. Universal was MUCH easier. We were a party of 6 and all of us received the express gap entry card.
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Old 09-08-2009, 12:32 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmessy View Post
I am shocked to hear how you were treated at Universal as we as a family had the exact opposite happen to us! We were travelling with our deaf blind daughter and when we went to Guest Relations we go an express gap entry card that gave us access to the fast pass line and we could go on the rides as many times as we wanted. We were there from Aug 15th to 31st so the parks were very busy but we never had to wait longer than 5 mins which was perfect as DD would just not understand a long queue. The second day we went we had to go back to guest relations as they do not issue you with a GAC like they do at Disney but the guy told us that if we planned on another day at Universal all we would have to do was produce the old express gap entry card and they would re-issue us with another one on any day we cared to return. So I can honestly say we were treated as good as we were treated by Disney with the GAC. Maybe you were just unlucky with the person who you got on Guest Relations that morning. Hope it didnt take from your trip...we are still recovering from ours

That's good to know and I'm glad it worked out great for you. I think our issue was specifically a GAP for autism. They created these family rooms to allow the kids to wait in a quiet place. I wonder if they think too many kids get a GAC for autism who really don't need it and feel they give a better alternative solution for the need to wait outside of big long lines.

Yeah, we're still tired. But the heat was a bigger deal for us. That and the crowds at all the Disney restaurants because of free dining. I think we're definitely back to the January timeframe for our trips.
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Old 09-08-2009, 06:13 PM   #5
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I'm sorry that you had a less than positive experience at Universal, I hope you still had a wonderful trip.

I have to agree with the other posters, I have found Universal's GAP system much better than WDW's-- we hold AP's to both parks.

I have found the FOTL system works great for us, I've never waited than long for anything.
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Old 09-08-2009, 09:33 PM   #6
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I don't have anything useful to add, just wanted to thank you for the info.
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:35 PM   #7
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We were there just last week and had the same issues -my son is similar with disabilites.. we were told at Island of Adv. that they are a very ADA friendly park and that would have to surfice or I could purchase a Express pass.
I stared at him a min and he just kept this stupid smile on his face...
I said really that won't work for me but if that is all you can offer I guess you leave me no choice... I took it never used it though.. lines were bad for what they would ride.. but then we walked over to Universal studios... my dad suggest going to there guest relations and ask.. WOW what a difference explained to the girl there - told them what I had for Disney and instantly a express pass... no mention of a family room pass and she hoped this would help us out!!! and lines were longer over there so it did help!!

My suggestion for those that need a GAC at universal visit guest relations on Universal Studio side for it... much more understanding.
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Old 09-12-2009, 09:16 AM   #8
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Okay, I understand there are many different situations that might require alternative response from the business - but realistically, giving a front of the line pass at USF/IOA isn't equal treatment. It gives the party with the otherly-abled member/s a distinct advantage over Guests visiting without anyone with a special need.

While the Family Room process didn't work for the OP, it's been in existence at IOA since that park opened, and so, likely, at US as well. I have observed exactly the same thing at Disneyland. It makes absolute sense - when part of your party waits in a special area while the rest goes through the regular line, then the entire party rides the attraction under conditions equal to all the other Guests waiting in the regular line. Heck, I experienced something similar at Adventurers Club the weekend PI closed - I was allowed to wait at the top of the stairs using an ECV, while my friends had to get into the lonnnnnnnng line. Once they reached the door, our entire party was allowed in.

I realize that's not what most people want to hear, given that each child is special and more important to the parent than is any other person - but, really it's as equal as is reasonable.
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Old 09-13-2009, 02:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaytieeldr View Post
Okay, I understand there are many different situations that might require alternative response from the business - but realistically, giving a front of the line pass at USF/IOA isn't equal treatment. It gives the party with the otherly-abled member/s a distinct advantage over Guests visiting without anyone with a special need.

While the Family Room process didn't work for the OP, it's been in existence at IOA since that park opened, and so, likely, at US as well. I have observed exactly the same thing at Disneyland. It makes absolute sense - when part of your party waits in a special area while the rest goes through the regular line, then the entire party rides the attraction under conditions equal to all the other Guests waiting in the regular line. Heck, I experienced something similar at Adventurers Club the weekend PI closed - I was allowed to wait at the top of the stairs using an ECV, while my friends had to get into the lonnnnnnnng line. Once they reached the door, our entire party was allowed in.

I realize that's not what most people want to hear, given that each child is special and more important to the parent than is any other person - but, really it's as equal as is reasonable.

I agree 100%! I have a child with a life-threatening and fatal illness. He has to wait.........


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Old 09-13-2009, 03:02 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kaytieeldr View Post
Okay, I understand there are many different situations that might require alternative response from the business - but realistically, giving a front of the line pass at USF/IOA isn't equal treatment. It gives the party with the otherly-abled member/s a distinct advantage over Guests visiting without anyone with a special need.

While the Family Room process didn't work for the OP, it's been in existence at IOA since that park opened, and so, likely, at US as well. I have observed exactly the same thing at Disneyland. It makes absolute sense - when part of your party waits in a special area while the rest goes through the regular line, then the entire party rides the attraction under conditions equal to all the other Guests waiting in the regular line.
I agree that a front of the line is pass in not equal treatment - it is superior treatment. It does not have to be given as an accommodation; they can choose to offer it, but it is not required. They are required to provide access that is as equal as reasonably possible, without adding unneccessary impediments to access.

The Family Room process does work for some people, but I know others who would be willing to wait in a Family Room environment, but it won't work unless their whole family can wait together. So, it is not an accommodation that will work for everyone if only one or two can be there and the rest have to wait in line.
Our experience at Universal is old, but in our experience, they did not do a good job with multiple disabilities. They accommodated our DD's wheelchair, but stated that they did not need to provide any other accommodation since she had a wheelchair and the lines were accessible. This did not meet our DD's needs.
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Old 09-13-2009, 03:23 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SueM in MN View Post
I agree that a front of the line is pass in not equal treatment - it is superior treatment. It does not have to be given as an accommodation; they can choose to offer it, but it is not required. They are required to provide access that is as equal as reasonably possible, without adding unneccessary impediments to access.

The Family Room process does work for some people, but I know others who would be willing to wait in a Family Room environment, but it won't work unless their whole family can wait together. So, it is not an accommodation that will work for everyone if only one or two can be there and the rest have to wait in line.
Our experience at Universal is old, but in our experience, they did not do a good job with multiple disabilities. They accommodated our DD's wheelchair, but stated that they did not need to provide any other accommodation since she had a wheelchair and the lines were accessible. This did not meet our DD's needs.
I'm sorry that your family had a bad experience. Thankfully, Universal has changed the way they deal with disabilities. They were absolutely fabulous in April and again last November.
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Old 09-13-2009, 09:17 PM   #12
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Thanks for posting. I have a question. When we go this spring, he will get a pass at WDW to use his special needs stroller as a wheelchair, can he do this at Universal?
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Old 09-13-2009, 09:28 PM   #13
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Thanks for posting. I have a question. When we go this spring, he will get a pass at WDW to use his special needs stroller as a wheelchair, can he do this at Universal?
Yes, he can.
There is some information about Universal in the disABILITIES FAQs thread. The 'stroller as a wheelchair' works the same in WDW as in Universal.

At WDW, you may get a sticker (kind of similar to an airline baggage sticker tag) rather than a Guest Assistance Card that says you may use the stroller as a wheelchair.
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Old 09-14-2009, 07:36 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SueM in MN View Post
I agree that a front of the line is pass in not equal treatment - it is superior treatment. It does not have to be given as an accommodation; they can choose to offer it, but it is not required. They are required to provide access that is as equal as reasonably possible, without adding unneccessary impediments to access.

The Family Room process does work for some people, but I know others who would be willing to wait in a Family Room environment, but it won't work unless their whole family can wait together. So, it is not an accommodation that will work for everyone if only one or two can be there and the rest have to wait in line.
Our experience at Universal is old, but in our experience, they did not do a good job with multiple disabilities. They accommodated our DD's wheelchair, but stated that they did not need to provide any other accommodation since she had a wheelchair and the lines were accessible. This did not meet our DD's needs.
That is similar to what I have heard. I wonder what they would do for me, as I cannot wait in the sun, and my experience is that most queues are outdoors? My fiancee cannot wait in line for me, as it is only the two of us. I must have her with me, and cannot wait alone (too dangerous/impossible with my conditions)... This has given me much to think about before ever attempting US or IOA.
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Old 09-14-2009, 08:21 AM   #15
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KPevlar, I think if you stayed on site you'd be in good shape. Our plan if we go next year is to stay onsite for one night which gives 2 days of unlimited express entrance; this isn't disability/accomodation based, just a perk for hotel guests. That way you have reasonably easy access to the parks; I just have to make sure whether the water taxis are w/c accessible; and you know in advance that you'll be able to use the express queue. Plus, I hear that the hotels are really nice it just seems easier in the long run than spending all the money to get there and then having to wonder if the accomodation offered is actually going to give equal access or not.
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