How the Disney Disability Access Service Works
Like many moms of special needs kids, I was upset when I heard that Disney was seriously overhauling their guest assistance pass program. I wasn’t mad at Disney, though; I was mad at those responsible for the rampant abuse of the system. Those nameless, faceless folks who had gotten away with their subterfuge unaware of the harm they caused. And like others, I denounced Disney for not holding those folks accountable and was shaking my head over the notion that I would have to keep track of ride times and locate special kiosks to secure other ride times. It sounded maddening — that was until I had to do it and I discovered that it really wasn’t all that hard. The system is not perfect but it’s not as bad as many would have you believe.
Here’s what I learned about the Disney Disability Access Service (DAS) pass:
SECURING YOUR Disney Disability Access PASS
Disney Disability Access passes can be obtained at the Guest Relations main entrance locations at any of the Disney Parks in California or Orlando. At Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, there are actually two places where park hoppers can procure passes: City Hall at Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce at Disney California Adventure. My advice is to visit the latter location on Buena Vista Street. It’s located just off to the left as you enter the park. Because City Hall is a better known guest services location, the Chamber of Commerce is often overlooked. It’s so close, in such plain sight, yet everyone seems to rush by it in a mad dash to get to Cars Land.
If you arrive just before the rope drops allowing visitors into the park at the start of day, the chances are great that you’ll be the first Chamber of Commerce customer of the day. My son, his aunt, and I were the only ones in the place as families ran past us to jockey for a prime spot to sprint to the Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS line.
The process for obtaining a DAS card was simple. I explained my son’s situation, providing as many specifics as possible. I even offered to show a medical diagnosis letter, something the staff politely declined. A cast member spoke briefly to my son and asked me some questions about his needs before snapping his photo (even granting his request to have his small collection of Pixar characters in the shot with him) then printing the picture out on what looked like a paper passport. We even reserved our first ride time right there at the counter, and just like that we had a pass in hand. Off we went, ready for our Disney adventure!
A few items to note:
- The pass covers the person pictured on it and those traveling with them.
- The cardholder (meaning the person in the photo on the DAS card) must be present in order to use the pass.
- A DAS card is valid for your entire visit; in fact it’s good for 14 days after you obtain it.
HOW to use the Disney Disability Access Pass
Once you’ve determined which ride you wish to enjoy, visit the Guest Relations kiosks through out the Disneyland parks or go directly to the attraction at the Disney World parks. A Disney staffer will check the current wait time and provide you with a time to go to the ride.
Typically reserved ride times for DAS card holders are 10 minutes less than the current wait time. For example, if the wait time is 40 minutes, then a DAS card holder’s wait time is 30 minutes. The name of the attraction will then be written on the card along with the assigned return time.
Upon your arrival at the ride, simply show your DAS card to a cast member who will then cross out the ride entry and direct you to the FASTPASS queue. Make sure you get that ride entry crossed out because a new ride cannot be booked until that happens.
To book your next ride at Disneyland, stop by a Guest Relations kiosk. There are eight between the two parks: four in Disneyland (Main Street, New Orleans Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) and four in California Adventure (Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, Paradise Pier and Bug’s Land). While that doesn’t sound like much coverage at first blush, it was actually plenty especially after we got our bearings and could easily identify the kiosks. At the Disney World parks, just proceed to the next ride to receive your return time.
Tips for reserving ride times:
- Ride times do NOT expire. Unlike the FASTPASS, the time on your DAS pass does not expire. This means that there is still a spot for you on the ride you reserved for 1:15 pm but could not utilize because you were fending off a sensory meltdown, even if you finally return at 5:30 pm! All ride times remain valid for the day they are recorded.
- Double your fun. While waiting for your designated ride time, you can entertain your youngster by either riding a less popular ride or getting a regular FASTPASS for another ride. Personally, I liked this option because it enabled me to work the best of both systems.
- Park hopping? No problem! You can reserve a ride time for a Disneyland attraction while you’re still inside Disney California Adventure and have your travel time over to that ride calculated into your wait time! So go ahead and entertain a ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant immediately after enjoying Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree!
THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
While I found the DAS program to be much easier than I expected, there are a couple of points I would love to see re-examined by the powers that be at Disney.
The first one is folding special needs guests into the FASTPASS population. In most cases coming into the ride line through the FASTPASS entrance was uneventful and we simply found ourselves waiting in a shorter line. This is not a bad situation considering it was Disneyland and there are lines for literally everything. When you are waiting with a sensory challenged child though, this can still be difficult. Sounds are louder to my son, and surroundings with too much to process can be unsettling. While we managed in most cases, the ability to actually wait in an exit line instead (and on some rides this is still possible) can make a big difference. Exit lines are quieter. They aren’t as filled with sensory stimuli. This short sensory break can be like a recalibration for a child on the autism spectrum. I would love to see DAS cardholders extended the courtesy of waiting in the exit gates instead.
Secondly, photo experiences with Disney characters are not covered by the DAS card. This didn’t make any sense to me. Part of the reason I was issued this card is because of my son’s challenges with standing in a line, he has the same challenge whether the line is for a ride or to visit the princesses from Frozen, which incidentally had a line with a three-hour wait time!
You may also enjoy:
- Autism and Disney Parks – How to Help Your Autistic Child Have a Great Visit
- Special Needs Travel – Why Partnering With Your Destination Is Important
- Preparing a Child on the Autism Spectrum to Travel
- Universal Studios Hollywood: Touring the Land of Movies
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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…