My family just got home from a vacation in Orlando, which included two days at Disney World.
Because I know you may be wondering: this was not a blogging or media trip. We were there for a work event for my husband, so we were not given any sort of park passes or anything at all from Disney World. We were simply a family on vacation.
Before our trip, I was attempting to plan our days in the parks, with the assistance of a friend who has lots of advice for Disney World. (Check out Wine in Mom’s Disney advice posts- she’s a great resource!) And as I scrolled my Disney Pinterest board, I came across some posts about the Disney Disability Access Service Card.
The Disability Access Service Card (DAS or DAS Card for short) is designed to help park guests “who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities)” – described by the Disney Parks blog. Friends of mine who have children with autism have used this in the past and after reading up on it, I decided that we would try this for my son who has autism.
Now, I have to admit that I actually hesitated to request DAS at Disney World. Because what kid does actually like to wait in lines? Wouldn’t all kids want to have a way to cut down on that wait time? But, while I won’t go into all my son’s personal challenges here, I will say that what he deals with is different than your typical kids(different than my other two neurotypical kids). That this isn’t a situation where he just doesn’t feel like waiting in a long line, that there are legitimate issues going on that could make it really difficult for him to be able to wait in some of the lines and for our family to be able to enjoy the parks.
What really sealed it for me is thinking about how many every day tasks and events are so much harder for him on a daily basis. And so, if there was something I could do, just once, to make things easier for him, I was going to take that opportunity, because it’s not something I can usually do for him.
Here’s how to get a Disability Access Service Card at Disney World
When you arrive at the Disney World park of your choice, you’ll go to Guest Relations at the front of the park. For us, this was City Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Everyone in your party needs to be with you, including the person you are requesting the Disability Access Service Card for. Let them know that you would like a Disability Access Service Card.
When I was reading up on DAS, I saw a lot of info about how you’d explain your child’s needs (not necessarily the exact diagnosis, as that might possibly violate some sort of privacy laws… not sure there, though I do know they cannot ask for any sort of “proof” such as documentation from your doctor), but no one even asked us for any sort of explanation for our asking for the pass. The cast member simply explained how it worked and asked if we were interested in it. When I said we were, he asked for the ticket of the person who would be using the DAS (or your magic band- we didn’t have them this time), scanned it, and then took a pic of my son (you can choose to have a parent have their picture taken in place of your child if you aren’t comfortable with your child’s picture being taken). He confirmed everyone who was in our party so that we’d all be able to ride along. He then set up our first “return time” for a ride with our pass, though normally you do that at the actual ride itself.
Super easy, only took a few minutes, no awkward questions like I had feared there would be. The DAS is good for 60 days and at all of the parks, so you don’t have to keep going back to get it set up again during your trip if you return on a different day or if you switch parks.
How the Disney Disability Access Card Works
It’s a lot like a Fast Pass. You go to the ride you’d like to ride on and tell them you’d like a return time. Only one person in your party needs to go ask and it does not have to be the person who the DAS is for- the rest of your group can be doing something else, though my family stuck together. They scan your card/magic band and tell you what time you can come back. To get this time, they take whatever the wait time is currently, subtract 10 minutes, and that’s when you can come back. You can come back at that time or any time after that time(that time will be listed in your My Disney Experience app, in the same place as your Fast Passes). When you return, you scan the person’s ticket/magic band who has the DAS first at the Fast Past line. The light will turn blue and then the cast member will do something (press a button perhaps? I wasn’t close enough to see) to verify the DAS is being used and then you can scan the rest of your group member’s passes.
You can only have one DAS return time at a time. You can get another after you use the one you have scheduled.
So, this is not some sort of get-out-of-waiting free thing where you just hop from ride to ride, with no wait ever or something that would allow you to schedule all of the rides in the park all at once. You still have to wait to go on a ride with the DAS, you just get to wait somewhere else in the park- so you can go on another ride that has a shorter line or a ride that you have a scheduled Fast Pass for, or go eat, or take a time out in a shady spot if you can find one, while you wait for your return time.
Make sure you scheduled your allotted Fast Passes before your visit. You can then use DAS on other rides or to ride one of those again, if your child wants repetition.
How We Used Disney Disability Access
These were guidelines we set ourselves, not how anyone else has to use them.
We decided we wouldn’t request a return time for any ride with a wait less than 30 minutes. This is the same guidelines we used for Fast Passes as well. It seemed a waste when the lines were short.
We only requested a return time for rides that my son who has the DAS card wanted to go on. We had access to this service due to him, so we were only going to use it for something that he wanted to go on, not so the rest of us would have a shorter in-line wait(I say in-line wait because remember- the DAS is considered a virtual wait, with a time you have to come back and get in line, not immediate access to the rides). So, we got a return time for things like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Pandora that were at the top of his list of want-to-do’s, but did not use it for Space Mountain or Expedition Everest, that he did not want to go on. For those rides, we had scheduled Fast Passes and my other two boys went on Everest a second time when they saw the stand-by line was only 15 minutes.
All told, we got a return time with the Disney Disability Access Card three times per day on both of the days we were in the parks. You could use it more frequently than that, but with the Fast Passes we already had scheduled, rides that already had a short stand-by line, and what my son wanted to go on, three per day provided him with enough help to have a wonderful time at Disney World.