If you have a child with autism, you know waiting is not something they are very good at. However, a trip to Disney Parks will most often involve waiting. Making a kid at Disney World with autism wait in long lines will surely end in a meltdown. One meltdown can ruin an entire day.
Disney knows that you don’t want to spend all that money to come to their parks, wait in one line, then have to abandon the rest of the day. They have services in place that can help you, your child with autism, and the rest of your family have a magical day at the park.
Disney’s Disabilities Access program was in the news a few years ago due to individuals abusing the services put in place for disabled people. Because of this, Disney changed the way that people can access these services.
Now, Disney has a newer program called the Disability Access Service (DAS) pass. This pass is available at any Disney Park, however, we have only had experience with it at Disney World with our son who is diagnosed with autism.
HOW TO GET A DISABILITY ACCESS SERVICE PASS
As soon as you get to the park on the first day, go to guest relations. Tell the cast member (Disney speak for “employee”) you would like to get a DAS pass. They will probably ask why you need the pass. We told them that our son has autism and has difficulty waiting in line.
You DO NOT have to tell them your child’s diagnosis nor do you need to bring a letter from your child’s doctor stating their diagnosis. It is actually against the law for them to ask you to reveal your child’s disability or prove it with paperwork. You only need to tell them why you feel your child will need this.
Your child’s photo will be taken and linked to their ticket/MagicBand. Everyone else’s ticket/MagicBand that is in your party will also be scanned and linked to your child’s ticket.
You do not have to do this everyday – just the first day of your visit to Disney World or Disneyland. The pass is good for 60 days.
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NOTE: The DAS pass is for all people with disabilities that have a difficult time standing/waiting in line. When we visit with my father, he also gets a DAS pass as he has a pacemaker and a double knee replacement.
HOW TO USE THE DISNEY DAS PASS
So, how does it work? Say you want to go on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride (which is my favorite!) in the Magic Kingdom. When you are at the entrance to the ride, you will see two lines, the “standby” and the “Fastpass+.”
Above the entrance to the standby, there will be a sign that states, “current wait time is: ___”. Let’s say the wait time is 45 minutes. This means that if you were to stand in the standby line, you will have to wait around 45 minutes before you get to the front of the line. Now what?
Don’t stress. There is a cast member at the entrance of every attraction. Find them and let them know you have a DAS pass. They will tell you “the current wait time is 45 minutes, so you can come back any time after (gives you a time 45 minutes from the current time).”
They will then scan your child’s pass/MagicBand, then scan everyone in your party’s pass/MagicBand that wants to go on the ride. You can now go do other things for 45 minutes, then come back, scan your pass/MagicBands at the Fastpass+ entrance, and enter the Fastpass+ line.
DISABILITY ACCESS SERVICE PASS TIPS
- When you get your passes scanned and get your DAS return time, politely ask the cast member if you could just get on the ride right now. This works 75% of the time. Cast members do not like to say no to guests. As long as you are friendly and polite, you most likely will be able to go right into the Fastpass+ line.
- Ask for a shorter wait time. When we went to get on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the wait was two hours! We asked if we could get right on and was told no. When I explained to them that we would not be able to go on another ride for two hours if we waited and that my son was tired and we were about to go back to our resort, they gave us a 15 minutes wait time. We used the time to get a drink and visit the restrooms, then came back and they let us through.
- If you are still asked to wait the full length of time, use your Fastpasses to schedule some other rides.
- We got a DAS pass for the Frozen Ever After ride in Epcot and were told to come back in 90 minutes. It was the last thing we were planning on doing that day in Epcot. After about 10 minutes my son started crying. He wanted to leave, but my other two kids wanted to wait to ride it. We waited 10 minutes, then went back to see if they would let us on. They didn’t say anything, just let us scan our passes and get in line.
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When and where to use your DAS pass
- We don’t use the DAS pass for every ride.
- If the wait time is less than 30 minutes for a ride, we will wait in line.
- The DAS pass is supposed to work anywhere there is a Fastpass+ entry point.
- It will not work in restaurants, some character meet and greets and shows.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
If your DAS pass doesn’t work, it never hurts to ask. If your kid really wants to see Mickey and the wait is an hour, nicely ask the cast member if they can help you out.
Once we were waiting to see Fantasmic! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As we were about to get in line there was an announcement that it was standing room only. This wasn’t going to work. We really wanted to see the show so we asked a cast member if there was a way we could use the DAS pass for the next show. She said “come with me” and personally escorted us to the VIP reserved section!
If it wasn’t for the DAS pass, my son would have probably last only two minutes or so before getting overwhelmed and having a meltdown and then we’d have to leave.
If there’s something else that you need for your child that the DAS pass is not addressing, please visit a cast member or guest services. As long as your requests are reasonable and you stay calm, they will do everything they can to accommodate you.
Disney’s customer service is typically top notch and if you feel you need help with something just ask the nearest cast member and they can get you to someone who will help you.
DAS pass helps the whole family
Not only does the DAS pass help my son have a good time at Disney, it helps everyone in the family enjoy it more too. My son is a triplet. His brother and sister do not have autism and although they are understanding of their brother’s issues, it does not mean they don’t get upset when he makes it difficult for them to enjoy themselves.
The last time we visited Disney World was over Thanksgiving. Talk about crowded! So. Many. People. However, we still had a great time and we were even able to stay at a park from open to close one day which was a big deal.
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Some other tips for visiting the parks
- Disney offers companion restrooms if you child is like mine and refuses to go into a bathroom alone.
- If you need a quiet space to relax, there is usually one nearby.
- Our favorite place in Magic Kingdom to relax is Tom Sawyer’s Island and the Main Street Train Station.
- In Epcot we like Japan’s koi pond and Morocco’s fountain.
- Make sure you take lots of breaks throughout the day. A bunch of little breaks may be good for some kids. Other kids might prefer going back to their resort for quite time in the room or a swim in the pool.
Does your child have food issues/allergies?
All food service areas at Disney have an allergy-friendly menu. They are usually located at the register at quick service areas. Your server will be able to get you one at a sit down service.
The item that you ordered from the allergy menu will be put on a separate tray and sometimes be delivered at a separate window/station. Any food item from the allergy-friendly menu is specially prepared so it will take longer for it to be made.
I cannot eat wheat/gluten and always order from the allergy menu and recommend that you ask for the non-allergy food to be served when it is ready and not wait for the allergy meal because, depending on what you ordered, it can take a while for it to be made.
OTHER SERVICES FOR DISABLED GUESTS
There are many other services that are available to disabled guests in Disney World.
- Handheld devices that offer assisted listening, captioning, and audio description are available in each park
- sign language interpreting
- Braille guidebooks
- Guides for guests with cognitive disabilities that offer tips on how to best experience the parks are available online on Disney Park’s website.
Last word of advice: HAVE FUN!
I know how stressful it can be traveling with a child with autism. You have got to stop and remember to enjoy yourself! Take silly pictures, laugh, try on all the funny hats in Epcot’s World Showcase. Oh, and get yourself a Dole Whip (next to Magic Carpets of Aladdin in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom). ENJOY!