No, Disney Did Not Get Rid of Disability Access or Accommodations…

…although they did make changes to it and continue to do so. Yet twice in recent weeks, I’ve had people tell me that they had. One even told me she wouldn’t visit again until they had one. I let her know that she could visit today then as it still exists and we have continued to use the Disability Access Service on recent visits.

It is quite different than how it was a couple of years ago when one could simply get a pass and walk up to any attraction and virtually get on with no wait. That system is definitely gone. There is a new system in place at both Disneyland Resort® and Walt Disney World Resort®, although just like many other systems at the resorts, there are even differences between the two.

Regardless of where they are visiting, guests needing accommodations should visit Guest Relations at the first park they visit. The Cast Member will ask what types of accommodations are needed (not what disabilities they have nor about any diagnoses, but simply about accommodations). I’ve had some who just needed some simple explanation and one who made me feel like she was giving me the third degree, but after explanation, they entered my son into the system. The pass was then good for the subsequent days during our visit and since we are Annual Passholders, we were told the expiration was actually set for 60 days out. I’ve heard other users say 60 days as well, although according to Disney’s website, they actually expire after 14 days or the length of the person’s pass, whichever comes first. I wish they’d make it six months or annually if it’s a “forever” disability, but it is what it is.

Neither resort issues paper passes anymore, but rather, links the DAS to admission media. At Walt Disney World Resort®, they will link the DAS to the person’s Magic Band or card and then link any accompanying family members and friends to it as well so that all can enter an attraction at the same time. At Disneyland Resort®, they will link the DAS to the person’s admission ticket and then link any accompanying family members and friends to it as well. In other words, one needs to have all activated tickets or activated Magic Bands when setting up the DAS.

One difference between the two resorts is how one sets up a return time for an attraction using the DAS. At Walt Disney World Resort®, one must go to an attraction to get a return time for that attraction. Any person in the party may go and have their Magic Band scanned to get a time as long as they were linked at Guest Relations. The person who needs the accommodation does not need to be present nor do all Magic Bands need to be scanned, although they will need to say who all is in their party. At Disneyland Resort®, one must visit one of the kiosks located throughout both Disneyland® and Disney’s California Adventure® to get a return time for any attraction in either park regardless of which park the kiosk is located in. While the person requiring the accommodation does not need to be present when reserving a time, all tickets of those wanting to visit the attraction must be scanned. In other words, one person can go as long as everyone has given that person their ticket to be scanned.

Quick note – now that this is being done electronically, it is important to either write down or remember the return time as there is no longer a card on which the Cast Member writes it. We have forgotten our return times a couple of times, although it still worked out well.

When it’s time to return to the attraction, there are only minor differences. At Walt Disney World Resort®, everyone in the party should report to the ride entrance and the person with the DAS should scan their Magic Band or card first. At Disneyland Resort®, we also had the person with the DAS scan their ticket first usually, but discovered that it didn’t matter what order as long as the person with the DAS was riding with us. That’s important to note. While the person with the DAS does not need to be present to reserve a time, they must be present and riding the attraction when returning. On attractions with Fastpass queues, the party will generally simply join the Fastpass line. On other attractions, the Cast Member will direct the party where to go, which usually results in entering through the exit.

A couple other important rules one should know.

  • While there is a “start” time that one cannot enter an attraction before if using the DAS, the time does not “expire” until it is used. In other words, if you have a return time of 10:00am, but you are busy and don’t get back to the attraction until 4:00pm, the return time is still good and can be used.
  • The DAS is good for all four Florida parks or both California parks. There is no need to visit Guest Relations when going into another park at the same resort.
  • Only one attraction can be reserved at a time for any person even if there are multiple DAS holders in the party. The party can split and have one set with one attraction reserved and the other set with another attraction reserved, but no one in the party can have two reservations.
  • DAS can (and should in my opinion) be used in conjunction with Fastpass+ at Walt Disney World Resort® or Fastpass at Disneyland Resort®. We have found that by using the two systems and scheduling the longest waits around meal times so we can eat while we wait, we have managed to not wait longer than 15-20 minutes for any attraction and generally, it’s even shorter.
  • Wheelchair users may or may not need a DAS. According to Disney’s website, “Depending on the attraction, the Guest will either wait in the standard queue or receive a return time at the attraction based on the current wait time. For some attractions at Disneyland Resort, these guests will go directly to an alternate entrance.” That being said, if one needs additional accommodations, one should mention it to the Guest Relations Cast Member.
  • If the system won’t work for you, then simply tell the Guest Relations Cast Member what you need. For example, I know of one family who has a child who simply wants to ride the same attraction over and over. They were given the DAS and got FP+ for that ride and in addition, the Cast Member gave them extra FP+ times for that attraction. It may take a little more explanation, but if you truly have a need and are honest, they will do their best to make it work for you.

AND, while I know this is long, I wanted to share a few others’ opinions about the new system. We have been able to make it work for us and it seems that, while not as user-friendly as the old system, others have been able to make it work as well.

From Kathleen Kelly of Special Mouse, “Disney did not do away with accommodations, however, they did do away with accelerated access to attractions for guests with disabilities. That much is true. There are 2 types of accommodation now: an alternate waiting experience or an alternate entrance.” She added, “We used the DAS for our son with Autism this past May. We were able to make it work, however, my husband and I agreed that it was certainly more inconvenient than the GAC. We spent much more time backtracking across the parks, despite our planning not to do so, and there was a lot more ‘killing time’ while waiting for FP windows to open up.” You can find out more about traveling to the Disney Parks with accommodations at http://specialmouse.com/.

From Kerry Kingdon of Dare to Be…, “At first, I just used my wheelchair, but after a problem with a long line, I was told to get the DAS. Other than one rude CM, I’ve had great experiences since… I don’t use the DAS much at WDW (Walt Disney World Resort®) and even less at DL (Disneyland Resort®), but just about everyone I have encountered has been very helpful, was sure to answer all my questions, and have made sure what kind of help I need.” You can see more of Kerry’s experience with DAS at the end of this blog post: http://18yearjourney.blogspot.com/2014/04/carlsbad-5000.html.

From a friend, S.M., who asked that I just use her initials, “We have used DAS on 5 long trips since it started in October, 2013. We’ve found it worked very well for our family. They just added having it linked to Magicbands at WDW (Walt Disney World Resort® at the end of April. There were a few glitches where the technology was not working, but the CMs worked around it well and we didn’t have any issues.”

From Melissa Weinburger of Asperger’s and Allergies and ADHD, Oh My!, “My son loves having to (have) his band scanned first when we return for a ride; makes him feel special.”

For more on my own experiences, check out these posts.

Three Days at Disneyland, Two Children on the Autism Spectrum, and One Disability Access Service Card

Disneyland Disability Access Service Change and Update

I will also be posting more information after my trip to California next week comparing access at the Disney parks along with SeaWorld San Diego and Universal Hollywood. I will be traveling not only with my son who has Autism, but also with a family friend who has mobility and other issues. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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