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I never thought I would be writing a post about this topic. I never thought I would need to utilize this service at Disney parks. But here I am, writing about it. You never think you will have a special needs child. Or maybe you do. But maybe you are like me and you think- I can handle his special needs and we won’t need any accommodations. That was me. I never thought I would need to use Disney’s Disability Access Service. But I did.
My family has not been to Disneyland in 18 months. Our last trip in September 2015 was hard. The Goof was only 5 years old at the time. I dismissed his behavior from that visit as being over tired and maybe starting to feel a little entitled. I didn’t realize it was just the beginning of more things to come.
My Son Has A Cognitive Disorder, The DAS Helped
You see the Goof has severe ADHD. Since that last visit, it has gotten progressively worse. We kept thinking it was just him acting out, or adjusting to school, etc. When we sat down with his doctors and his nurses and his teachers to discuss his behavior, his impulse control, and how he was doing at school, we all agreed it was time to have him evaluated. Which we did. But our next trip was planned long before we would be able to find the correct medicines and coping mechanisms that work. You see ADHD is not just about being hyper. The thoughts in his head are constantly spinning, and his emotions are out of control. On top of this, the Goof also has chronic ITP. A blood condition that means his body doesn’t make platelets. Those two things are not a good combination.
With all of this going on, first you might ask, why did we plan this vacation for now? Why didn’t we wait to see if we could get his ADHD under control? Quite honestly, we needed this vacation. This last year with the Goof has been extremely hard on all of us. Not only that, our twins are also in therapy (one is special needs) and our schedules have been so busy between appointments and school that we have not been able to just have fun family time. We needed to go and have fun and enjoy time together.You see ADHD is not just about being hyper.Click To Tweet
We didn’t plan on utilizing Disney’s Disability Access Service. In fact, we went into it only planning on using their stroller as a wheelchair system. See, one of our twins has SPD (sensory processing disorder) and some muscle issues. His stroller is his safe place, and also good for when his legs start giving out on him. So we planned on getting the tag so we could take the stroller in line and calling it good. We figured, if the Goof was having an especially hard time, we would leave, or maybe even let him sit in the stroller (he is tiny and still well within the weight and height limits).
(By the way, we love that we can rent the same stroller we have at home from City Stroller Rentals. That way the twins feel super comfortable in it. And their rates and customer service are AMAZING!)
The Cast Member Suggested The Disability Access Service
It was when we were waiting in an incredibly long security line and the Goof started getting edgy (even with his meds) and you could tell he was already having issues that a security cast member asked us if we needed any extra help. I was so grateful when he gave the Goof a task to do (counting how many people were in line and how many strollers) and found ways to distract him. The CM leaned over as we picked our stuff back up from the table and said, “Do you know about Disney’s Disability Access Service?” I said yes, but we didn’t plan on using it. He said “Why not? We have it in place so that this vacation is magical for the entire family of those who need it. We want you to enjoy your vacation knowing that he is taken care of.”
And that is when I realized, while we could probably manage a Disneyland vacation without utilizing Disney’s Disability Access Service, it definitely would not be a fun vacation. It would be one filled with stress for me. I always worry about the Goof bothering other guests, or doing something that others think is weird, or worse yet, having a melt down. It would have been a vacation that would take a toll on the Goof, which means each day would get harder and harder for him to get through.
So Mike and I talked as we headed towards the parks about if we should go ahead and utilize Disney’s Disability Access Service for the Goof. We still had not even made up our minds when we went into the Chamber of Commerce in DCA to get our stroller tag. I had heard nightmare stories about cast members not wanting to give a DAS to those who do not have physically visible disabilities. And I still had barely wrapped my head around the fact that the Goof was special needs and still working my way through his accommodations at school, let alone that he might need them at other places. I didn’t want to embarrass him and put him through the wringer with a CM. We still haven’t fully explained to him about his situation, just that we have medicine that helps him think clearer, calm down, and not get angry as easily.
When we went into Chamber of Commerce, the Cast Member we spoke with was so helpful. She said that we shouldn’t feel bad for asking about the DAS and that she thought it really was a tool we should utilize. We agreed. She explained how it worked (which we already knew). Basically, we would go to a guest relations kiosk and get a return time to the ride that was based off the current wait time. This way we could walk around or find other things to do with the Goof until our return time was up. In other words, he could wait in an alternate location instead of in line.
I Was Reluctant To Use The System Meant to Help My Son
Seriously guys, I was still reluctant to get the pass. I am in the Disney forums. I know what people think and say about those that utilize Disney’s Disability Access Service. So, we didn’t use it for a few rides. And I was done. And so was the Goof. We were there during Spring Break and the crowds were high, it was hot (for those of us that came from a never-ending-winter state) and the Goof was extremely over stimulated. Honestly, after 3 rides, I was done for the day. So we used it.
And it made our vacation more like the vacations we used to take to Disney. Ones where we enjoyed being together as a family. We still had our ups and downs and we still had to find random things to entertain the Goof while we waited for our return time. We still chose to wait in any lines that were shorter than 30 minutes, and we still had to use a lot of coping methods. But it was nice to have this time together as a family and enjoy our time together. The mornings were still stressful, but once we were inside the park, it was a huge difference. We were now able to have just as magical a vacation as the other families.
Don’t get me wrong. It was still hard. I still am not sure if we made the right decision. Maybe I am just worried about what others think. Maybe it is because I don’t think of my child as “special needs” but just eccentric and unique and full of life. But you know what, it helped my family. It didn’t make our vacation better than the ones previous to The Goof’s ADHD manifesting itself. Disney’s Disability Access Service just helped make it closer to what it used to be.
I decided to write this post simply because I know there are families who, like ours, are scared or stressed about possibly taking their children on vacation. I shared how worried I was about this trip in an episode of the Aventureland Moms Podcast (view it here on YouTube). I want you to know that Disney wants you to have a good vacation. And not just your child. But you as parents. Disney is a place for families to go and forget about the worries of the outside world. But what happens when one of your biggest worries is how your child will handle this vacation? When you can’t leave the stress factors at home it is hard to have a great time. And that is why Disney has this service in place. To help ease that burden just a little bit so you can once again enjoy time together as a family.I was worried people would think we were abusing the system just because they couldn’t see that we needed it. Click To Tweet
We need to stop thinking that just because a person doesn’t have a visible disability that they are gaming the system. We seriously would not have been able to do our Disneyland vacation without the service. Even with the service I was often exhausted from the Goof and helping him through out the day. But at the same time, I was embarassed when we used it. I was worried people would think we were abusing the system just because they couldn’t see that we needed it physically. It made me feel for all the parents who might have children with even more severe cognitive disorders. Or for those who have any other invisible disease. We need to stop looking at everyone like they are just trying to cheat the system.
Yes, we all know that there is a problem with people gaming the system, which is why Disney had to change their system. But it isn’t fair to those who truly need it to look at everyone like they are just trying to avoid the lines. Plus, these families aren’t avoiding lines. That is another problem. People look at them like they are skipping the lines. They aren’t. They are simply finding an alternative place to wait.
This isn’t just for us, it is for you. If my son has to stand in a 45 minute line, he starts to bounce around, or he might get frustrated if you don’t move fast enough, or if you look at him wrong. This makes it so you don’t get bumped by him, or have to witness a meltdown that, as hard as I try, I can’t stop but can only do my best to help him calm down. Disney’s Disability Access Service helps make the experience more enjoyable for everyone, while keeping things fair.
What To Know About Disney’s Disability Access Service
Now that I wrote this post over a year ago, and we have used the service a few more times, I wanted to give you all the info. If you are wanting to know about Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS) I have a few answers to some common questions asked.
Where do I go to get the Disability Access Service at Disneyland?
To sign up and get the DAS loaded on to your ticket or Annual Pass, you can go a few places. Guests over three (with a physical/digital ticket) can go to any Guest Service Kiosk (with the green umbrellas) to get all set up. Guests without a ticket due to being under three, will need to go to City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce to get set up. Anyone can actually go to those places, but lines are often long, and Disney is encouraging you to go to the customer service kiosks when possible.
Who is Disney’s Disability Access Service for?
The Disability Access Service is for guests who have special needs. Plain and simple. However, it doesn’t mean you will get the same accommodations as another guest. If you are in a wheelchair, ECV, or have another mobility issue, you will not actually need the DAS loaded on to your ticket. Instead, you will simply take your ECV, Wheelchair, cane, etc in line with you. You will utilize the exits in some lines. And in some cases, the CM at the exit will issue a return time.
If you have a cognitive issue or another issue such as severe anxiety, then you will most likely be issued a DAS similar to the one my son received.
If you have any other special needs, talk to a CM and see what accommodations are available.
What do I need to show the Cast Member to get the Disability Access Service?
Nothing. They can not ask for any documentation. But you need to be prepared to explain what you (or your child) need help with. Don’t simply go up and ask for a DAS. You need to explain what is the issue you have. SO for example, I say “My son has severe ADHD with self-harming tendencies and emotional/phsyical outbursts, he needs an alternative place to wait.” You don’t even have to give a diagnosis, but you need to be able to explain what the obstacle is, and what kind of solution you need.
On that note…I have heard Cast Members can give people a hard time about getting a DAS?
I have heard lots of reports about people being given a hard time about getting the Disability Access Service. In fact, I was with a friend back when the DAS was still new (from the old version) and she was given a hard time. If I hadn’t of been there to help her get it, I don’t think she would have.
Part of the reason for the questioning is there is abuse of the system. It is up to the Cast Member to try and make sure people are not abusing the system. With this, I find they tend to question smaller children less, but have heard as children get older, or adults request the DAS, they seem to get a harder time. Just be prepared to advocate for yourself or your child.
So How Does It Work? Do I Have To Ride Without My Party?
Basically, the DAS system works similar to a fastpass. You will go to a Guest Service Kiosk (with the green umbrellas) and ask for a return time for any ride in the park. The return time issued will be based on the current wait time. If there is a 25 minute wait time for standby, you will get a 20-25 minute return time. So then you go do something else while waiting for that return time to arrive.
You can only get a DAS for one ride at a time. When you sign up for a DAS. The Cast Member can add your party to your DAS (up to 5 other ticketed guests). They will get to enter with you on all the rides, but the person holding the DAS must ride, and their ticket/bar code must be scanned first.
You will all enter through the DAS entrance. At rides with a Fastpass line, it is usually the Fastpass entrance. Most other rides it will be the exit.
For more information about Disney’s Disability Access Service at Disneyland Resort you can CLICK HERE. Have you used Disney’s Disability Access Service? What was your experience with it?
Do I Have To Get Disney’s Disability Access Service Set Up Every Day?
A big question I see is if you have to go to guest service every morning to get all set up. The answer is no. When you set up your DAS, it will be good for 1-2 weeks (for tickets) or 60 days (for Annual Passholders). You will need to go to guest services if you happen to have a new person to add to your party though.
Can I Still Use The Fastpass/MaxPass System When I Have A DAS?
Yes! Disney’s Disability Access Service functions separately from the Fastpass/MaxPass system. It makes it nice because you can focus using your DAS on non-fastpass rides, and then use the Fastpass system on the rides with FP (which often have longer wait times). Now in some cases, the MaxPass may not be worth it, and I feel some people may be able to pass on MaxPass and go without. I wrote a lot about if MaxPass was worth the cost or not after our last trip.
What Can I NOT Use the DAS for?
There are a few things that the DAS does not give you a return time for. Character meet and greets, parades, and other shows. If you need any special accommodations for these items, be sure to talk to a Cast Member in the morning about those. Do not wait until 5-10 minutes before the event/attraction/show to speak to someone.
Hopefully this helps you! If you have a question I didn’t answer, please leave it in the comments and I will try to answer it.
A note from Becca: In this I talked about how “I was done” or “I was exhausted from helping the Goof.” This is because I am the one writing, and while we have been talking to the Goof about his struggles, this story is from my point of view. Please know that this was for him. He needed the help to have a “normal” vacation.
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This post originally ran on April 3, 2017. I added the FAQs in April 2018.