Disney World Disability Access Service
Disney Parks have made an unwavering commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all their guests. For this reason, Disney has a Disability Access Service program, or DAS for short, that’s offered at the Walt Disney World theme parks. This is put in place to assist guests who have difficulty with extended waits in a queue line due to a disability.
Guests with DAS can go to an attraction and – while DAS doesn’t allow guests immediate access — guests are assigned a return time based on the current wait time for the queue. It’s important to note that guests can only use DAS for one attraction at a time as it does act as a placeholder spot for the standard queue line.
Guests that are eligible for this pass can pre-register for DAS Advance with a Cast Member anytime between 2 to 30 days prior to arrival. This is done so virtually through a live video chat with the Cast Member. Once registered, DAS is valid for up to 60 days. After 60 days, guests will need to re-register for the program. Guests registering for DAS Advance can pre-select up to 2 one-hour return windows for select experiences using Disney’s Advance planning option. These return windows are in addition to the return times you can request throughout your day at the parks.
CLICK HERE for a FREE 17 Page Disney World Autism Guide
If you are already at the park and are trying to sign up for DAS, that’s fine! Guests can go to Guest Relations and speak with a Cast Member about the DAS program. From there, they’ll be able to register either you or your guest.
It’s important to note that, before either you or your guest registers for DAS, you want to make sure your travel party is added to the Family & Friends list on My Disney Experience. You can do this online or on the app. This is so your whole group can be included with the DAS plan and everyone is still able to experience attractions together. This is especially important for the return times given.
You also want to make sure you’ve already linked your park tickets for each member of the party.
And of course — make sure that the guest who is requesting to use DAS is present during the registration process, regardless of whether you choose to register in advance or at Guest Relations.
Where To Stay With Autistic Children On A Disney World Trip
We find that many of our visitors with autistic children prefer our autism friendly private pool homes. This gives you more control over your child’s environment and stimulation.
Many of them are just as fun as the hotels and have game rooms along with pools that kids love. In this way, you will have the quiet and comfort of home while still enjoying your vacation to the max!
The autism friendly vacation homes and townhome options are within 15 minutes drive of Disney World and all offer creature comforts you can’t find in a hotel room. You can cook, do laundry, have your own private space and enjoy your family vacation.
Your Autistic Child’s Best Disney World Vacation Plan
Walt Disney World is known worldwide as a top-notch family destination. The biggest questions people often ask are what to wear and where to dine. However, for guests living with special needs, the excitement can be tempered with concerns. Crowds, noise, and change of routine can cause problems for children with autism, and trigger a meltdown caused by over-stimulation.
Fortunately, the Disney company’s guest service is legendary, and the Cast Members are well-trained and eager to assist in any way possible to make your day a very magical one!
Getting Ready For Your Trip
Prepare your child before the trip. A Disney vacation includes an overabundance of sensory stimulation, from strange noises, lights, and colors, to large crowds. Make some trips to local places, such as malls, and monitor your child’s needs. Also, watch Disney movies and talk to the child about meeting the characters. Big stuffed characters can be intimidating, but if the child recognizes those characters, the transition may be easier. It is also helpful to make a well-organized touring plan or social story (be sure to follow it once you get there!) and turn it into a graphic display that the child can follow.
Prepare yourself prior to the trip. Speak with your child’s physician and other specialists, and ask them for recommendations. Make sure that you are well-rested. Bring toys, games, and snacks to distract your child, and have plans in place for making a quick exit from the parks should the child become over-stimulated. Also, get a note from the doctor that describes the disability. Though it is not strictly necessary, it will minimize your time at Guest Relations.
Once At Disney World
When you arrive at the parks, rent a stroller or wheelchair if needed.
With your DAS loaded on your phone, you are ready to experience the parks. appropriate.
Be sure to get information on the rides and shows in advance. You know your child, and you know which things will entertain them and which ones may startle or terrify them. Disney also has downloadable information on sensory guides and where quiet rooms are located on their main site.
Ask questions of the ride attendants. Do not be afraid to ask specific or pointed questions either, such as “Is this a dark ride?” or “Are there unusually loud noises involved?”
Should you have any doubts as to the suitability of a particular attraction for your child, experience it yourself first. Cast Members are very understanding of this, and will often issue a Child Swap pass which will allow one person to preview the attraction, then the whole party to experience it together, without needing to wait in line again.
Do not try to pack too much into one day. The sensory stimulation that permeates Walt Disney World can and often does lead to overload. At least for the first few days, until you see how the child will react, take a long afternoon break at the hotel or for shopping and dining in a less crowded environment. If your child is successful during the morning and evening, then you can gradually add additional hours in the parks.
Every day, go to your child’s favorite ride in the park first. This allows them to experience the ride multiple times with less wait, and also sets the tone and mood for a happy and successful day.
Finding The Ideal Place To Stay
Walt Disney World is full of accommodations, some of which may not be immediately apparent. Should the child suddenly go into a meltdown, ask any available Cast Member for the nearest quiet location. Family waiting rooms are available at some attractions, and there are first aid stations and nursing stations available in the parks, both of which offer some amount of solitude. A slow ride on the PeopleMover in the Magic Kingdom or a meal at a quiet sidewalk café in Epcot can also help to soothe the over-stimulation.
Walt Disney World is an excellent vacation destination for all guests. Cast Members truly go out of their way to create a magical experience for all guests. Simply go with a plan and a lot of patience, let your child set the pace, and prepare yourself for the unexpected, and you will discover why many families with special needs return year after year to the Walt Disney World Resort.