Using the Disability Access Service Card at Walt Disney World: What it is, Our experience & Tips to Make it work for your family.
Back in 2011 we visited Walt Disney World and used the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) for Norrin. We went during the first week of June while school was still in session, so it wasn’t as crowded as other times of the year. We used the GAC with discretion. And some things – like meeting characters – required waiting in line. We waited almost 2 hours to take photos with Woody and Buzz.
Since then Disney’s policy regarding individuals with special needs has changed. The GAC has been replaced with the Disability Access Service card (DAS). At the time the policy was modified, many special needs families were quite upset. But I reserved my opinions until I had the opportunity to see how it worked for our family.
Two weeks ago, we headed to Disney for our much needed family vacation. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about the new special needs policy but I shouldn’t have worried. The DAS worked just as well as the GAC. The DAS was truly a lifesaver.
How the Disability Access Service Card Works
The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). A Disability Access Service Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another. This service can be used in addition to Disney’s FASTPASS Service and Disney FastPass+ service.
Getting the DAS. Upon entering any Walt Disney World Park, visit the Guest Relations office and inquire about the Disability Access Card. In our case, we visited City Hall in the Magic Kingdom and explained to the cast member that our son had autism and may have difficulty with some of the lines. We gave them our personal information and allowed them to take a picture of Norrin (his picture was placed on the DAS card).
DAS: Who/What/When. The DAS works for the individual with special needs and the members in their party. (In our case, 3.) Once you receive the DAS, it may be used at any of the Walt Disney World parks for the duration of your stay. (A DAS card is valid for up to 14 days depending on a guest’s ticket entitlement.)
I Got the DAS. Now What? This is when planning and preparation really comes into play. Because unlike the GAC, you may only use the DAS for one ride at a time. The Disney App is a great resource for planning your day with the DAS card as it tells you the approximate wait time for each ride. (But even if you don’t have a smart phone, each ride at the park has the wait time displayed.)
The wait time for Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is 5o minutes. Go up to the entrance of the ride and show the cast member your DAS card. The cast member will give you a return time (based on the current wait time) and stamp the card. You may return to the ride any time after your assigned time. Once you enter the ride, a cast member will cross off your time allowing you to use the DAS card for another ride.
NOTE: Your child does not have to be present to receive a return time but they must be present for anyone in your party to get on the ride.
How WE Used the DAS Card
We used the DAS card with discretion and combined with FastPass+. Like everything else, we use vacation as a learning lesson. We appreciate that Disney recognizes individuals with special needs and strives to make their Disney experience enjoyable. But waiting is something Norrin needs to learn. We can’t FastPass our way through everything. Norrin will need to wait on line at the grocery store, the bank or in a restaurant for his meal. If he isn’t taught to wait for the things that he wants, how will learn to wait for the things he doesn’t? (Just a few weeks ago we waited nearly an hour at the doctors office.) Waiting is a part of life.
Since we had the Disney App on our phones, we were able to get FastPass+ selections for the rides we knew we wanted to get on. (You can only FastPass+ 3 rides at a time.)
Once at the Park, we scrolled through the Disney App looking for the rides we wanted with the longest wait time. We went to the ride and asked for a return time. Then we used the App to see which ride had the shortest wait time and headed to that one. And in between we also used had our FastPass+ selections.
Note: For the DAS you can return to the ride any time after your designated wait time. But for the FastPass+ you must enter the ride during the time frame provided.
Our Autism Family Tip: A great time to go on rides is right before, during and immediately after Parade Times and/or Firework shows. While using the DAS we found that most kids and families are gathering to watch the festivities – and the wait time for other attractions eases up. More tips for Autism Families Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can be found HERE. (Tips also includes what rides we went on and what we used to get on them.)
For the most part, Norrin did well with waiting. We talked about the ride and what he wanted to do next. He also enjoyed looking at the ride in action (whenever possible) and looking at the amazing scenery.
Disney knows their audience and the cast members are super nice, patient and extremely understanding. There are things to see and do while waiting. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has the cutest activities to keep kids busy while they wait – so many of the attractions do! The lines may be long at Disney but waiting can be part of the fun too.
Visiting Walt Disney World? Check out 12 Tips for Autism Families & lessons learned while at Disney.
- We stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Watch our little tour of the Resort on YouTube – click HERE
- Read about the 7 things we loved – http://bit.ly/1BRxqnm
Pin for later! http://bit.ly/1ojIj7b
And read more about our #FamiliaTravels:
For more information on the Disability Access Service card click – HERE
For more information regarding FastPass+ click – HERE