Walt Disney World is my absolute favorite vacation destination…

I remember going with my family as a child and all the magic involved… like the time Goofy gave me an autographed hat when I missed meeting him or snow on Main Street in FLORIDA!

My husband and I honeymooned there too.

We visited Magic Kingdom in our wedding attire (which is no longer allowed, FYI) and were treated like royalty. We met Cinderella in her secret quarters and she exclaimed, “I’ve never been under-dressed here before!”

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It truly is the most magical place on earth!

 

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And my love for it certainly didn’t diminish because I had a son with Autism or because I wasn’t sure how he would react…

We took my son, Nate, to Disney World for the first time when he was four years old.

We’d known him less than six months, but I had just earned my degree and WDW is the place to celebrate!

We weren’t sure how he would handle anything. We decided to make the trip a cheap one, and we were prepared to stay at the resort if that’s what he needed. It was totally low-key.

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Since then, Nate has been to WDW four more times.

Disney is AWESOME to guests with Autism and other cognitive disabilities.

We’ve been kicked out of many places because my sweet boy was making noises or couldn’t stay still enough. But that doesn’t happen at Walt Disney World; they work to include us instead.

The biggest way they do that is with Disney’s DAS.

So what is Disney’s DAS?

It’s Disney’s Disability Access Service.

The first time we used the DAS, it was a new system and a bunch of people were upset about it.

Before this system, anyone with any disability could go straight to the Fastpass (FP+) line on all the rides…

I’m sure you can imagine that many people faked disabilities in order to shorten their wait time. To prevent that, Disney created Disability Access Service.

And let me tell you, DAS works wonderfully for my family.

No one likes to have to wait in line, but for my son and many other individuals with Autism and other cognitive disabilities, it’s more than that.

It is very difficult for my son to stand and wait in line, especially in close proximity to a crowd of other people…

He doesn’t understand why we have to do it, so it causes anxiety and meltdown. But DAS fixes the problem.

Using DAS, we can establish a return time for most attractions. We still have to wait to visit the attraction, but we can do the waiting outside of the line.

This means my son can move around in a quiet area, go to the bathroom, have a snack, or even visit another attraction while we wait, so it doesn’t feel like waiting for 30 minutes and we didn’t have to stand in a crowded line.

Here’s How To Get Disney’s DAS Set Up…

Doing Disney with Disabilities, Part 1: What is Disney DAS

1. The first time you enter a park on your vacation, you head straight to Guest Relations.

Guest Relations is located on the left as you enter each park, as shown below.

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(Photos courtesy of Disney World’s app, My Disney Experience.)

When you go into Guest Services, make sure the person who has the disability is present because a cast member will take his/her photo for the DAS.

You’ll also need your whole party’s MagicBands, even though the other guests in your party do not have to come in with you…

In fact, the space inside is very limited so the rest of your party may be more comfortable waiting outside.

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Here’s Nate waiting inside Guest Relations at Magic Kingdom while I’m standing in line…

There are only a few feet between this chair and the counter.

Sidenote: MagicBands are available for purchase through ShopDisney, the Shop Disney Parks app for Apple or Android, and everywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort…

However, if you stay on Disney property, your MagicBands are included with your package!

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2. When you get to the counter, you tell them you’d like to use DAS…

They’ll ask you why you need it…

You do not have to disclose medical information or have a doctor’s note (that would be invading your privacy); they just need to know what kind of accommodations you’ll need.

Now, you or your child may have different needs than mine. There’s a reason people say “when you’ve met a person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”

Everyone has different needs. This is what I say:

“My son has Autism (I don’t currently have any issues saying that, but you or the individual who actually has the disability might; if so, just leave that out.) He has trouble waiting in lines with people so close and in such a small place.”

The cast members may ask you more questions…

Just be honest about what you need and be courteous. In my experience, that bit of info was enough for them to proceed.

Next, they’ll take a picture of the person with the disability.

Then, they’ll ask how many people are in your party and will need all the MagicBands. They’ll scan each MagicBand and will confirm guest names with you…

They want everyone to experience the World as a family, but they do have a limit of 6 per DAS party…

That being said, they did increase it to eight for me when my parents went with us. I just kindly explained that we were traveling together and they made the change.

At Disney (and really, everywhere), being nice is key.

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3. The last thing I do before leaving Guest Relations is ask for a stroller as a wheelchair pass.

My son just turned 7, so I’m not sure how we’ll do this in the future, but even last year, he used a stroller.

The stroller as a wheelchair pass allows us to take our stroller into any area where he is allowed; he can even stay in it to ride some rides. That has been invaluable to our experience at Disney World.

If you don’t have a stroller as a wheelchair pass, you have to park your stroller like everyone else!

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My son needs space to himself. We rent a double stroller (a City Mini GT) with umbrellas that pull down and seats that lean back. We always rent from Magic Strollers and have had great service with them each time.

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In the past, Nate has had plenty of room for his sensory toys in these strollers. We can also pull down the umbrella part to block sensory input.

He doesn’t use the stroller the whole time we’re there, and I have four other kids who use it too, but the stroller as a wheelchair pass allows the stroller to go with us, and he has priority to use it whenever he needs.

I cannot imagine how many meltdowns that little pass has prevented!

Okay, that’s it for Part 1: What is Disney’s DAS, but come back next week for Part 2 and find out how to use the DAS!

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