Autism/Disabilities Accommodations at the Parks
Visiting Disneyland or any other amusement park for that matter with a child or adult on the spectrum can be tricky and stressful, it’s not always a walk in the park. My daughter has Autism which is a neurological disorder. Autism causes her to have issues with understanding the concept of time among other things. My girl can become over stimulated with people being too close, sounds, smells and crowds. All of these things can cause people with autism to become stressed thus making the alternate entrance option (exit of a Ride) the better one when boarding attractions. At Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure there is a system that is in place, the DAS. It can come in handy to assist in making your experience a much more magical one at the park.
What it does: The DAS helps guests with cognitive issues like my daughter by getting a return time to one ride at a time and wait outside the ride's queue till the boarding time comes up (which is equal to the rides current wait time less 10 minuets). The subtracted time is due to what has to be done to get a ride time..
How do you register to use the Disneyland Disability Access Service (DAS)?: You will need to visit Guest Relations at either City Hall in Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce in Disney California Adventure. Here you will be asked what your concerns are or issues you may have when visiting parks such as Disneyland. The DAS is valid for 2 months if you have an annual passport or for the duration of your stay with valid park tickets and it works at both parks regardless of which one it was issued in. You do have to go through a registration process and if your DAS time lapses it's validation date you will be asked the reason for your need all over again. Upon issuance you can select your first ride, get your boarding time as well as a park map detailing where the guest relations kiosk are located throughout the parks. It is there where you will get your future ride boarding times for the remainder of your stay.
Where to get a boarding time for a ride: Visit any guest relations kiosk regardless of park and request the ride of choice. Your ticket or annual pass will be scanned along with everyone else in your party desiring to ride and the wait time relayed to you (less 10 minuets) When the ride time comes up you are free to go to that ride then or anytime after, it will not expire until you check in at the said attraction or change it for another ride at a guest relations kiosk. At the ride you will Check in by presenting your tickets again (look for handicap entrance) where they are scanned by a CM and you are free to join the line. It may be the fastpass return line, exit/handicap line or a point where you are merged into the general queue line. When you have finished the attraction you are free to visit another guest relations kiosk to select your next ride/attraction. With the DAS you are also permitted to utilize the fastpass system which gives you two rides you can virtually wait for at once.
Special one on one time with the Characters at Disneyland make it all worth the while!
There has been a lot of controversy over this new program which replaced the GAC that ended in October of 2013 due to the severe fraud that was occurring by non disabled people acquiring the pass. The new system has all but eliminated the problems that were occurring in the past.
I still prefer the old system which was spontaneous and just more natural, it takes work to make the new system work for us on a good day. Even with added accommodations of Readmission passes which are not readily handed out by all CM's . What these passes are is a "safety net" for us, in case my girl passes a ride she HAS to go on right then and there or we have an extremely long wait for our next ride. We can use the Re-ad pass to go on that ride without a return time or if she wants to ride a ride immediately again after getting off one as many on the spectrum like to do. But again it is NOT an immediate boarding pass, we still wait and that on a busy day for a child on the spectrum can be very difficult. Unfortunately the new pass is not a "one size fits all", many disabilities are not as covered as our group is unfortunately. Wheelchair bound guest are given a return time directly at the ride of choice but without a DAS, it is not a blanket policy anymore.
- Ability to have return time while eating, shopping, taking restroom break.
- Added Readmission passes available to some that help out with those extra busy days and the “Immediate” need to ride. (which is still not immediate). But again these are NOT given out to most visitors but was done at the beginning of the transition between the GAC and the DAS systems. Always advocate for your family members if need be is my advise. Only you know what is best suited for them.
- Not having to wait in the general Queue with a special needs child/person who has no concept of personal space or waiting in general is a pro for them and the general public.
- Stroller as a wheelchair tag enables you to take a stroller up into the ride queue with child until point to boarding ride, keeping them and your belonging together and comfortable.
- Waiting for return time and then having child/person change their mind, you sometimes lose your time that you waited, all depends on the CM.
- No consistency among Cast Members with DAS rules when it comes to ride breakdowns and what accommodations they will make with your ride times. Rule is you should be issued a Re AD pass. This issues I run into less and less as the change from the old system to the new has settled with the CM's.
- Ride times are normally longer than normal stand by times with the DAS on busy days.
- Passing a ride and having to explain to your spectrum child why they have to wait to ride/come back at a later time.
Per ride info/Tips for some of the major attractions:
- Indy -Very loud in the regular ride queue, wear headphones if loud noises are an issue. The ride itself is very jerky and loud. Utilize the exit to enter where you are merged in further down the line if not you will be added to the FP line.
- Big Thunder Railroad- Can be loud from riders screaming in the tunnels and the blasts/explosion. Again utilize the exit entrance if possible, though the wait to board is with no overhang and it does get hot in the summer months the line moves quickly. If you do not use the exit you will be added to the FP line..
- Haunted Mansion -Utilize the stroller option if crowds are an issue as the main hall to board the ride gets very impacted and can be overwhelming. If no stroller is used you will be merged into the line at the point of entering the mansion.
- Splash Mountain -Utilize exit to enter, main queue can be loud and crowded and feel confining. If no stroller enter at FP lane.
- It's a Small World- If not using the handicap entrance, pick the right lane, it's faster. Wheelchairs can greatly add to wait times in the handicap line (left) during peek seasons.
- Space Mountain- Enter at exit of ride with stroller or be placed with FP line. (sound is loud on this ride)
- Star Tours- Enter ride at FP line. I have honestly never used the stroller option on this ride as it the line always moves fast.
- Pirates- Enter ride from exit with the DAS.
- Matterhorn- Enter from right side of ride. This is always changing and depends on park attendance. You will board from exit. Never have utilized stroller as wheelchair for this ride as the line moves fast.
- Finding Nemo Subs- Enter at exit (kinda confusing as the monorail entrance is directly next to it. Very tight enclosed space on the subs, keep in mind if this is an issue.
- Astro Blaster- Enter at far right next to green little men store. There you will be escorted and merged in with line.
- Peter Pans Flight- Enter handicap/exit lane.
- Alice in Wonderland- Check in and enter from exit.
All other rides go to the exit and check in with CM to be given access to ride.
Disneyland California Adventure
This park since it is newer is very handicap accessible, not many needs to enter from exits and is only offered on a few rides for wheelchairs. DAS still utilizes exits or FP lines.
- California Screaming- With a wheelchair or stroller you can load quicker and enter from exit.
- Tower of Terror -Pick the right side to board when up to the point of split. Other wise there are stairs and the line tends to be longer. I have never utilized the stroller as wheelchair option on the ride as the line moves very fast.
- Radiator Springs - Again if you can take the far left once you are up to the split, it does not emerge with the normal lines or FP/single riders. You do this with a stroller as a wheelchair or a wheelchair.
- Soaring Over California- Enter at FP line. I have never utilized the stroller as wheelchair option on the ride as the line moves very fast. (sound on ride is a bit loud)
- Grizzly River Run- Enter at FP lane. Line moves fast and have never used stroller as wheelchair option.
- Toy Story Mania- Enter at the left side at short ramp.
Remainder of rides enter/ check in at exit
The DAS does NOT work for character meet and greets which can be a very long wait on busy days (over an hour to and hour and a half) this to me is a big negative in my book. I normally go to the park alone with my girl and have no one to stand in line to hold our place. We opt instead for very slow park days or find them on the streets for the chance meetings.
So please next time you see a perfectly normal looking child or adult in the handicap entrance, we are not abusing the system (most of us anyway) and if we are calm it is because the system IS working for us!
My daughter and I are Annual Pass holders and visit approximately once a month as a reward/motivator to my daughter and well because we just LOVE all things Disney! The disability passes have been a blessing for my child, for without them I fear we would not have been able to enjoy the park equally and make the memories we have made. We still have bad days and hard moments we work thru on our trips (even on the days pictured here), but manage to find our magic with the help of a little Pixie dust.
In the enclosed PDF you will find a great guide for planning a trip to Disneyland with family in the spectrum. It details the attractions if you are sensitive to sounds, smells, loud noises, lights, and speed. Along with if the attraction accepts Fastpass so that you can plan.