When Disney announced that they were going to change how they handled services for disabled guests, I and many others were concerned. The old system was very informal and worked well, in my opinion. It was just a piece of paper and you showed it to people at the line and they would help you by either putting you in a separate disability line or let you go to the exit and get in line there. It made it possible to enjoy the park without waiting in long lines where the disabled person and, possibly, others in the line would have a much less than optimal experience. While it didn’t guarantee short lines, in practice that’s they way it often worked. So people who just can’t take Disneyland for long periods of time could get a “full day” in a few hours. With Disney costing $90 for kids, $96 for those 10 and older, it’s a big deal if you can only be there for a few hours and most of that time is spent in line. I could seriously see getting on one, maybe two major rides and that’s it.
But, sadly, informal systems can be gamed easily. And that’s what happened. See Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World for an example. Or just read the title.
Shannon Rosa wrote about the new system over at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism as One Autistic Teen’s Disneyland Success Story. She and Leo visited Disneyland a few weeks ago (Nov. 2014). Also, there’s Disney DAS from a diary of a mom describing their trip in May to Walt Disney World.
Shannon mentioned in her article that they were about to change the disability access service again. And by the time I went with my family, changes had taken place.
I’ll go into more detail below, but the main point in how the disability pass works is this: for rides where they have a fast-pass entrance, the ticket for the disabled person is the disability pass. That ticket works much like a fast-pass.
So, here’s the “more detail” part:
Step 1: go to City Hall on Main Street (it’s too your left as you enter the park). Bring your entire party and all the tickets. I stood in line and called my family when I got to the front (that whole, not doing well with lines, thing).
Step 2: At City Hall they will take the picture(s) of the disabled person(s). They will scan all the tickets. You need to specify which ticket(s) belong to the disabled person(s). They ask you to write that person’s name on the ticket. That ticket has to be used for most rides where he/she wants disability access.
You will also be given a white piece of paper with the terms and conditions for disability access. You will be asked to sign a copy of these terms and conditions. Keep your copy–it’s your disability pass for rides without the fastpass like access.
Step 3: They will explain the process to you while they scan your tickets so you can get more accurate and up-to-date information than I’m giving here.
Step 4: The Disney cast member who is helping you will ask which ride you want to go on first. Tell them that and they will scan your tickets and tell you when you can go on that ride. For example, we said, “It’s a small world”. It was 10:30am. We were told that any time after 11am we could go to the disability line.
Step 5: Enjoy the park, other rides, shopping, music, resting, etc. until your time. Any time after your appointed time, you can go to the disability access line for that ride. Tickets are scanned and you are allowed in line. For It’s a Small World, there is a separate disability access line. For other rides, say, Star Tours, one goes to the fastpass person. That person will scan your ticket and then you are in the regular line. The Star Tours person gave us a plastic laminated pass that we took with us to the next person in line. I’m not sure what purpose that serves.
Step 6: Once done with a ride, you can get in another “virtual” line with your pass. There are three kiosks in Disneyland for this. One in the Main Street central plaza. One is in Fantasy Land between Dumbo and the Storybook Land ride. The third is in Tomorrow Land between Star Tours and the gift shop at the exit of Star Tours. The person at the kiosk will scan your tickets and tell you what time you can get in the disability access line.
Alternatively, one can go to the fastpass person at the line for the ride you want to get on and ask to be put on the virtual line for that ride (and that ride only). When I went to some rides I was asked “do you want to get in line or are you already registered”. So, you don’t have to go to one of the three disability kiosks each time. I got some mixed messages about that, though. One person told me that I couldn’t be added.
Not all rides have disability access lines or fastpass. For example, the train. At the train we asked a cast member what to do and were told to just wait at the exit. When the train came to the station, we showed another cast member our white pass (remember those terms and conditions discussed above?) and got on the train. Basically, this is how the old disability access pass worked.
Disney has a web page on disability access and strategies: Services for Guests with Disabilities. There’s a pdf on the Disability Access Service (DAS) there, and I’ve copied it here: dlr-disability-access-service_2014-11-19.
I bring this up because here’s a key paragraph in that document:
DAS, with its virtual wait, will accommodate many of our Guests with disabilities. We recognize, however, that our Guests with disabilities have varying needs, and we will continue to work individually with our Guests to provide assistance.
In unique situations, our Guest Relations staff will discuss special accommodations for persons who are concerned DAS doesn’t meet their needs (e.g., those whose disability limits the duration of their visit to the park or limits their choice of attractions).
All accommodations will be made in person, on site at Guest Relations. We are unable to provide accommodations in advance of a Guest visit.
This tells me they’ve been paying attention to people like myself who have complained that it isn’t just the lines for each ride that matter. For some of us, our time in the park is very limited. And at $100/ticket ($90/kids under 10), it’s a big deal to go to Disneyland. Even with accommodations, my kid was melting down in the last line and we were not at the park for very long.
Next time I’m printing out that pdf (or whatever they have at the time) and bringing it along.
By Matt Carey