I’m going to be totally truthful here: The idea of taking my daughter to Disney terrified me.
We’re used to the world being inaccessible to disabled children in a lot of really hard ways.
Sometimes, when a place is “easily accessible” or “immediately accommodating” it comes as such a shock that takes me an extra minute to even process. Though this might sound like a harsh exaggeration to some, it is our lived experience as a family.
So naturally, when I started thinking about going through an airport, on an airplane, and staying in a hotel with the goal of visiting stimulating theme parks that could be hard to navigate for someone with mobility challenges, it felt really overwhelming.
While getting through the airport and traveling via airplane turned out exactly as I (unfortunately) expected, I did discover something about Disney that is about as magical as it comes.
The Disability Access Service, also known as the DAS pass.
It seemed too good to be true, but it turned out to be even better than I could have imagined.
Based on our experience (in late 2022), here are all the things we learned about the DAS pass!
Please note: The use of the words “you” and “your” are non-specific and may apply to the disabled person in your party, the parent, or your party as a whole.
The DAS pass allows a disabled person and their party of up to six people to get a “return time” for an attraction instead of waiting in the queue. While it doesn’t grant you immediate access to the attraction, it does prevent you from *conventionally* having to wait in a long line. The time you have to wait before returning to the attraction is comparable to the current queue wait (AKA, the same amount of time you’d wait if you were standing in the actual line). Similarly, you can only have one active “return” time.
In order to be eligible for the DAS pass, your disability must prevent you from waiting in a queue or line for an extended period of time. If your disability makes it hard to wait in line, or if your medical condition is made worse by waiting in a long line, the DAS pass could change your entire Disney experience.
People who can access the regular queue by using a wheelchair or scooter may not be eligible for a DAS pass.
There are two ways to apply for a DAS pass: 1) have an online interview between 2-30 days before your trip or 2) talk to guest relations while you’re actually there. The person who would be the recipient of the pass needs to be present during the interview, even if they’re a child.
First of all, you do not need to directly disclose the specifics of your disability, nor do you have to provide any kind of medical documentation. While you are free to do so, HIPPA laws protect you from being obligated. During the interview, it is helpful to clearly communicate the following information:
- Why waiting in line makes the attraction inaccessible.
- What you experience when you have to wait in line for an extended period of time.
- Why it would be helpful to wait outside of the traditional queue.
Okay, now that you’ve been approved to have a DAS pass, you should know the details:
The DAS pass is valid in all Walt Disney World theme parks.
You can use the My Disney Experience app to see the current wait times and reserve a return time. If this is challenging, you can ask a cast member to help you at the attraction itself or go to guest services for assistance.
*Secret hack: You can reserve a return time once you have scanned your Magic Band at the front entrance of the park, or once you’ve scanned your band to go into a previously selected attraction.
You can do whatever else you want to do in the park while you wait. Some suggestions are to eat, shop, find a ride or show that’s accessible without the DAS pass, use the restroom, sit on a bench nearby, or visit a “break area.”
When you’re allowed to return, you go to the attraction and tell the cast member in the Lightning Lane that you are returning with a DAS pass. They will scan your band and let you in. You do not have to return at the exact return time and will be allowed in any time after your specified return time.
*Secret hack: While you (briefly) wait in line for the attraction you got a “return time” for, you can book your next “return time” for a different attraction in the My Disney Experience app.
The DAS pass is valid for 60 days.
When you register for the DAS pass, you get to choose two return times for two attractions separately. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to be able to choose the attractions you want. These two return times specifically are trickier because once your “return time” expires, it’s really gone.
Of course, this is not without some hiccups.
It’s likely you’ll have to wait in the virtual chat for a long time to pre-register for the DAS pass. During the busiest times, you may even need to try for multiple days.
The DAS pass is not available for ALL rides. (You can see the list of available rides Disney has posted on their website.) Still more confusing, there are rides in Magic Kingdom that operate on a separate “return time” system for DAS pass users who have wheelchairs or “strollers as wheelchairs.” We found this out the hard way when we tried to use our pass at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Disney has a plethora of transportation options: buses, monorails, boats, and the Skyliner. The DAS pass does not apply to any of them. You will still need to wait in the (excessively long) line to use the Disney-provided transportation. This can easily make Disney-provided transportation inaccessible and a car rental or ride service necessary.
While there are DAS options for shows, there are no specific DAS pass sections for parades or fireworks. You will still need to wait in the traditional way, and “make it out” whenever you can.
The DAS pass does not apply to character meet and greets in the World Showcase. Period. There are no options other than waiting in the traditional line with your whole party to see them. Since the princesses most often are found there, it makes meeting them virtually impossible. I was told the lines are usually between 40-60 minutes long.
I hate to even talk about them, but people will always find a way to scam the system. It’s infuriating. They often ruin helpful services for everyone.