December 19, 2018

Disney Disability Access Pass with an Invisible Disability

Although I’ve had most of my medical issues for years at this point, I have never requested any accommodations either at work or while traveling. At first, this was doable and I would just modify me behavior and essentially live my life around my limitations. But as things have progressed, my limitations have started to impact my life and my family’s life more and it has become apparent that I need some assistance in order to really enjoy travel, vacation, and every day experiences. So for that reason, I decided I would not really be able to enjoy my time at Disney without a Disability Access Pass. 

What is a Disability Access Pass
Disney’s Disability Access Pass (DAS) is available at both Disney World and Disneyland. It does not allow you to “skip the line,” but it does allow you to wait for a ride outside of the line. Essentially, if you have a medical condition that does not allow you to wait for long periods of time in a relatively confined space, you can request a DAS at guest relations at any Disney park. Each ride has a cast member (CM) at the ride entrance. Simply to go the CM and request a “return time.” Your return time will be the current waiting time minus 10 minutes. You can come back and enter the Fast Pass entrance any time after your return time has passed. For example, let’s say it is 4pm and the ride you want to ride has a 60 minute wait time. Your return time would be 4:50. Essentially the logic is that you will never have to wait more than 10 minutes *in line* for a ride, but you will be waiting the same amount of time to get on the ride as someone without a DAS. You can only “be in line” for one ride at a time for DAS, so if you have a return time for a ride, you cannot go get a different ride return time until you have ridden the first ride or you have canceled that return time. You can, however, ride other rides you may have a fast pass for or that have short lines. Up to 5 people from your party can be added to your DAS, so they will be able to join you on the ride. Your DAS is good for up to 3 months (I believe), so you only need to go to guest services once during your trip.

Who Can Get a Disability Access Pass
Qualifying medical conditions vary, but do NOT include mobility issues. All Disney ride lines have been created to allow scooters and wheelchairs to pass through them, so if you have a mobility issue, rather than issue a DAS, Disney will advise you to rent a wheelchair or scooter. Some people find this to be unacceptable, but due to people taking advantage of the DAS, it is a rule. However, you can get a DAS for accompanying medical conditions. For example, let’s say you are in a wheelchair but being in a small, enclosed space with many people’s butts in your face (like a long ride line) makes you claustrophobic, you can then request a pass. 

How do you get a Disability Access Pass
It’s pretty simple. Each Disney park has a guest relations office, go there with your entire party and when called up you can request a Disability Access Pass. They will ask you what your concern is. You do not need a doctor’s note. You do not need to explicitly tell them what your medical condition is. All you need to do is tell them why you’re concerned about being able to wait in line. It is up to you to explain your condition in a way that would allow a non-expert to understand why you qualify.

My Experience
My concerns for Disney were less about my arthritis and trigeminal neuralgia (which do cause fatigue and mobility issues) and more about my GI issues (which is the easiest way to refer to not having a functional pelvic floor and a broken butt) I was nervous about applying for a DAS because my issues are all “invisible” and to the average person, I look like a completely healthy young woman. I was wondering if I would be denied and if I was would I be able to enjoy my trip at all? My fears were completely unfounded. When I was called up I was super nervous and I explained that I had a conditioned that affected my GI and needed to be able to access a bathroom quickly (which is quite difficult if you’re deep into the middle of a ride line). I was told no problem, we can definitely help you, and then they took my picture and scanned my magic band. The whole thing took about 20 seconds. Unfortunately I did not have the rest of my party with me, so they had to be added later (and this needs to be done at guest services). It was an incredibly smooth and respectful process.

The DAS was the best thing for me, and that was proven basically immediately when my party got in line for a ride with a 45 minute wait. I tried to do it and almost immediately I felt I needed to use the bathroom, then I panicked and my anxiety kicked in and it was very difficult to back track through the line. That was my first and last attempt to wait in a longer ride without a DAS! I would say that if you do not need a DAS, don’t bother to get one. The fact that you cannot get multiple DAS passes at once means you can’t really take advantage of the situation (I’m sure there’s a way, but I don’t know how I could have done it). If you’re looking to do ALL THE RIDES it may be difficult if you have a disability that requires a DAS. If a ride line was longer than I was comfortable with and I did not have a DAS or FP, I just did something else until my party got through the ride. I thought it was the great thing ever. I was able to prioritize and ride all of my favorite rides by using my DAS for rides I really wanted to do that I did not have a Fast Pass for. Overall, I don’t think I could have enjoyed my trip without it. 

A Quick Note
The DAS does not allow you to get into the scooter line while waiting for the resort buses. What seems to inevitably happen is people with scooters do not have to wait so long for buses (they cut off to the side so they can be loaded first), even though everyone is supposed to have to wait the same amount of time. According to the CM I asked, that’s not how it is supposed to work, but that’s how it seems to be in practice. I did have one situation at Hollywood Studios where I had to wait for 14 buses before I got on. I felt incredibly sick and I started to panic because I was alone and my stop was the farthest down. I ended up having to sit with my head between my legs trying not to throw up from the bus fumes. I have decided that if I am ever leaving the park at close again, I am just going to call for an Uber. I would much rather pay the $5-7 it would take to get me back to the resort than wait for 45 minutes in the bus line, especially when there was no bathroom, water fountain, or even a bench nearby

Remember, disability comes in all forms. Someone can have a disability, look completely healthy, still be mobile and compete in athletic events. 

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