Many of you have probably heard that Disney has made changes to their accessibility program. It is now called DAS (Disability Assistance Card), as opposed to Guest Assistance Card or Mobility Pass. The main change is the guest who needs the card will be photographed and will have to be part of the group that boards the ride. This is because of some abuse from some well-to-do people who decided to pay disabled folks to get the card, but not actually hang out with them.
Most of the integrity of the program remains the same. Lines are shorter, stairs can be avoided. There always was a short wait (except where there was no line) this is the same. Return times will be given for long waits. The pass is good for your trip (if your trip is longer than 14 days you will need a new one) the pass will cover your party up to 10 people. Previously there wasn’t a formal cap, this is where some of the abuse came from but generally it was 8 people. There are new perks for being able to use this for the meet & greets, something we bypassed if there was a long line. You can read more about the details here. Keep in mind Disney Cast Members are armed with iPads and access the same mobile app information that gives wait times.
Timing of your trip
Travel to the park when it’s least crowded. This would be January after New Year’s through February before Valentine’s Day, September right after Labor Day through mid-October, and again in early December before Christmas. Hotel costs at Disney are cheaper these times as well, and saving money is something most of us need.
Social Stories and Visual Aides for Visual ASD kid
Create a story on what the day will be like. Include how you will get into the park (car, bus, ferry or boat?) going through the ticket counter, stopping on Main Street, and when and where you will have meals. Make a list with the favorite 5+ rides to cover during the trip. Make sure you do one every day. Get park maps to help with planning, this takes some of the anxiety out because they now have a map to follow. You can get park maps at the resorts, ticket counters and at guest relations.
Using “First” “then” statements can also help. First we will go to Fantasyland, then we will go see Dumbo. The Flying Dumbos is one of the most popular rides in the park, if there is a return time that doesn’t fit your needs you can play around in the new waiting queue there. You will be able to sign up for your next ride at the current ride. Some rides will not have waiting times in the fast pass. (Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, Jungle Cruise)If after trying this, it seems too stressful or you’re traveling at a more busy time, get a re-admit pass, you will receive entrance via the exit.
Anxiety managing materials
Some kids like fidget toys others love electronics. Bring their hand held device or fidget toy to use for whenever you have to wait. Regardless of the DAS card, you still have to wait for food, bathrooms, getting into the park, and for the parades. If you have a 20 minute return time on a busy ride and you really have nothing to occupy yourself in between, something like this will help.
Use the FastPass+ Service to have Better Control over your trip.
Fastpass+ will work with the DAS card. Fast Pass+ is available for some of the most popular rides in all 4 parks of Disney World. This service is free with park tickets and is rolling out for everyone later in 2013. It is available for some guest in a testing period, you will find out if you can use this when you book. Fastpass+ allows you to book up to 3 of your rides (per day if you wish) before you even leave home. You should keep in mind there is an availability factor of course, like a dinner reservation. So like those, you may want to book early for something of great importance. This can help with a child who is particularly obsessed with one ride. When you time arrives you show up within the hour and board the ride with little to no waiting. This service can be used from My Disney Experience from your computer, or as a mobile app on your phone.
Take your time
You should consider planning a trip that has time built in to it. Just being in a place like Disney is overwhelming to people who have no specific diagnoses or anxiety. Don’t rush through your day. The Disney passes get cheaper each day you add, you can add a whole day for $10 a person(passes for 4 days and more). This way you’re not adding to the pressure of trying to do and see too much. Even if the park is empty and there are no lines, it is still a big place. There is a lot of walking done at amusement parks and you have to figure this into your day.
Pick your Resort Wisely
If staying on property pick a resort with boat or monorail access if you are not using a car. Now a kid, who is highly interested in buses, may enjoy them. But overall be aware the buses get crowded, some of them make multiple stops and have varying wait times. You should fully investigate where you are staying and find out the bus system to prepare. Some of the resorts also have ferry and/or monorail access. These include The Beach Club, Yacht club, Boardwalk, Polynesian, The Contemporary and Wilderness Lodge, with the latter two being the least expensive of the bunch.
You want this not only for ease of access in, but to get out if you have to. You can reenter the same park on the same day without a park hopper; if you spring for the park hopper then you can go to any other park of course. Hotel costs can add up, you can either try to book when it’s slower and cheaper with a deal, consider down grading to an economy room for one or two of the nights, or rent a friend’s time share where you can stay somewhere comfortable for a whole week for one flat price.
Go with a good attitude. Don’t have unrealistic expectations, but don’t believe it will be a disaster. Disney’s brand image is “The Happiest place on earth” and they mean it. It doesn’t benefit them to make you miserable and any guest uncomfortable. Using the DAS card, Fastpass + and mobile app if you can will help with planning and avoiding meltdowns, but are only tools. Most of it will come from you knowing your child, their triggers and how to keep them regulated.
Every kid is different, some will love thrilling rides, and others will really appreciate spinning around in a tea cup, while some will want no part of either. You will have to know your kid, go over the rides beforehand on the website or one of the many Disney planning guides. Preparation and flexibility are your two most important assets, and of course a little pixie dust doesn’t hurt either.