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  • Writer's pictureErin Schoen Marsh

Disney World Orlando: Disability Access Services (DAS)




Our first trip to Disney World was a hodge-podge of disabilities/diagnoses. We obtained the Disability Access Services (DAS) pass because of my husband’s heart condition, but my 8 year old daughter and I are Deaf (moderately-severe hard of hearing). I am also low vision, so technically I am DeafBlind, although I have optic nerve atrophy, so in bright light, my vision is mostly normal except for peripheral vision blind spots and color blindness. It’s in low light and at night that I struggle the most. My 11 year old son is typical. 


The family we went with has two children the same ages as ours – an 8 year old girl and an almost 11 year old boy – who have ADHD. So between our two families, we had a gamut of invisible disabilities/diagnoses that required various services. 


Disability Access Services (DAS) Review 

The Disability Access Services pass, or DAS as it’s commonly called, is downright amazing. It essentially functions as the Genie+ option and allows you to enter the Lightning Lane and avoid the long lines and wait times. 


You register for the ride/experience you want – one at a time – and receive an assigned time, which is anywhere from 30-180+ minutes later. At your allotted time – which they are very strict about, so don’t bother showing up more than 5 minutes in advance – you arrive at the Lightning Lane and scan your pass. You are no different than the Genie+ folks, which is nice. There is no flashing light screaming “I HAVE A DISABILITY!” 


This was hugely helpful for both my husband and our friends’ kids. It allowed my husband to search out cover and rest as needed – although shaded spots were hard to come by at Disney – and stay hydrated as best he could. We were thankful for the water filling stations, although I wish they were more plentiful. And one of our friends’ kids with ADHD commented that the worst part of Disney was the lines, despite the fact that we only waited between 10-30 minutes for each ride. That shows how imperative the shortened lines are for a child with ADHD. 


Overall, the DAS pass is a godsend. Now how do you qualify for it? 



The family stands in the entrance of a scene straight out of Star Wars with families walking behind them.
We truly felt like we were IN Star Wars. Visually, Disney World was amazing.


How to register for DAS 

To register for Disability Access Services (DAS), you must do so via live chat on the Disney website 2-30 days prior to your scheduled park visit. You can find details here


This is when I began to realize that Disney was not necessarily Deaf-friendly. I emailed them that I was Deaf, sent them all of our information, including medical documents, via email. The response I received was a generic reply that they could not decide on DAS status via email and could only do so via live chat. 


This meant that I was reliant on my hearing husband, who could only do the live chat after work hours and on the weekend. I am the planner/organizer in the family, so this was inconvenient all around. What would we have done if we were an entirely Deaf family? 


We spent four separate occasions waiting for the live chat. Each time we were kicked off the chat after 30 minutes. I emailed Disney after the third attempt and was informed that the system automatically kicks people out after 30 minutes and we would need to sign out, sign back in and we would not lose our place. However, this was nowhere in the directions. On the fourth attempt, we tried a Sunday morning and finally reached someone just shy of 30 minutes. 


The live chat did not have captions, which meant I understood only bits and pieces of what the woman said, who was lovely. While I reminded my husband that he needed to remember everything she said because I couldn’t understand, he promptly forgot most of what the Disney employee shared, so we were left with the fragments I gleaned from the conversation. Thankfully, she offered to put the directions in writing in the chat for us to refer to later. 


While we had multiple disabilities in our family, the Disney employee advised that it was better to list one family member as having a disability and to put all of us under that one DAS pass as otherwise it got “confusing.” Since we planned to always be together, we took her suggestion and listed us under my husband, since his condition impeded waiting in lines the most.


Then that’s it! The DAS is attached to your account – you just need to make sure you scan the DAS holder first when the family enters the Lightning Lane. 


Word of advice: If you have an Apple phone, do not add your DAS pass to your Apple Wallet. When you arrive at Disney, they will give you a physical card to scan at the Lightning Lane. If you add the DAS pass to your Apple Wallet, you cannot get a physical card and you are obligated to use your phone, which will quickly drain your battery. You will be using your phone all day to request rides and food through the app, so you want to conserve it as much as you can. 



Erin and her daughter hug and smile in front of the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster.
The Toy Story Slinky Dog Dash Roller Coaster was a big hit with both kids.


Deaf Services at Disney World Orlando Review 

While Disability Access Services (DAS) are wonderful, Deaf services at Disney World Orlando need work.


First of all, we were told by Disney via their website, email and the live chat that Disney offered multiple Deaf services: handheld closed caption devices, ASL interpreters at live shows (we had to inquire which shows once we were at Disney), and open captions on screens (specifically that Muppets 3D always had open captions). 


My 8 year old and I are both Deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL) as well as spoken English. We inquired at one of the morning shows for Indiana Jones when they would have an ASL interpreter; we were informed that the interpreters only come two days a week – “maybe” Wednesdays and Sundays (it was a Monday). I asked for handheld caption devices instead. I was informed that “unfortunately” they didn’t have any. Instead they could offer my 8-year-old a paper script and pen/paper and we could stand in the back as it was standing room only. 


We left since we wouldn’t be able to understand anything and headed to Muppets 3D. We had been repeatedly assured it had open captions. We filed in, sat down and – nothing. No captions. My daughter left and tried to sound hopeful, saying she understood “some of it.” 


On top of that, we didn’t see a single screen in Disney except one (the waiting room for Muppets 3D) that had captions. All of the directions for rides were verbal-only without written cues. My daughter, who is usually painfully independent and years beyond her age, clung to me and her dad throughout the park because she struggled to understand her surroundings. For a place that is supposed to be one of the happiest places on Earth and “more fun for everyone,” they have some work to do to be more inclusive of Deaf children.  



Two Star Wars storm troopers hold guns in a red lit room.
Even the waiting areas were visually stunning.

General Tips for Disney World Orlando


  1. Download the Disney World App

  2. Order food ahead of time (you can order hours ahead of time and choose your pickup window) 

  3. Make a dinner reservation if that’s your thing (we didn’t)

  4. Don’t save your DAS to your Apple Wallet

  5. Bring water bottles for the water filling stations (we bought 2 and shared)

  6. Bring a small bookbag/fanny pack for travel-sized sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and water bottles. Most (all?) rides allow you to store the bags on the rides, so you don’t have to worry about lockers.  

  7. Don’t bring cash – Disney is cashless. If you have Apple Pay, you don't even need a card. 

  8. You may want to bring a backup charger since you will be using your phone all day (to pay, reserve rides, order food, etc.).



FAMILY FAVORITES AT DISNEY WORLD

Dad

  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance experience

  2. Star Tours – The Adventure Continues (3D gentle ride)

  3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (elevator-style ride)

Mom

  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance experience

  2. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (elevator-style ride)

  3. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway experience

11-year-old boy

  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance experience

  2. Toy Story Slinky Dog Dash Roller Coaster (intermediate roller coaster)

  3. Star Tours – The Adventure Continues (3D gentle ride)

8-year-old girl

  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance experience

  2. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (interactive mission)

  3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror



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