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Special Mouse listeners weigh in with their opinions during Part Two of Disney’s DAS: Is it “fair?” With guest Maureen Deal from Autism at the Parks.
Thank you to all the listeners who submitted their insights to this important question. Regretfully, not all submissions were mentioned on the show due to time constraints. To continue this discussion about Disney’s DAS and others of interest to Disney travelers with special needs, consider joining the Special Mouse Listener Discussion Group on Facebook. Contact Kathy at email@example.com for more information about this private discussion group.
Mentioned during this episode:
Ed Russell: There were many people that ‘gamed’ the system with the original GAC; even the paper DAS had its share (but not as many); the electronic DAS has reduced ‘gaming’ to a minimum, in my opinion. Is it fair? Those with mobility issues probably don’t think so, BUT the majority of mobility issue really are resolved with a wheelchair of ECV – and you don’t need any more accommodations if a mobility issue is your only problem. For other problems, the DAS IS fair – in general. However, there are a few times when NOTHING can really accommodate the problems, not even the DAS and extra accommodations. Occasionally you will run across the CM that doesn’t really understand your needs – ask to speak with a supervisor. Disney really does try to accommodate everyone, and is better at it than most companies.
Jen Ivey: I think on paper it sounds like fair and reasonable accommodation and would work great for someone who has a full understanding of the concept of waiting or interests in multiple things to fill that wait time. We will be using the DAS for the 1st time in Sep. My son doesn’t care about characters, window shopping or sitting to eat for any length of time so filling that 40min to an hour us going to be difficult either way. It seems the qualifications for DAS are different than the GAC so that results in less use and in theory they could’ve kept the old system and less people would be allowed “instant Access” as people called it and really doesn’t affect the other riders at all. The DAS is not fair in the fact it adds to our whole family’s anxiety on vacation at a place where we try to function as a typical family. Does that make sense?
Michelle Haffer: Is the DAS fair….? Good question. I can only answer from our perspective and that is from a parent of a 12 year old daughter who is on severe side of the autism spectrum and has moderate MR according to her diagnosis. I don’t like that word, but it is written in her diagnosis. When the DAS first replaced GAC I panicked. The GAC work so well for us and we were able to see and do so much before DD needed a break from the parks. Midday breaks are a MUST. How could we achieve that with the new DAS!? In April 2014 we made our first trip with the DAS and also carefully planned FP+ return times to coordinate with DAS return times. We tend to focus on attractions in one area of the park, especially at MK, and felt the DAS/FP+ combo worked excellently for our family, especially for rides she likes to do twice. However, please know that she doesn’t usually need to repeat rides like some of the spectrum do. My Maddy has autism and has needs that fall under the new DAS guidelines. Is the DAS fair to everyone? I am seeing more and more reports of guests being denied a DAS. The Disney FAQ page states the DAS is for those that cannot wait in the conventional queue. I know that there are MANY valid reasons why guests cannot wait in the conventional queue, not just our reasons. [autism-related] Does that seem fair, NO.”
Diane Myers From my view the DAS is an attempt to throw a blanket access accommodation over a significant portion of the guest population where the blanket doesn’t cover everyone. Is it fair? I’m not sure how to answer that. I applaud Disney for making queues more accessible, more interesting, more interactive, for making changes to try to make things more “equal” in the general guest’s eyes, while serving the needs of the disabled population. Where they fail in my eyes is: in lack of consistent training and implementation for all cast; the anxiety in the process of trying to “prove your case” as to why the DAS is necessary to provide access/accommodation or more specifically why the DAS,as it is currently, is not sufficient to provide access to your family member; and the return time issue. In my experience, there is a significant portion of the general population that doesnt understand why autistic folks have such a difficult time with time, which standing in lines and waiting while being bombarded by sensory stimuli is a huge factor.
When the changeover from GAC to DAS was occurring, I remember being shocked and saddened by posts from Disney lovers who were all aha! so your “special snowflake” doesnt get to go to the front of the line anymore (as if we ever got to go to the front of the line – those same folks never seemed to understand THAT) or “if your kid can’t stand and wait like everyone else, then why to you even bring your kid to a theme park”. I tried to explain the disconnect with the concept of time and sensory issues, over and over and over. Some people were enlightened, many were not.
I think Disney could make things more “fair” by lessening the anxiety in obtaining the DAS; consistent cast member training; allowing more than 1 DAS reservation at a time; hiring more “dis”abled employees so that their cast presence could promote more awareness and understanding amongst the general guest population.
Lori Hope Fries: That is a tricky one. In California it is fair because guests are able to get a comeback time for an attraction at any GS location. However, in WDW you need to go all the way to the attraction for a return time. That is too hard. I am happy that they offer something. I do not like to hear when guests abuse a system. Invisible issues make it impossible to judge but cast member training needs to be increased. As a whole, I am happy that Disney helps and gives guests who truly need a DAS an option.
Debi Rieser Dame: Using the DAS w the FP+ works at some parks and not at others. We no longer are able to Park Hop, which seems like a waste of our money because we buy APs that include park hopping. But because the FP+ times are so stretched out over the day (we don’t have the option to get our reservations earlier) because the rides we want are already full. It’s been easy to get accommodations in some parks but not in others.
Nicole Thibault Our family alternates the DAS and the FP times to create flow through the day, so that there is minimal waiting. It works for us. The only way they could make it better for our family is if they let is schedule the DAS return times online, like a FP. The whole “walking up to an attraction and coming back later” is difficult for my kid who doesn’t always understand why we can’t ride NOW.
Laura Hunt: I have to say, I have mixed feelings about it being fair. Like so many others, my 14 year old daughter does not have a visible disability. However she has epilepsy, adhd, anxiety, sensory issues, processing issues and cognitive communication problems. This was my first trip back to WDW in three years, so it was a first time to experience using the DAS. Before getting to Disney I thought that getting the DAS was going to be a challenge. I had my only paper pass from three years ago as well as a doctor’s note ready. I did though, have all my FP+ choices set up in advance. This really helped. (We did not rush to get the DAS, probably because of my own anxiety about getting it and my unfamiliarity with the ease of getting one at Hollywood Studios since we have only asked for it in MK.)
Instead, we went on our FP+ choices and decided that we had had enough for the early part of our day. That evening we decided to go to MK. The gentleman who helped me at Guest Relations was wonderful. I made my request to him with an explanation and had my doctor’s note out to show him. He did not even glance at it. He was so courteous and polite to my daughter explaining what she needed to do to use the DAS and why he was taking her picture. He set up our first DAS fast pass. He made this usually stressful event of getting the pass stress free. So as far as getting the pass I feel it is fair.
Next, I do like how there is no more “show the red pass” which inevitably led to the line of dirty looks from people on standby lines when entering the fast pass line. For my daughter, this new DAS made her feel more comfortable because all she had to do was go to a cast member at the attraction and “get a DAS return time.” Upon returning we just used the band like everyone else. She did not have to show a pass that others could see. So doing things this way I feel is fair. For us, the return time led to more “down time” to snack, people watch, or shop, which in turn was better for us at times. So for this part it was fair.
Next, with the FP+ system, many more people are using it, so more so than ever before fast pass lines are much longer. So is it fair??? I suppose, if fair means equal to all, but for visitors who have difficulties waiting in long lines, like my DD, the DAS is not serving its purpose. Also, scheduled FP+ times for the attractions are set up so that you are usually there for at least 4-5 hours. For us, this didn’t work very well. I skirted my way around some of these issues by changing the times of individual fast passes on my phone when at the park. I found it easier to get a time I wanted this way. However I am not sure if this is a FP problem or a DAS problem. It seems we are told to use the FP+ system in conjunction with the DAS but I feel this is what makes it more difficult. There is too much preplanning involved. Preplanning does not always work for my family, as I am sure is the same for many others. When my DD has had enough, it’s time to go, FP+ used or not. Unfortunately this happened many times for us. We missed out on our FP because we needed to take a break. So in this sense, is it fair for all people with disabilities?? No.
All in all, I feel they are trying to make it fair for all people, but just like in the school system, you can not have a blanket system for all people with disabilities, individual disabilities or limitations vary from one person to another, and It will not work. (perhaps this is a little bit of the teacher in me talking, as well).
Sue Mickelson: I do think DAS is fair. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires reasonable accommodation and also has a clause that says people with disabilities should have their needs accommodated in the mainstream as much as possible, which DAS does do. It’s not everything some people might want or need, but the standard for ADA is ‘reasonable accommodation’, which is not the same as schools, which have IEPs (individual Education Plans) and requirement for “least restrictive environment.”
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Please visit Maureen’s site, Autism at the Parks and listen for her autism travel insights on that OTHER theme park (Universal) on the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast.
Thanks for listening!