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Is Disney’s DAS “fair?” (Part Two) – 081

Fairimage

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 specialmousepodcast@gmail.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!

Kathy

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Is Disney’s DAS “fair?” (Part One) – 080

 

The Magic is for Everyone!

Guest Maureen Deal from AutismAtTheParks.com joins Kathy to discuss whether or not Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS) accommodation is “fair” and, if so, to whom?

We have discussed the change in Disney’s system of accommodation for guests with disabilities from the GAC to the DAS at length in previous episodes. Today we begin a dialogue, not about the effectiveness of the current system, but rather whether or not the current system is fair. This is in response to recent posts on social media from travel agents specializing in Disney vacation-planning who expressed frustration regarding some of their clients’ response to the current system. Unlike the previous system of accommodation, the DAS does not provide accellerated access to attractions for guests with disabilities.

It should be noted that Maureen and I are speaking as parents of children on the severe end of the Autism Spectrum. Naturally, this has affected our own experiences and our personal opinions. Opinions of Special Mouse listeners regarding this question were requested and permission to share was granted.

Some points covered in this episode are:

Accommodations for Disney Park guests with special needs are now provided based upon specific criteria and many people “fall through the cracks.” Guests with challenges related to mobility/endurance are advised to rent a wheelchair or scooter if they do not already have one and the alternate entrance accommodation is provided if a queue is not wheelchair-accessible. Guests who find it difficult to wait in a standard queue environment due to cognitive/sensory issues are offered the DAS, which provides not accellerated access, but a “virtual wait” (Details regarding services for guests with disabilities can be found on Disney’s official website.)

 

What is “fair?” Is “fair” the same as “equal?”

Equal vs Fair

 

Was the DAS created to be fair for Disney park guests with disabilities or fair for “all of our guests?” (Meaning, the guests who do not require accommodations for disabilities.)

We discuss society’s attitudes toward people with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities. Has the GAC/DAS issue fostered an “us against them” mentality between typical guests and guests with disabilities and their families? Do guests with disabilities feel “entitlement?” Are guests without disabilities insensitive to the needs of others? Is accommodating the needs of the disabled fine and dandy UNTIL it is perceived to impact the non-disabled guest experience?

Does one size fit all when it comes to accommodations for special needs? (DAS or Mobility Device.) After all, that one glass slipper didn’t fit every foot!

Special Accommodations for Specific Circumstances

DAS, with its virtual wait, will accommodate many of our Guests with disabilities. We recognize, however, that our Guests with disabilities have varying needs, and we will continue to work individually with our Guests to provide assistance. In unique situations, our Guest Relations staff will discuss special accommodations for persons who are concerned DAS doesn’t meet their needs (e.g., those whose disability limits the duration of their visit to the park or limits their choice of attractions).

Are guests’ individual needs taken into account when additional accommodations are requested as promised by Disney in October of 2013? Or is additional accommodation “one-size-fits-all” as well? (Individual attraction re-admission pass (essentially one additional FastPass) that must be requested daily and on an individual basis.)

Oliver

Does anxiety and stress related to the DAS system (huge change for a population that finds change extremely difficult, anxiety related to fear of not being granted the DAS or that the DAS will not meet a family member’s needs, inconsistency among Disney Cast Members in provision of DAS accommodation, etc.) have a negative effect on the special-needs family’s vacation experience?

We reference Special Mouse Episode 50: Disney DAS Card Survey Results to note that about half of respondents said the DAS accommodation met their family’s needs while the other half said it did not. Again, does one size fit all in this situation?

Listener comments included in this episode:

Bruce Sherman: Those with mobility issues like myself, the answer to our issue is not a wheelchair. Too many queues can only handle a wheelchair, especially in the Magic Kingdom. So to say, hey you dont need DAS, use a wheelchair, is telling us, no, you cant ride this attraction.

Helen Thomas: Now we have used DAS I can see how to some it will work well and to others it may not solve the issues they have. Last time we were here we had the Guest Assistance Card. We used it like the DAS anyway as we had no issue with coming back after the standby time. We did see some people abusing the system and this did rankle with us as the pass was an assistance tool, not so you can jump queues. The DAS is working well for us and making our trip easier and less stressful and it fits in with our reasons we need it, but I can imagine that it will not work for some people with sensory issues or who have a particular ride that they will only go on, and struggle with having to wait. I don’t think you can please all the people all of the time plus sadly, there are people out there who will abuse things and ruin them for the rest.

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This is all food for thought; we will continue with part two of our discussion next week.

Thanks for listening,

Kathy

 

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The Law of Attraction and Air Travel with a Power Wheelchair – 044

airplane-sunset-300x217

 

Kathy discusses special-needs Disney travel and the Law of Attraction, plus air travel with a power wheelchair on this “solo flight” episode! 

There’s no guest this week, so as Mr. Incredible would say, “you’ve got me monologuing!” I’m acting on one of the takeaways from Podcast Movement and giving you an actionable tip about keeping a healthy attitude towards travel with additional challenges by observing the Law of Attraction. In a nutshell: stay positive so you don’t attract negative stuff!

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This episode is sponsored by Amy at Up and Up Travel, specializing in helping families with Special Needs and Disabilities plan and create lasting magical memories , and by Scooter Vacations, the only Orlando scooter rental company to provide concise weight ratings to ensure a 12-15 hour theme park ride time at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or Sea World.

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One of the best things about the Special Mouse Podcast community group on Facebook is that it gives listeners a chance to ask travel questions of, and give valuable insight to, other members of the group. It’s especially helpful to hear from experienced Disney travelers who share your particular challenges. Recently we had a question that I thought would make for an excellent show topic so, here we go:

Tricia asks:  Hi everyone! It looks like our next Walt Disney World trip is going to be a little more special than expected — my sister-in-law and our niece are going to join us! Our niece has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair. We’re not worried about her once we get to WDW, but has anyone had any experience with flying with a wheelchair? Will the airline let her stay in her chair for the flight, or will he have to transfer to an airline seat and check the chair in the baggage hold? Thanks!

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate all airports and airlines operating within the United States to be fully accessible to disabled travelers and for their assistive equipment. With few exceptions, power chair users should expect to receive these accessible services:

  • Wheelchair accessible parking near the airport terminal
  • Shuttle service to parking lots, airport terminals, and/or hotels
  • Access to  ticket kiosks, baggage check areas, security checkpoints, etc.
  • Accessible restrooms throughout the terminal
  • Complimentary wheelchairs for passenger use, as needed
  • ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps and/or mechanical lifts
  • Preferential pre-boarding and priority seating
  • Storage for power chairs, scooters and other devices
  • Assistance with luggage, boarding and deplaning

It is my understanding that travelers who use wheelchairs, whether motorized or not, are required to transfer to a seat on the plane and check their motorized wheelchairs as baggage. The airline may provide a folding wheelchair to help squeeze through the narrow airplane aisle.

Special Mouse listeners chime in with their advice:

Paula writes: “She can stay in the chair until boarding. They will gate-check the chair at no charge to her. I would take off anything that is removable and carry it on with you (no charge for that either). I would also take a picture of all sides of the chair. I’ve never had anything happen to mine, but it is always better to be safe than sorry!”

Tracy writes:  “Call the airline before your flight date to talk about their procedures and what you need to do when you get to the airport. Ask where you need to check the chair.

Once you get to the airport, you will fill out paperwork asking several questions about the chair such as color, weight, type of batteries, etc. You should note any damage or wear and tear when checking the chair in.

Take pictures of the chair before you get on the flight.

Take anything off that is detachable…seat, foot rests, headrest, etc. Stow these items inside the plane with you.

Give them instructions about how you want the chair to be treated. Bill has a custom back and we tell them specifically to NOT detach the back. I got some of the blank luggage tags at the airport and wrote, “Do not remove back” and placed them on several parts of the chair.

Know how to turn the power off and on and how to disengage the motors to be able to put the chair into manual, they might ask you how to do this. We don’t mind if the airline keeps the power on to get the chair down on the tarmac; Bill turns it down to the lowest setting. Some people prefer to have them not use the power but some power chairs are extremely hard to push in manual so we don’t do that.

If the person is unable to walk there are aisle chairs to help. I am unsure how much the flight attendants can help since I am able to lift Bill and put him in a seat.”

(The answer is, no. Flight attendants are not required to assist you with transfers to either your seat or to the restroom. And in truth, you wouldn’t want untrained individuals assisting with transfers because they could hurt either you or themselves in the process. – Kathy)

“You will be one of the last people of the plane. I gather our belongings including all the detachables and place them just outside the plane door. When the chair arrives they will be ready for me to get Bill and go, but I take time to look over the wheelchair to make sure everything is okay. After re-attaching everything I place Bill in the chair. Once we are clear of the gate Bill makes sure that the chair drives correctly.”

Matthew writes: “I would add a few more things, as I have had my chair damaged when I went to Disneyland and Disney World. Trust me, you don’t want to get to the parks and have a power wheelchair not work. Take the control/joy stick off when she boards the plane, also take the cushion as she may be able to use it in the plane or you can put it in the overhead compartment. Dis-engage the drive motors when she gets out of the chair, it should have a lever on each motor.”

From wheelchair.com: It is very important to know how to disconnect the power from the batteries when you get to the aircraft. Locate the cable and mark each half of the connector with yellow tape. Practice separating and reconnecting the connectors. This may keep them from pulling your batteries out of the chair. If you cannot disconnect the joystick on your chair model, you may want to consider bringing along some bubble wrap and packing tape to protect it and any other areas that are likely to become damaged.

“When they bring the chair to you, look it over before you accept it. I have had damage done to part of the frame of the chair that I didn’t see, but my daughter did. So due diligence is needed when flying.

The airlines will ask what the chair weighs and also what type of battery it has. I would recommend having the information before you get to the airport. Always check in with the gate personnel when you get to your gate, as they will need to know if you need an aisle chair and what they can do to help you get to the seat, and the information about the chair. It can become stressful flying when your use a power wheelchair, but if you just do these few things and remember to have fun, you will make it much easier. I have found out that the more I fly, the easier it gets and the less stressful it becomes.”

From sath.org (The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality): There are two types of batteries used in motorized wheelchairs: wet acid batteries or dry cell (gel) batteries. If your wheelchair is older and has a wet acid battery you should check with the airline, as a leaking battery inflight can be dangerous. It will be necessary for baggage handlers to remove the battery and place it in a special container. This requires that you be at the airport at least three hours before departure.

Most modern power-operated wheelchairs have some form of dry cell safety battery so that they can be carried without risk of damage to the aircraft. However, it may be necessary for baggage handlers to disconnect the leads from the terminal and to cap them to avoid shorting. This may take some time, so you will have to preboard. It may be necessary to transfer you to a special aisle wheelchair in the air terminal, and be prepared for the fact that there may be a delay on arrival before your chair is available.

The airlines are responsible for ensuring that your battery is reconnected and that your chair is working on arrival at your destination.

Regarding the weight of your power chair, this is very important information because airlines have varying limits when it comes to weight. Each airline should be able to tell you whether the weight of a particular model wheelchair falls under the limits at the time of your ticket purchase.

In the event of a problem with airport or inflight personnel, you should require them to contact the Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO), who must always be available and willing to deal with your grievance. They cannot refuse. However, to avoid problems, make sure that you let the airline know your needs as early as possible. Also, make sure you have adequate insurance to cover damages to or loss of your wheelchair or scooter as well as personal injury.

Under the ACCA, U.S. airlines are responsible for all repairs to damaged wheelchairs. However, if the chair is lost or damaged beyond repair, the airlines are only responsible for the original purchase price. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know both the purchase price and the replacement cost of their assistive devices and to be aware of the difference between these two figures. If the difference is substantial, you may want to carry additional insurance with a high deductible to cover this gap.

It’s also important to remember to report any damage to your wheelchair immediately. In most cases this means before you leave the airport. The airline may deny a claim if they feel it is not filed in a timely manner. Additionally, under the ACCA, airlines are not required to respond to complaints that are more than 45 days old.

If you are unwilling to risk damage to your power wheelchair there is another alternative — if possible, don’t bring it!

Skip writes: “I cannot fly commercial with the power chair. We take the Convaid stroller on commercial flights.”

The bottom Line: Do what is best for you!

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Links:

How to Travel by Air with a Wheelchair – sath.org

Air Travel Tips for Power Wheelchairs – wheelchairtraveling.com

On a Wing and a Prayer: Protecting Your Equipment – barrierfreetravel.net

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These were some valuable tips! If you would like to join our private group on Facebook, email me at specialmousepodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks for listening!

~ Kathy

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Teens with Autism at Walt Disney World – 032

Maureen from Autism at the Parks joins Kathy in celebrating Autism Awareness Month with a lively chat about Teens with Autism at Walt Disney World. (Maureen’s son is nineteen and Kathy’s is sixteen.)

Topics include:

  • Aspects of the Disney theme park experience that seem easier as our children grow older
  • Things that can be more difficult to manage as our children grow older
  • How we have adjusted our vacation/visit routine to adapt to changes in behaviors, sleep and communication
  • Teens’ response to the new DAS (Disability Access Service Card) system
  • Advice for parents of older children with autism who will be visiting the Disney theme parks

Connect with Maureen Deal at Autism at the Parks and on social media: Facebook / Twitter / Google +

april_is_autism_awareness_month_

Kathy also shares her opinion of the Disney ADA Lawsuit filed in Federal Court this month by parents of sixteen children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who assert that the new DAS system violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.

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This episode of Special Mouse was sponsored by Amy at Up and Up Travel, a travel agency solely dedicated to assisting guests with disabilities and special needs.

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In addition to our Facebook Fan Page, the Special Mouse Community has a private Facebook Group where members enjoy a safe and supportive environment in which they can connect and share. If interested in joining the group, please post a message on the Special Mouse FB Fan Page. I look forward to seeing you there!

Connect with me on Social Media and sign up for our Monthly Newsletter by clicking on the icons in the sidebar, right.

Our community CHAT ROOM is open every Thursday night at 8pm, EST. Come join us for Disney-related fun and friendship!

 

Thanks for listening,

Kathy

 

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