Here is a DAS (Disability Access Service Card) Trip Report from community member, Sharon R.! Sharon was too shy to be a guest on the podcast, so she decided to share via our Community Blog!
Hi there. Our family went to Walt Disney World the week of 4/25/14 – 5/3/14. I want to pass along some of our first-time experience using the DAS.
Our 10 year old daughter, Molly, has significant cognitive delays and is nonverbal (no diagnosis). She uses a Dynavox to communicate fairly effectively with us. We are so proud of her! Seemingly unrelated, she also has mild brittle bones, low muscle tone, and somewhat clumsy coordination… nice combo, huh. We also have an 8 year old typically developing son. Our family went to WDW for the first time together in the Spring of 2012, and had a wonderful time. The magic got us hooked for sure! We went back that October, and then I took my son for Star Wars Weekend last May, and then the whole family went back down to WDW last month.
Although Molly can walk, we typically keep her in a wheelchair for long distances, i.e. shopping trips & theme parks, due to endurance/fatigue concerns, especially since her sometimes poor coordination could lead to a fall, which would probably lead to a fracture. As a matter of fact, exactly 5 weeks before our very first trip in 2012, she had a mild fall and fractured her femur! We were unsure of how that would affect so many aspects of our trip. She got her cast off 3 days before departure, and it was a bit rough since we were not to allow her to bear weight on it. Swimming was tough, too. She wasn’t too heavy yet, so she was able to transfer to most ride vehicles by her dad carrying her over. She is not able to go on any of the thrill rides due to our fear of injury. Keeping her in the wheelchair also helps keep her contained. On the rest of our trips, Molly gets out of her wheelchair to meet with characters, and to transfer to ride vehicles and show seats/ dining seats.
We easily obtained the GAC (Guest Assistance Card) for Molly on that first trip in 2012, and it worked wonderfully for us. Cognitively, there are many concepts that she will probably never grasp, and a long wait in a crowded queue is one of them. (She gets anxious and “grabby” when she becomes impatient, and we would spend a lot of our time reassuring her, “it won’t be much longer… hands down… , no grabbing … do not bite the back of your hand … hey, no smacking!” ) Due to all the buzz within the Disney community around the switch-over to the DAS card, we were very nervous in anticipation of our recent trip, so we did lots of “research” ahead of time. We learned a lot from the experiences of other visitors, and we were prepared with our strategy ahead of time. As it turned out, we got absolutely no pushback in obtaining the DAS card for Molly that first day at Animal Kingdom, and it was very easy to use. There aren’t too many headliners she is able to go on, so we didn’t need to use the card at an abundance of attractions. We used Fastpass+ for the rides our son is able to do with one of us, and we actually requested the rider switch card in many cases, while one of us waited with Molly. That worked well, too.
We got my daughter her DAS card on Day 1 at Animal Kingdom (AK). Instantly, no issues. With the combination of attraction choices we made, FP+ and rides she simply cannot do physically, we only needed to use the DAS once that day, for Kilimanjaro Safaris. We had a big snag on Day 1 at AK: the Safari FP return line was very long. So after our 60 min DAS return time, we waited another 20+ min in the FP line before we even got to our special boarding area.
We did not request additional accommodations at Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS) on Day 2, nor did we have any issues that day. Using our family touring strategy of choosing low crowd times, picking recommended park days based on various blogs’ advice, and multi-tasking (Dad & son do thrill stuff, while Mom & DAS daughter do tame stuff), the day went fine using DAS return times in combo with FP+.
Without complaining, I relayed our AK experience to a Guest Relations Cast Member at Magic Kingdom (MK) on the morning of Day 3. The nice CM (I assumed lead, based on his station location & no need to ask anyone permission) added 2 sets of freebie FP’s to all 4 of our MDE/bands for that day, to make up for the Safari experience. (He said they are aware of that issue with the Safari and are working on it…) He typed and typed in the computer for AGES! He also said, the rest of the week, just let them know at GR that my daughter got some extra help at MK and she could get it again. Great experience with this!
Before leaving his desk, I also asked for a starter return time on the card, which he happily obliged. So we got an “Enchanted Tales with Belle” return time, and headed over. The CM there did not recognize the stamp “CH” and had to ask a coworker about it, who informed him that it was from “City Hall.” The first CM seemed surprised/confused to the point that I figured it was not as popular as I assumed, to ask for a starter return time at MK Guest Relations.
Things went great that day at MK. We had a special magical moment from a wonderful FP+ iPad CM (sorry, not sure what they are called, the ones with the blue shirts), which was completely unrelated to FP+ or DAS. Later that day, actually in the evening, while chatting with a line CM at Pooh, we saw a blue shirt CM, and chatted him up as well. My husband, really wanted to relay how he had been skeptical, but was pleasantly surprised how well the DAS/FP+ was working for us. (Lest he give Disney all the kudos, I need to also take some credit for excellent touring strategies, but I digress… So the CM said, you are talking to the right person, thank you for your feedback, and he made some notes in his iPad, about our comments and about our experience with our magical moment earlier that day. The point of this part of the story is to say, that while chatting with him, I let him know that our FP+’s actually ran out, and he added them back on for us, no questions asked. AND, he said the freebie ones normally don’t work for character meets, but he added that ability for us. So we met a few princesses before we called it a night. (P.S. The CM clarified that the earlier CM was a light blue shirt, and he was a dark blue shirt… I did not notice this distinction, but evidently it matters!)
The next morning, at Epcot (Day 4), we had a different experience. At Guest Relations first thing, I relayed what the CM at MK’s GR said, about getting a little extra help, and I got some push back. She said it was probably only one-time help. I said, he typed extensively in the computer about my daughter, at MK, and please look into it, that he basically told us to request the same help the rest of the week. She behaved as though she could not find anything typed about us. I do not know if the MK Cast MemberM created a “file”, or what if anything, he typed about my daughter, but that’s the behavior I received. That the 20 min of time I spent at MK the day before was wasted, lost, no record of it. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I just pushed on about it, about my conversation with the MK Cast Member at GR, and after a few trips into the back, she brought me 8 paper “EPCOT Attraction Re-Entry Passes”, on which she wrote “DAS” across the top. So, we were on our way. As it turned out, the way our day was planned we did not use these. It’s a shame, too, because they were issued on May 1st, and stated “EXPIRES SAT MAY 1, 2014”.
So, our final day was at Magic Kingdom . I dread this part of the story, because I got so much push-back that I cringe thinking back to it. I did not like how I was treated, like I was gaming the system or something. She said things like: the extra help was most definitely a one-time thing; do not expect it every time; that previous CM could not make that promise to me; etc. (I remembered his name, and relayed it to her, and the others during the week, and no one seemed to be able to relay to me what, if anything, he typed in on Day 3!) This CM brought other CM’s into the conversation to back her up, and even went into the back like 4 times and still came out sating the same thing. I didn’t budge, and pressed on about how [MK CM on Day 3] helped us and what he relayed to us, and finally she relented. My daughter was given 2 yellow slips, you know the “No Strings Attached” slips. I did end up requesting a starter return time, which she cheerfully (?) provided.
So, we had wonderful magical moments all over the place, but this is just to summarize our experience regarding what DAS accommodations we experienced:
Day 1: we got the DAS for my daughter with no problems, and used it once. Return line was looong.
Day 3: we got Fastpasses added to our account/magic bands, and a starter return time, at Guest Relations. Later that evening, we had Fastpasses re-added with the Character option added on.
Day 4: we reluctantly received paper attraction “ re-Ads”, and a small lecture, but did not ask for a starter return time.
Day 5: we begrudgingly received yellow “No Strings” slips, lots of attitude, and also a starter return time.
Thanks for your submission to the Community Blog, Sharon! It appears from everything I’m hearing that at this point in time, Cast Members at Guest Relations are less resistant to distributing Additional Accommodations such as ReAdmission Passes or “Starter” Return Times after the guest has attempted to tour with FastPass+ Reservations and the DAS and returns to Guest Relations sometime later in the day to then ask for additional help.
You are not alone in your experience with inconsistency among Cast Members regarding the distribution of Additional Accommodations.
I certainly hope that your feedback to the “Dark Blue Shirt” Cast Member will find it’s way to Disability Services. It is inconvenient, not to mention unecessarily stressful, for guests with disabilities who are already managing extra challenges to have to return to Guest Relations repeatedly throughout their vacations!
To join our supportive community of Disney lovers on Facebook who either have or care for someone with special needs or disabilities, please contact me — Special Mouse Podcast — and message me that you wish to be added to the group! Sign up for our monthly community newsletter and receive my free gift to you: The Special Mouse Guide to Requesting Disney’s DAS.
Thanks for reading!