Disney’s new Autism Assistance Card FAILS

Posted by on Oct 21, 2013 in Blog, Tips | 36 Comments

By Andrew Areffi, Melissa Areffi, and Heather Swarner

Disney’s new autism assistance card fails to address the real problem – FRAUD.

Disneyland-Resort-walt-disney-characters-26230463-1539-1017

The newly developed Disability Assistance Service (DAS) is meant to be a one-size fits all solution to address the complaints from non-disabled patrons that somebody with a hangnail or no problem at all could walk in and be given a pass.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about Disneyland, Walt Disney World, etc are doing away with the Guest Assistance Card (GAC).  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this pass and the controversy surrounding it, here’s the lowdown.  GAC was a pass that allowed users with a disability to use alternate entrances in order to bypass the line, or to simply use the Fastpass line because of injury or infirmity.  In our case, it was because our three children are on the autism spectrum.  The problem is that Disney, for reasons they’ve never explained, never asks for verification of your disability – or any way of identifying the pass holder, like perhaps, with a picture.

Naturally, once the word got out, people came in for the pass for any and every reason.

We live close to Disneyland and are annual pass holders, meaning we go to Disneyland regularly, 1 to 2 times a month on average.  We have personally seen these passes being abused and have complained many times to Disneyland staff about it.  Disney Execs seemed to be content to ignore the problem until an embarrassing segment aired on the Today show back in late May of this year. The result of that embarrassment comes in the form of this new, “improved” and unbelievably complicated, labor-intensive procedure for disability access known as the Disability Access Service (DAS).

2013-10-12 16.48.31So what does this all mean for you the potential Disney customer?  Here’s the breakdown of our day.2013-10-12 16.49.19

When you arrive at your chosen Disney theme park you will have to go to guest relations, in our case, City Hall at Disneyland.  An ominous sight greeted us upon arrival; multiple sets of taped outlines on the ground indicating where people should queue up when the line gets too long – generally not a good sign. It kind of looked like chalk outlines you see on CSI.  There are also several greeters stationed outside, telling you which line you should stand in.  Clearly Disneyland expected confusion and delay and provided extra staffing to help out.

Kennedy DAS passOnce we made it inside, we didn’t go up to the counter, but instead were pulled aside by an employee, Steve, who questioned us about why we were here.  We explained the kids’ diagnosis and asked if they had anything to help us.  We deliberately didn’t ask for the pass right away because we wanted to see if they would offer it to us or make us ask for it.  Result, they made us ask for the pass.  With only one interaction, I can’t say for sure if this was policy or just Steve’s way of doing things.  After we requested the pass, Steve spent a lot of time explaining the terms and conditions of obtaining the pass and it’s intended use. Steve then photographed the kids and handed us the printed passes each with their picture on it.  (The pictures were actually the only good idea we’ve seen about this system so far.)  The DAS has a two week expiration date so Annual pass holders will have to repeat this process frequently.Alex DAS pass

Despite Steve’s verbose and extensive explanation there were no details on how to actually use the pass.  When we questioned Steve about this, we were told that a DAS Kiosk would be present at every ride where we could present the pass and receive further instructions on when to come back.  This immediately raised a red flag in my brain.  Being a frequent Disneyland guest I know one thing for sure, space is at a premium in that park.  Where would they find the room to put a kiosk at every ride, not to mention the amount of people required to staff them? It sounded odd, but since they know more about running a theme park than we do, we decided to take it on faith and run with it.

Having arrived late in the afternoon (2:30PM), we decided to head straight for Splash Mountain located in the back of the park and then work our way back around.  As we walked around Splash Mountain we looked for the aforementioned DAS Kiosk to present our DAS.  It was nowhere to be found.  We carried on, confident that we would come across it.  Finally we spotted an employee, Jamie, guarding the entrance to the Fastpass line and asked him.  Jamie apologized and directed us back the way we came and said the kiosk would be near where you get your Fastpass.  Determined to make the most of it, we turned around and walked the 100 yards back around Splash Mountain to the Fastpass Kiosk to find nothing but Fastpass machines.   We spoke to another employee, Jennifer, who apologized and said the kiosk would back the way we came near the exit.

However, she did give us Fastpasses to come back and ride 4 hours later at 9:30PM.  Wait 4 hours with 3 kids with autism.  Fantastic.

Because it was our mission to see how this system really worked, we reversed course again.  We passed Jamie at the Fastpass entrance and continued all the way around to the exit of the ride to find… nothing.  We inquired with a woman named Margaret at the picture booth as to where we should present our DAS.  Margaret excitedly waved over another employee, named Jose.  Jose was apparently a supervisor.  He apologized again for all the confusion and said that the kiosk we’d been searching for was back the way we came.  Jose offered to walk us there personally and then put us on the ride after he showed us where the kiosk was located.  Thank goodness – because the kids were on the verge of losing it by that time.

2013-10-12 17.34.13

Disney wasn’t doing a very good job of calling attention to the new DAS Kiosk.

As we walked the third time around the bend, we passed the Fastpass kiosk again. Finally, after walking another 100 or so yards, we came across a little nondescript, unmarked umbrella stand which we probably missed the first time past because it was obscured by a single customer.  The first thing we noticed about the new DAS Kiosks is that they aren’t located at every ride, as Steve had told us.  They were also not located anywhere near the Fastpass kiosk, as Jamie had indicated.

You can see by the picture, Disney didn’t really go out of their way to call attention to it.  And trust me folks when we tell you that, when Disney wants your attention, they know how to get it.  Put a princess behind it – consider the job done.

After talking with the seven employees at the kiosk at length, we finally understand how this pass works.  The DAS kiosk employees have the estimated wait times for all the attractions.  Splash Mountain, for example, was 45 min.  So they gave us a time that was 45 min later. You can show up later than the 45 min and still get on but you can’t get another ride time until that one is checked off or crossed out by a staff member.

What do we take from this?  Disney never addressed the problem of abuse that was the failing of the previous pass.

Ask yourself, was the issue that people were upset because kids in wheelchairs or kids with autism were getting on the ride before them?

No, of course not.  And for those whom it was, they obviously have bigger issues in their lives than a disabled kid being before them in line.  The real issue was non-disabled people were scamming the system so they can get onto rides faster.  The new DAS system does nothing to address this problem.  Anyone can still walk into City Hall and request a pass for any reason, no questions asked.  Yes, the scammers now have to wait longer, but it is now at the expense of the aforementioned kids in wheelchairs, with autism, and other disabilities. We have a great love and appreciation of Disneyland and we do not think for one minute this was their intent, but they still need to try again.

DAS pass backsideThe DAS system’s major failure is that it’s confusing and doesn’t take into account what the heck we will do for the 45 minutes while we are waiting.  It also fails to address that many with a physical or mental disability have less stamina than their typical counterparts.  While our kids have plenty of energy we, on the other hand, can only mange them for so long before we just have leave.  We have NEVER been able to spend the entire day at Disneyland like our kids’ typical counterparts.  Being on alert during every second of every day, is exhausting.  The scammers don’t have a disability and will have no trouble killing time between rides.  As a result, in the 6 hours we were there, we only managed to get on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates Of the Caribbean using the new DAS system.  We scored some “front of line passes” from Jose that allowed the kids to ride the Matterhorn too.  However, when you consider it costs over $500 for a family of four to just walk through the gates, that is a pretty sorry ride to dollar ratio.

However, if we haven’t scared you off and you’re dead set on having a Disney experience, here are some tips to help out.

  1. Call Disney – even before you leave the house.  The number for Disneyland/Disney’s California Adventure (DCA) is (714) 781-4565.  To get a cast member, press zero when the recording starts.  Explain to them that you have a child with autism and ask them what the current policy is regarding the DAS.  The reasons you should do this are many.  You always want the most up-to-date information, and if a moment on the phone will save you a long time in line, it is well spent. Given that the current version of this is hugely labor intensive and doesn’t really address the problem, Disney is likely to change it – but unless they scrap the whole thing in favor of something else they won’t put out any more press on it.
  2. Plan your ride schedule out in advance with a map of the park.  Try to make them in a linear order.  This will help you maximize your ride experience.
  3. Ask for a map of the Kiosk locations.  Before we left, we were told that one was being designed but was not available yet.  If they still don’t have one, grab a park map at city hall and ask the cast member issuing your pass to mark the locations on the map.
  4. Know where your “wait” places are.  There will be wait times between rides – look on the map for good places to wait, like restaurants and other seating areas.  Ask for a show schedule – Disney does various Parades and street shows throughout the park.  You can use these shows and parades to have fun and kill time between rides.  Another plus of the current system is that your assigned ride time doesn’t expire – that’s just the earliest time you can come back.
  5. Don’t limit yourself to one park – You can put rides from DCA on your pass at the Kiosk at Disneyland.  If you’re heading over to California Adventure put Monster’s Inc or California Screaming on your pass before you leave Disneyland. It can sometimes take 45 minutes or longer to get out of Disneyland and into California Adventure.  If done right, your wait time may be over or mostly over by the time you get there.

The best tip we can give you is, before you leave the park, be sure to give Disneyland feedback, good and bad.  Let them know what’s working and what isn’t.  But don’t stop there.  We need to help Disneyland actually face the fraud problem and do something about it.  Send a letter to the President of Disneyland and let him know what you think about the new policy.  Nothing is weighted more than a written letter that is snail mailed in.  Give him the good, the bad and the ugly, don’t pull your punches but be respectful.  Here’s his info:

Michael Colglazier
1313 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802

Remember, this whole trip is about having fun together. Don’t stay longer just because it’s only another half hour until you have something scheduled. Set yourself and your children up for success.  If the kids are tired and cranky but you managed to have a good time, declare victory and go home. Yes, you are getting less for your money than other families, but it’s a small price to pay to end the day with happy family memories of Disneyland instead of a major meltdown ending in the Emergency Room.

Andrew and Melissa Martinez are the parents of three children with autism and the authors of “Navigating Autism – The Essential Guide For Parents By Parents.” Heather Swarner is the parent of one son with autism and a long time parent advocate.

36 Comments

  1. cheryl
    October 22, 2013

    If people with disabilities want to be treated equally why should they get a pass to ride first? Yes I think people with disabilities should be treated just as any one else. But all the time not just when it suits them. Why if you are in a wheelchair or have autism should you get to go to the head of the line?

    Reply
    • Rebecca
      October 22, 2013

      Cheryl clearly you have no experience with children with disabilities. As the author stated many with disabilities do not have the stamina that their counterparts do. It is not about treating them exactly equal. It is about offering equal opportunity to enjoy the same things other kids get to. That doesn’t look the same for everyone. My kids have a disease that affects their energy level. They literally can’t stand in line for hours without their muscles completely giving out. Under your prescription we should ride the three rides and then leave as we got what we deserve. That isn’t ok when we spend the same amount of money you do. We could simply choose to never go to the park at all, but then my kids are robbed of the childhood Disney experience…how is that equal. Try some compassion on for size. We certainly need more of it in the world. There was a picture which I loved floating around of three kids of varying heights trying to watch a football game. They are pictured on three different sized blocks such that they can all see the game at the same level. The caption reads: “Equal opportunity Doesn’t always look the same” or something along those lines. The point is the kid who is 2 feet tall needs a bigger block than the one who is 4 feet tall. It may not seem fair to you, but life isn’t and it isn’t fair that not every child is born perfectly healthy and stable. I think this author gave too much credit to humanity when she said she doubted people were upset with kids in wheelchairs getting to the front of the line…clearly you did have a problem with it.

      Reply
      • Heather Swarner
        October 22, 2013

        Well said, Rebecca. My mother used to say, and I find myself repeating this frequently, especially as the mother of a disabled child: “Life isn’t fair, but it is the responsibility of those of us to are able to make it as fair as possible for those who are less fortunate.” Whether that’s called “fairness” or “equality” or compassion or just plain human kindness, it is what I teach my children. We don’t all get dealt the same hand, and we have to play the hand that we’re dealt, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t accept help if someone is willing to try and level the playing field for us in some small way.

        Reply
    • Kristine
      October 23, 2013

      It is a common misconception that people with disabilities got to go to the front of the line with the old pass. We typically were placed in a shorter line, such as the fastpass line. I can’t think of a time ever where my cognitively disabled, wheelchair bound son got to go to the front of the line. This article nails it exactly what I’ve been saying. The new system does NOT cut down on the abuse of the pass, which Disney is saying was the intent. How would this cut down on the abuse? Because the system is so onerous that fraudsters won’t even bother? Ya, that’s the exact reason it is no longer accommodating. If we had able-bodied children I could see us zipping around the park to get a wait time, coming back later, to wait some more in a fastpass lane, then repeating all day. With my typical kids, we could do that. With my SN son and all his equipment and unpredictability and wheelchair and needs- no we can’t do that. Already there was variability at Town Hall depending on which cast member you got. Sometimes we’d get a cast member that I would start to speak (with my son right next to me) and they would say “say no more, I’ll set you up” and then other times I’d get the cast member who’d want me to spell out all our different issues like s/he didn’t believe us and kind of give us a hard time. So I don’t believe for one second that Disney is somehow going to make additional accommodations if needed.

      Reply
      • S Campbell
        November 23, 2013

        This whole thing makes me so sad. We have gone to Disney for the last 8 years and my boys consider it part of their routine. I don’t know what we are going to do now. I could never explain this new system to them, they would never understand it. I am just so upset about this.

        Reply
    • Stephanie
      October 25, 2013

      It has nothing to do with being treated equally, and as others have said, you know nothing about what the true issues are or what it’s like to live daily w/ children w/ special needs. Even WITH the pass such that it was (and it was NOT a head of the line pass despite what people have claimed it was), people such as my family that has a child w/ severe to moderate 9depending on the situation) autism, we get less than 1/3 done as an “average” family does. How is that equal?? It’s not, but the pass allowed is to be able to get even that little done and give our kids that joy. Disney was friendly about it and made it the one place we could go and enjoy ourselves and not be shunned.

      To that person that works w/ special needs people and thinks “tough luck” , you’ve obviously become quite jaded and heartless. You have no compassion and it sickens me. No, we don’t HAVE to go to an amusement park, but why should we not go because of our disabilities? Why should we just eat that crap sandwich daily and not hope for some semblance of a “normal” life others get to have just because we’re already doing so much more???? So just sit home and eat your crap sandwich and stay out of your way, eh?

      Reply
    • S Campbell
      November 23, 2013

      Because our children don’t have the patience or cognitive ability to wait that long. My 2 sons with autism can wait some, but not that long. You obviously have no idea on what life is like with someone with autism.

      Reply
  2. Heather
    October 22, 2013

    You tell her Rebecca. She has no idea what she is talking about. I have two kids. One with social anxiety disorder and another with autism and sensory processing disorder. We tried NOT using the disabled pass, when it was the old way, cause I wsnted to see if my kids could wait in line. That was a no go. Its not Cheryl’s fault. She is just obviously un educated. Hey Cheryl, go take care of a special needs kid or maybe do some research before you even try to start a debate like this one……

    Reply
  3. Nikki
    October 23, 2013

    By no means should that woman take care of someone with special needs!! My brother has autism. Yes people give him a hard time in school because he gets to have an iPod to listen to classical music to keep him calm. Would people like to watch a child have a melt down because they are to close to others or because there are tons of heartless people in this world that would make fun of him while he’s in line? But yet you want him to stand in the same line. Some people are just so heartless and don’t think of how things effect others.

    Reply
  4. Jeremy
    October 23, 2013

    I have a 12 year old son with autism. We went to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World two weeks ago. He told me he never wants to go back now. I had brought two doctor’s notes with me (one from his regular pediatrician; the other from his developmental pediatrician), as I didn’t want to have to get into my son’s challenges right in front of my son. I think a doctor’s note should be required. While that is slightly personal (hey, you’re telling the Disney people there’s something up anyway) and there can still be cheats (those who might get their ped to write a note), at least they’ll know that a greater (acceptable) number of those getting the passes will be legit.

    Reply
  5. Pat Smith
    October 23, 2013

    While, I work professionally in the world of special education, I see this as a CHOICE activity. Children/Adults with disabilities are making a CHOICE by going to Disneyland or other amusement parks. This is NOT a life training skill, a basic need. I’m sorry that life has handed you a crap-sandwich – but that doesn’t mean that your CHOICES get to affect my choice to go somewhere. SOCIAL TRAINING parents – SOCIAL TRAINING. If you want, you can do that with your children.

    Reply
    • autismmom
      October 28, 2013

      Pat, how do you expect the special needs kids to get social training without actually taking them to the actual location & teach them through experience? Talking about it, showing videos, pictures, social stories will not work for many of them because it is too abstract. Are you saying that these kids are relegated to being hidden out of sight, out of society’s way, so they don’t bother anyone? Shall we also relegate babies & toddlers out of the public eye because they can become disruptive? Not EVERYONE needs the same to be fair. Fair is whatever level the child needs.

      Reply
  6. Jeremy
    October 24, 2013

    Pat Smith – While what you’re saying is true, that is COMPLETELY opposite to the way Disney markets and positions its Parks in the marketplace. If they portray themselves in a certain way, they have created their own obligation to maintain that integrity. If not, then stop the marketing.

    Reply
  7. mitch modally
    October 24, 2013

    You failed to menion you can also use the fast pass at the same time. Alternate between them and it should be fine. Give it some time to work the kinks out…. sheesh

    Reply
    • Andy Areffi
      October 24, 2013

      INCORRECT. The fast pass option was part of the old GAC system. The new DAS system has done away with that.

      Reply
      • mitch modally
        October 24, 2013

        Do you still not have a ticket to USE the FastPass system? Or do they take your ticket away when they issue you the ID?

        I read earlier that Disney stated you could use both.

        Reply
        • mitch modally
          October 24, 2013

          READ THE LAST LINE

          Disney has also created an FAQ outlining the specifics of the new program, highlights of which are duplicated below.

          What is a Disability Access Service Card and how does it work?
          The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). A Disability Access Service Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another. This service can be used in addition to Disney’s FASTPASS Service and Disney FastPass+ service.

          Reply
          • Andy Areffi
            October 24, 2013

            Yes you can use the fast pass system just like every other customer in the park. But you can’t use the DAS pass as a Fastpass the way you used to with the GAC. We tried and were told to go to a DAS Kiosk to get a return time.

  8. mitch modally
    October 24, 2013

    “In the 6 hours we were there, we only managed to get on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates Of the Caribbean using the new DAS system……”

    How can that be? 3 hours for the Haunted Mansion? I don’t buy it.

    Reply
    • Andy Areffi
      October 24, 2013

      Mitch,

      If you remember, we got some front of the line passes from Jose that we used to ride the Matterhorn. That being said, can you tell me how much time my son takes to calm down after a full blown meltdown? Can you tell me how long the meltdown took? We also had to eat and the kids have food sensory issues so there’s only one restaurant in the park that they will eat at, which of course is the most busy one. Our choices are limited and sometimes dictated by their disability. A lot of people think if we just try harder, work harder or just enforce more discipline on them we can do everything we want without a problem. So it’s all our fault is what you’re saying. Yeah thanks for that.

      Reply
      • mitch modally
        October 24, 2013

        Ok Mr Its my fault …… You failed to mention any of that so how are we supposed to know?

        With that being said how would the old system of helped you then?

        Reply
        • Andy Areffi
          October 25, 2013

          The park didn’t thin out towards the evening as it usually does so we couldn’t find a place to wait. Under the old GAC system we could’ve gone straight to another ride. Instead, we were forced to wait in sight of the ride he wanted to go on and he didn’t understand why we were waiting instead of going to the ride which is what caused the melt down.

          Reply
  9. Ari
    October 28, 2013

    The author sounds like one of the many abusers of this system in the first place – 3 kids with autism – seriously?

    Autism is so easy to claim, especially mild autism where the kids appear normal but basically are badly behaved with poor social skills.

    To me this system should be for physically handicapped or mentally handicapped people only – and the qualification for mentally handicapped people should be people who need full time adult care due to their disability – otherwise over zealous moms like this will be standing in line at Disneyland claiming their children with attention deficit disorder need to get priority.

    Reply
    • Susan
      March 2, 2014

      Reading a few of these comments, but especially yours Ari, makes me glad that only doctors, parents, and attorneys and judges, get to decide about whether someone is disabled or not. Autism is a SPECTRUM, which means there are varying levels. And beyond that many of us who have autism have a wide range of physical handicaps as well. At least fortunate enough for me I do have those physical handicaps even though I am not in a wheelchair, but based on your words, you do not have any understanding of hidden disabilities and handicaps. Reading what you wrote, you would be the type of rude person I encounter when I try to go out on my own and have to park in a handicap space because I can’t manage the parking lot on most hot days or days when my asthma flares. And you would be the person who would just stare rudely as I enter a meltdown or begin to become overwhelmed and start stimming. I have never been to Disney yet, but I will get to soon enough. I don’t know how adults with disabilities are affected by this new system that has been implemented though I hope it helps them too. But I am glad I will get to celebrate some milestones by having my first ever Disney trip. I just hope I never run into people like you.

      Reply
    • sally
      April 14, 2014

      Do you think people with autism do not need full time adult care? You are the most ignorant person i have ever come across. Ignorant and mean and cruel.

      Reply
  10. Jeremy
    October 29, 2013

    @Ari – Really? It’s so easy to claim that a kid has autism? Have you done that? Yes, I have. Oh yeah, it was because MY SON HAS AUTISM!!! “[W]here the kids appear normal”??? – What does that mean? Do you mean since YOU – with your highly trained eye and professional medical skills – don’t see evidence of a disability, YOU should decide who should get different access? I think your ignorance, your seeming lack of sensitivity, only points up the fact that you don’t know about that which you speak. This is why a doctor’s note should be required. And, on a side-note, “mild” autism (whatever you mean by that) is AUTISM. The day I “claimed” that about my son was the most heartbreaking day of my life. our family’s life has been forever altered EVERY SINGLE DAY – would that it was only to get the occasional nice day at a Disney park!

    Reply
  11. TLB
    November 18, 2013

    Reading some of these responses really shows the ignorance that people have in regards to autism. Assumptions, accusations, and blame really point out their weakness in the area. Being a professional dealing with autism and a parent of an autistic child, it benefits society as a whole to become more aware of the epidemic occurrence and needs of autistic children and their families..

    Below is an excerpt of a letter that I wrote to Disney. It was sent twice accidentally, and I received two exact pre-composed letters in response . One would speculate that it would foreshadow the kind of experience to be expected at the parks.

    “Parents of autistic children are often on a time clock. We only have so much time before the child has had enough, melts down, medicine wears off, or becomes totally fixated on something and causes a scene. For my son, if he sees trash on a tram or ride, he will have a fit which he will obsess about for hours. Often we have to cut our experience short so that we don’t disturb other guests. My life has a schedule at home and when we go out. Getting a time to come back is still a line. It might not be one you see visually, but somehow we will have to fill the time wandering around in the heat (btw…his meds say to stay out of the heat) or shops. All the time trying to calm a stemming child that asks over and over that he wants to go on the ride. And then repeat that process for the next??? No way. I’d rather stay home instead of shelling out the almost $500 per day that we would spend on traveling down, visiting the parks, staying at a local hotel, and eating at park restaurants.

    I’m sorry that Disney feels the need to change itself based on bad media and a few dishonest people, but, by changing your program, you are really hurting the weakest of people, disabled children. My son will always be disabled. Disney was one thing that brought him joy. If regular people
    think it’s not fair that an autistic disabled child can cut in the front of lines. I tell them, “You’re right, it’s unfair that he’s autistic.”

    I urge Disney to rethink this program for the benefit of all disabled individuals. “

    Reply
    • Andy Areffi
      November 18, 2013

      Do you still have Disney’s response? I would like to see it.

      Reply
      • TLB
        November 18, 2013

        “I do. The letters are identical.

        Thank you for contacting us regarding the services we offer our Guests with disabilities.

        We are sorry for the concern you have with the changes to our attractions access for Guests with disabilities. After careful consideration and with the needs of our Guests with disabilities as our foremost priority, we have modified the current program so that we will be able to continue to serve those Guests who truly need it. Unfortunately, our past program for providing access to attractions had been abused and exploited to such an extent that we were no longer able to sustain the program.

        Our relationship with you is very important to us. We have long recognized that people may have different needs, and we will continue to work individually with our Guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances. While on our property, please visit any Theme Park Guest Relations location to discuss your individual situation. We would like to assure you we will work with you to understand and accommodate your family’s specific needs.

        Our commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all our Guests has not changed. We appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback with us. Further information about these changes is available by clicking http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/disney-parks-disability-access-service-card-fact-sheet/. If you have additional questions or require further assistance, please contact a member of my Guest Services Team at 407-560-1900 and we will assist you.

        Warmest Regards,
        Debbie Bellavia-Hart
        Director, Guest Experience Service”

        Reply
  12. julie
    November 26, 2013

    I am not saying this to be unkind; but isn’t a place (which is pretty much the case with all amusement parks) with HEAT, huge crowds, noises, bright lights etc about the worst place you could take an autistic children with sensory difficulties? I would think an amusement park is the ultimate plastic bubble of sensory overload. No I am not some ignorant know it all as I have an autistic sister myself; and she would never be able to handle a place like this; she’d flip the hell out.

    I’m not saying this for other people’s convenience, rather out of concern that an amusement park is not appropriate for people with sensory issues for THEIR own sake?

    Reply
    • TLB
      November 27, 2013

      @Julie
      Then I guess, by your stated opinion, that we should just lock these autistic children in a room and never expose them to anything that would violate their sensory threshold and keep them away from the public. You would like parents to create a bubble for them and not give them any type of experience that a non-disabled child has access to. Julie, you fail to see the insight of this whole argument. The argument is that Disney once had a program that accommodated an autistic child. The program reduced stress and sensory overload for the child. It had enabled the child to have an experience similar to a non-disabled peer. The new DAS does not accommodate the needs like the previous one had done before. For this, Disney has become a stressor and a place that disabled individuals may avoid due to the lack of sensitivities and accommodations. It has become a place that is not accessible.

      Reply
    • Andy Areffi
      November 27, 2013

      Julie,

      I want to say up front that I perceive your question/statement to be in ernest and I’m writing this response in that spirit. I would like to point out a couple of things. The most obvious is, even kids with autism want to go to Disneyland and parents want to make to make their kids happy. Ask yourself this, what would be the point of doing years of intensive therapy and then locking yourself away from the world. Just from the taxpayer prospective, and I don’t mean this sarcastically, if you’re never going to use it, then why continue to fund it? We are doing this so we and our kids will have some measure of life in the world, not hiding from it in the bell tower. Speaking for my own family, we know our kids can’t stay all day, so we buy an annual pass so we can go for however long they can handle and then we leave. When we first started, they could only handle a couple of hours. Five years later, they can last 6 or 7 including a sit down meal at a restaurant. I doubt that would happen if we had just waited six years and then tried.

      Lastly, there is a new normal that is emerging in society that people are going to have to get used to. Special needs kids aren’t going to disappear, they will become special needs adults and they will be replaced by the next generation of special needs kids. We’re all going to have to learn how to adapt and understand. The only you do that is by exposure. There have been many occasions where we’ve had to explain/educate someone at Disneyland what’s going on with one of our kids. Most, if not all, walked away with a greater understanding of something they’ve heard of but never encountered. That’s important and it needs to happen more often. I know our kids will rely on the kindness and understanding of strangers. I’m going to try and educate as many of them as I can.

      Reply
    • Susan
      March 2, 2014

      Because if they don’t expose them and challenge them while young, it becomes harder to integrate them when older. I am 35 and was confirmed with autism at 33. I didn’t have many of the same opportunities to overcome challenges as kids today have. And I am impacted by that severely.

      Reply
  13. dawn
    January 30, 2014

    @Cheryl, Brilliant. I absolutely agree. I can’t take my dog with me everywhere like blind people can. It’s not fair! Lol. I think the fact that you have the liberty to make ridiculous comments inspite of your obvious ignorance shows that everyone has to be kind and allow people with impairments of all types have thier turn too. Your welcome.

    Reply
  14. Jen
    April 7, 2014

    Thank you for pointing out the problems with the DAS system. I believe it has actually opened the door even further for fraud. In planning a trip with my nephew who has autism, today I looked up the DAS system on Disneyland’s website and their current policy is “a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter does not need a DAS Card.” So that explains why my sister-in-law rented a wheelchair at Disneyland a few weeks ago and didn’t have to wait in line at any of the rides (she is not disabled in any way). She didn’t even have to lie to get a pass because a pass was not required. And now she’s telling all of her looser friends on facebook how to beat the system. It looks like they made it much easier for fraud and much harder for people with cognitive disabilities. Looks like you no longer have to “rent” a disabled person, you just rent a wheelchair. Really too bad. Thanks for the address, I will be writing a letter.

    Reply
  15. Heather
    April 24, 2014

    You people who think that autism and blindness and other disabilities are excuses have no clue. ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE! Grow up, enjoy your perfect neuro-typical family and don’t worry about what’s fair….you know what’s not fair??? Having a child that just stops talking. When your child develops fear of noises. When your child is crying and upset because they don’t feel good. They can’t tell you that they don’t feel good because they can’t communicate. That isn’t fair. They have panic attacks with crowds….So don’t act like you know what is fair.

    Reply

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