As a special needs parent myself, I know how overwhelming the thought of traveling can be. I also know that special needs children grow up to be special needs adults. I ALSO know that these people are amazing. So what does Disney do for special needs?
DISNEY WITH MOBILITY ISSUES
Walt Disney World and Disneyland are both able to accommodate guests with mobility issues, whether you use a wheelchair, ECV, scooter, etc or not. The first stop for all guests at all theme parks should be Guest Relations. Here, you can speak with a cast member to determine what you qualify to use. In most cases, you will receive a wheelchair pass to access most attractions, where you will then be able to take your wheelchair into the line queue, where possible. Disneyland, which opened in 1955, was certainly not built to accommodate wheelchairs, but they have done their best to make it possible for all people to enjoy Disneyland. Likewise, Walt Disney World has been updated as much as possible for those with ambulatory limitations. To access the full list of accommodations for each park:
DISNEY FOR HEARING DISABILITIES
For guests with partial or total hearing loss, both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have accommodations available! These include assistive listening devices, handheld captioning, video captioning, sign language, and, for resort hotel guests, hotel room amenities. For guests that require room accommodations, contact both locations at least 14 days in advance. (407) 560-2547 or email@example.com
Portable captioning systems that use the Disney Handheld Device—which amplify sound through headphones or induction loop—are recommended for Guests with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Disney Handheld Devices are available through Guest Relations and require a $25.00 refundable deposit. You must return the device on the same day for a refund.
Sign Language interpretation are provided on a rotating basis, as follows:
-Disney’s Magic Kingdom: Mondays and Thursdays
-Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Sundays and Wednesdays
-Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Tuesdays and Saturdays
-Disneyland Park: Mondays and Saturdays
-Disney’s California Adventure: Sundays and Fridays
DISNEY WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS
Again, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World offer accommodations for people with vision loss, and has even been recommended by the American Federation for the Blind. All theme parks have the following services available:
-Stationary Braille Maps
-Portable Tactile Maps
DISNEY WITH COGNITIVE DISABILITIES/AUTISM
Disney is a magical place for everyone, INCLUDING guests with cognitive disabilities, including cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and more. There are several ways that Disney has made it possible to plan a majority of your trip in advance, to minimize any extra stress, allowing the entire family the opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance. No one enjoys standing in long lines just to get a ticket, and for individuals with cognitive disabilities, this can be akin to torture! There are plenty of ways to secure your tickets before you arrive on site! The best way is to use a travel agent, aka ME!
Know where the best locations are for breaks, no matter where you’re going!
There are lots of quiet places to regroup and collect yourselves. When in doubt, ask a cast member where there is a quiet place close by. Along with quiet places, know where the companion bathrooms are! And make sure to have a stroller and/or wheelchair ready BEFORE arriving at the parks. There are several rental locations all over Orlando and Anaheim.
DISABILITY ACCESS SERVICE
The most important thing to know is how to get the DAS Pass. This pass allows you to get a return time for an attraction in place of standing in line. Most mobility issues do not need the DAS Pass, because the line queues can accommodate you with a wheelchair pass. The DAS Pass is for people that physically cannot wait in line, whether because of fear of crowds or anxiety or the inability to understand waiting. You will simply approach a cast member at the attraction that you wish to go on, ask for a return time, and then do something else, be it a snack or another attraction with no wait (the carousel is a good one!), until it is time to return.
So how do you get the DAS Pass? It is incredibly simple, and there are now TWO ways to get the pass. The traditional route is to go to Guest Services as soon as you arrive at the park for the day. City Hall (at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Parks), Chamber of Commerce (Disney’s California Adventure), Guest Relations (EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom). Your whole party should be there, you will explain why you, or your child, needs the DAS Pass, and the Cast Member will determine whether or not you qualify. Again, the DAS Pass is for guests who cannot wait in a traditional line queue because of their disability. A wheelchair pass will be given to guests that have a mobility issue.
The second option is to preregister through the Disneyland (beginning December 20) and Walt Disney World websites. The person registering for the pass does need to be present for the video call, and the cast members will determine eligibility. Once you preregister, between 2 and 30 days before your trip, you will then be allowed to pre-book 2 experiences per day.
The rules for DAS are simple: anyone in your party can request a return time, but the person the DAS pass was actually issued for MUST be present to ride.
In my experience, Disney Parks are fantastic with all disabilities. Ready to book your trip? Contact me today!!