How the Disney World Disability Pass Works: Essential Guide for Families

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Disney World Disability Pass - with kids in stroller.
Guests with mobility challenges may qualify for a red wheelchair tag (or like my son who needs it for sensory issues). Photo credit: Christy Emanuel
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Disney’s Disability Access Service is aimed at visitors with cognitive disabilities that make it difficult for them to wait in long lines. The pass reduces wait times for rides and attractions at Disney World and Disneyland. Here, a Disney regular who has used the service over the years offers advice on what works, what doesn’t and what you need to know.

We have been traveling to Disney for many years using the various forms of the “Disability Access Service” (DAS) pass. That’s the pass that allows visitors with special needs to fully enjoy the Disney magic.

My first experience with special disability access was more than 25 years ago when we visited Disneyland with my aunt, who has Down syndrome. Under that system, rides had a handicapped entrance. We all used that entrance and rode the rides together. There was no waiting, no fuss, but it always felt like a “walk of shame” to walk past everyone waiting in the long line.

I like the new system much better. It lets us wait in a “virtual line.”

My 9-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum, has cognitive challenges that make it very difficult for him to wait in line for more than a few minutes. The Disney Disability Pass is a lifesaver. It allows us to get an assigned “return time” for a ride the use the Fastpass line to ride.

As of February 2020, all of Walt Disney World Parks use the same DAS system. Photo credit: Christy Emanuel

Disability Pass Eligibility

Getting a disability is easy. We go to Guest Services when we arrive at the park and ask for one. No doctor’s note needed. We don’t even have to go into detail about my son’s challenges.

However, we do have to answer a few specific questions about why my son has difficulty waiting in line. I say that he gets overstimulated by a lot of audio/visual input, and being confined for a long period. We have never been refused a pass.

Get your DAS Pass the day before your park visit.

Unfortunately, there is no option to set up the DAS pass before your trip. You can only do it on-site, at Guest Services.

Don’t let that be a stressor, though. The cast members who give out the passes are well trained.

I highly recommend getting your Disability Pass when you first arrive in Orlando or Anaheim. That streamlines the whole process and doesn’t interrupt the fun once you’re inside the park.

Make sure to bring along the person who has the disability; Disney will need to take a photo to attach to the ticket. Also bring the tickets, and/or magicbands for everyone in your party. That will ensure everyone can ride together at the same “return time.” The maximum number allowed in a party is typically six, but we had eight family members. Disney accommodated us without a problem.

Disney World Disability Pass - kid with Snow White
With a little bit of extra planning, Disney World can be fun for all types of guests. Photo credit: Christy Emanuel

Getting the Pass

Give yourself some time to wait in line, ask questions, and set up the Disability Access System pass.  It took almost an hour on our last visit to set up the pass for my son. Ironically, most of that time was spent waiting in line. Thankfully I had family members with me to help occupy my son. At Hollywood Studios, there is a little gift shop next to the guest services window. He was able to look at all of the things.

Once you get to the window, ask the Disney parks cast members any questions you have about how the DAS works. I have always found them to be very willing to help make our experience magical. Ask for help. Even after all of these years, I still have questions!

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Once you have the pass, using it is very easy. I attach my son’s to his magicband. If your child won’t wear a magicband, it can be attached to the ticket, or someone else can wear two magicbands. Fortunately, my son likes wearing a watch, so he doesn’t mind wearing the magicband.

How to Get a ‘Return Time’

The key is to look for the blue umbrella. Each park at Disney World has a kiosk marked by a blue umbrella. Stop there, show your Disney World Disability Pass, and — voila — you get a “return time” to the next ride.

The blue umbrellas are located throughout the theme parks. Or you can go to the FastPass line for the ride to get a return time for the ride if that’s more convenient.

Where to Find Guest Services

The Magic Kingdom Guest Relations window is on the right side as you enter the park. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it is on the left. In EPCOT, as you exit the skyliner there is a room on the left hand side, and at the main entrance there is a window on the far right (nearest the bus stops).  At Animal Kingdom you will find the window on the left hand side of the park entrance.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know to Plan the Best Disney World Vacation Ever

Disney World Disability Pass - with kids in stroller.
Guests with mobility challenges may qualify for a red wheelchair tag (or like my son who needs it for sensory issues). Photo credit: Christy Emanuel

DAS for Mobility Challenges

Disabled visitors who have mobility challenges, use a stroller, scooter, or another type of mobility device can get a red wheelchair tag. That allows them to park in areas where strollers and scooters aren’t typically allowed.

They can even take the mobility devices onto a ride if necessary and safe. The same tag is available at Disneyland Resort. Be aware that a mobility issue alone will not get a DAS card, and please refer to the Disney World guide for more information.

When my son is overwhelmed, and needs a sensory break, I can take our stroller into restaurants and other areas where strollers aren’t normally allowed. I don’t use that often, but it is a very helpful option when we do need it.

In addition, the red tag allows access to the reserved handicapped seating for the Magic Kingdom fireworks at the end of the night. But come early; there is limited space available.

Disney World Disability Pass - Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom
Make sure to allow for plenty of time to ask questions while getting the DAS pass. Even after years, I always have some! Photo credit: Christy Emanuel

How DAS Works Inside the Parks

The disability access service card allows you to wait in line, just not in the actual standby line. Once you are in the park (and have activated your park ticket), here is what works best for us:

We pick the ride to get on. I typically ask for ride wait times (some can be very long, like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) and choose from there. If the lines aren’t long (like during Extra Magic Hours or during the fireworks shows), we don’t use the DAS. I only do it when the wait times are unmanageable for our son. For him that is about 30-45 minutes. If the line is longer than that, I will go and get a return time for the ride. If it is less than his normal OK-to-wait time, it’s easier to just wait in the line.

We scan one of our magicands to reserve a spot in line. You can either go to a blue umbrella guest services kiosk or to the FastPass line at the ride you want to ride. The cast members scan the magicband and issue a return time that is similar to the current wait time in the regular ride line. So, if the line would take 60 minutes, the return time is for one hour from the time your magicband is scanned. You don’t get a shortened wait time like you do with a Fastpass. The difference is that you don’t have to spend the time waiting in the actual line. Instead, you wait in a virtual line.

We continue enjoying the park during our “virtual” wait. We usually get a snack, wait in a manageable line for another ride, or do something else until it is time for our return time. My family calls this being in the “virtual line.”

Return to the ride and get in the FastPass+ line. A cast member scans our magicbands, starting with my son’s so the Disability Access Pass registers. Then everyone in our party enters and we wait in the shorter FastPass+ line.

DAS + Fastpass = Fun

It is very easy to use the DAS system in conjunction with the FastPass+, and I highly recommend it.

Here’s how we did on our last visit to Disney World:

We were staying in a Disney World Resort, so we were able to maximize our ride time by going into the parks early with Extra Magic Hours. We immediately signed up for a DAS return time for a ride with a long wait.

Our first park was Hollywood Studios. The Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster already had a wait time of 90 minutes. I found the closest blue umbrella kiosk and signed up for a return time for the ride. Then we started riding whatever we could quickly until our Slinky Dog return time.

As soon as we got off the Slinky Dog Dash, I found the closest blue umbrella to sign up for the next ride, the Rockin’ Roller Coaster.

We had a Fastpass for the nearby Tower or Terror, so we walked over there, and rode it (not using DAS). Then it was the DAS return time for Rockin’ Roller Coaster.

We got off that ride and I found the closest blue umbrella to sign up for Toy Story Mania. There was a long wait time, and we didn’t have another Fastpass, so we stopped for lunch before returning to Toy Story Mania.

Use My Disney Experience

It sounds complicated, but really isn’t. All of the FastPass+ and DAS return times are in the My Disney Experience app. Booking the FastPass+ in advance is essential (especially during peak traffic seasons), and I highly recommend getting the help of a travel agent. You can book your FastPass+ 60 days before your stay if you are staying in a Disney World Resort Hotel. There are travel agents that specialize in guests with disabilities. Mine even went to the resort ahead of time to put notes in our file to make our stay more magical, and just a little bit less stressful for me.

Disney World Disability Pass - waiting on Main Street
There is so much to do while waiting in a virtual line with the DAS pass. It helps decrease everyone’s frustration. Photo credit: Christy Emanuel

Service Animals are Welcome at all Disney resorts.

I also saw crates by a number of rides, which is an option if the animal can’t go onto the ride. They can wait in the crate until the fun is finished. If the service animal isn’t able to go on the ride, or the handler isn’t comfortable taking the animal onto the ride, rider switch (just like the one that we used for kids that don’t meet the height restrictions) is always an option. Just as with a small child, you will ask for a rider switch pass at the entrance to the line.

It’s Not Always Easy

I belong to a disabilities at Disney Facebook group, and I can tell you that it isn’t always easy to travel with a child with a disability. My son doesn’t have an apparent disability. It can be hard to hear comments from folks who don’t understand why we need the accommodations, but I feel so much better about this new system.  Now that we wait in virtual line instead of the front of the line disability pass Disney used to issue to disabled people), we wait in line too!  We just do it in a way that makes our day as enjoyable as everyone else’s.

No one wants to see the meltdown that occurs when my son has to wait for long periods at Walt Disney World Resorts. I don’t like it either. I applaud the efforts of Walt Disney World to make the parks a magical experience for all of its guests!

4 responses

  1. Thank you for the tips. I have an Autistic child and this sounds like it will make the experience better for him and others as well. God bless! We are off to Disney with less anxiety already!

  2. Hi is the disability pass free? My son has Down Syndrome and this is an interesting option for us to visit the park

  3. So you are able to take advantage and get fast passes for every ride because you can claim your kid is “disabled”? That’s not right.

    1. It’s hard being a mom of a child with special needs. To have a few “perks” in life is a nice relief from all we do raising a special needs child. It’s hard work at times so this is a great program for us.

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