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Has Disney’s DAS Pass Become A DASaster?

Has Disney's DAS Pass Become A DASaster? gabriel-tovar-D2ARm-5nY_g-unsplash (1)

The Disney DAS Pass is a service that the company introduced to their parks in 2013; it stands for Disability Access Service and comes in the form of a card to replace their Guest Assistance Card. Over the years, this system has evolved from being one of the most outstanding theme park services for people with additional needs to something manipulated by those willing to deceive in order to jump the queue.

It’s a concept fraught with contradiction, strictly for those with disabilities in theory, though no proof of need is required. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before some less-than-exemplary guests discovered the same. The exploitation of the program resulted in an overhaul of the process, doing away with the spontaneous registration at guest services as the prime point of contact and moving to an encouraging pre-registration platform online. For guests that wish to apply, it is suggested to pre-register via live video chat with a Cast Member; this can be done between 2 and 30 days before arrival. While I appreciate that the system now requires more than just putting your hand up for one, this also seems flawed.

Has Disney's DAS Pass Become A DASaster? patrick-konior-eaFNKniJMz0-unsplash (1)  Photo by <a href="">Patrick Konior</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Patrick Konior on Unsplash

I come from a country where you can be asked to prove any conditions that require special assistance. It doesn’t bother me; I think it is a great way to force out those who shouldn’t be applying for services they don’t need. That said, I am fully aware that in the US, many are very protective of their right never to be questioned about disabilities. This sticking point makes this application process more difficult.

During the pre-registration process, you won’t be required to discuss your condition, but you might be asked why you need the pass, at which time you will need to be able to articulate what effect waiting in line will have on you or the person applying, as well as why you can’t do it. It’s important to note that mobility issues, such as conditions that can be assisted by a wheelchair, are not qualifying for the pass. The person applying does need to be present at the virtual meeting. With no proof of condition required, I know some people out there just learn the buzz words like Autism and then enjoy their Disney vacation based on a lie.

Has Disney's DAS Pass Become A DASaster? kaleb-tapp-CpPXgfmPjJY-unsplash (1)  Photo by <a href="">kaleb tapp</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by kaleb tapp on Unsplash

How do I know this? Because I have heard people brag about it. Yes, for those of you who read my most recent Five People You Don’t Want To Be In Disney Parks, you would know that the DAS Faker made the list this round after we overheard a family bragging about scamming a DAS pass and enjoying a day full of return times without waiting in line. It was one of the most disappointing moments in recent history for me. As someone who struggled through my children’s younger years, watching some of these families (like that one mentioned in my article above) scam the system for their convenience with pride makes me realize there is something very wrong here. In my mind, I liken it to a physically disabled person parking further away to leave the spot at the front door free for something less mobile, then watching another person pull in and take it, walking away without issue.

Making matters worse, I have also heard stories of the opposite scenario, those with justified grounds for applying are denied simply for not using the correct terminology that ticks the box on a CM’s list. Those in the disability community know that the key to everything is clear and concise advocacy, something that not everyone can access. One story I read detailed a young girl, the backstory I won’t go into, but the way her father was describing their situation, it is evident to me that she could greatly benefit from the program and that he didn’t have the correct wording to get her application over the line.

Has Disney's DAS Pass Become A DASaster? brian-mcgowan-Fg9zXUvINsE-unsplash (1)  Photo by <a href="">Brian McGowan</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

So the question then becomes not do you qualify and, instead, a test of how well you can communicate and convince another person. There is an element of irony in this, as many disabilities that would need this service also struggle with social and/or communication skills. It is perfectly reasonable that Disney doesn’t publish a list of qualifying symptoms – can you imagine what people would do? – then again, I highly doubt that the CMs on the other end are trained professionals able to read between the lines in each communication. Subject to uneducated interpretation (uneducated in this particular field), it is easy for the lines to blur for those that do and don’t need the pass. To me, it stands to reason that the result could be many people incorrectly placed in one camp or the other.

I’m starting to think that without a more professional referral system or proof requirement, more and more people will attempt to defraud the system by repeating anxiety! Until someone says yes. I’ve long heard stories of some getting the pass for nothing more than their gain, though now, I hear just as many stories of people who likely need the service being knocked back. It tells me this system requires a severe overhaul.

Has Disney's DAS Pass Become A DASaster? ben-mcleod-5KDKP8hz4cI-unsplash (1)  Photo by <a href="">Ben McLeod</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Ben McLeod on Unsplash

As disappointed as I am to say it, it’s a system that was born to fail as soon as it met an emboldened population where some had reached a level of entitlement strong enough to seek personal gain at morality’s expense. Sound harsh? It is; I will give you that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Only those who have lied to gain access to this pass could find offense in that, and if that’s the case, so be it. Even though mine is an additional needs family, for our specific circumstances, I’ve always tried to get through the parks without the pass; the lessons in waiting were more useful for my personal situation than the pass would have been. Many don’t have that luxury and need additional assistance to be able to visit the parks at all.

I’m interested to see what others think of the system. Do you believe it actively services the intended market and provide a much-needed service? Or does it miss the mark, failing to help those in need and allowing others to slip through the cracks? For those of you who do have additional needs or support someone who does, would you be open to some sort of a referral system from a health professional that requests the pass without disclosing your condition directly? I’m curious about how others think it can be improved.

Let me know, has DAS pass become a DASaster?

If you need assistance with DAS Pass or have further questions about applying, please visit this link or ask your Dreams Unlimited Travel Agent for details on how to contact Disney.

Feature Image: Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.

Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.


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