Magic For All

An Expert Guide To Navigating Disney With Disabilities

No, you can't "skip the lines," but you can (and should!) enjoy a stress-free park experience.

Originally Published: 
A Minnie Mouse toy hangs on the back of a wheelchair.
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Planning a trip to Disney is undeniably stressful. There's a lot to think about, pack, and prepare for whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned parks vet. If you've got someone in your traveling party who has a chronic illness, injury, or disability, your stress level might be amplified. After all, Disney parks are notorious for heavy crowds year-round and lots of time spent outdoors in high heat and humidity, which means that those with disabilities might understandably feel overwhelmed or exhausted more easily.

Thankfully, few travel destinations are better equipped to support visitors with health concerns than Walt Disney World and Disneyland. In fact, Disney is designed to be accessible to and inclusive of all guests, offering plenty of accommodations for those who can't comfortably wait in long queues for attractions, experiences, and dining.

DAS 101

Your best bet if a member of your family cannot wait in lines for extended periods? Disney's Disability Access Service (DAS), which "allows you to pre-select rides and reserve a time to ride them so you can avoid waiting in the traditional lines," as travel agent, blogger, and Disney planning pro Tina Tolbert tells Scary Mommy.

Available at the parks on both coasts, DAS "works very similarly to the paid Genie+ system that all guests have access to," Tolbert explains. But there's a lot of misconception surrounding DAS — namely that it's a "skip-the-line pass" anyone can take advantage of — which is why we're here to break it all down for you.

If you think you or your family member will benefit from DAS (more on this in a minute), Tolbert says you can pre-register up to 60 days in advance of your trip by "setting up a chat or phone call with a Disney cast member," or you can also access DAS registration on-site at Guest Relations in each park. The person requiring DAS access will need to be present for the call, though a parent or caregiver can answer questions as needed.

Legally, Disney cannot (and will not) ask for protected health information, but Tolbert says you must "be able to explain what medical condition you or your child has that prohibits them from waiting in lines for attractions."

Whenever possible, pre-registering is the easiest way to ensure a stress-free park day once you arrive. "If granted a DAS pass, you will then be able to pre-select your first two rides for each day you have park tickets," says Tolbert. "Some people prefer to wait and try to get a DAS pass once they get to the parks, but that doesn't allow you to pre-select your first two attractions for the day." Once you're there, you'll get to access your given attraction with "very minimal time waiting in line," she explains.

DAS is accessible through the My Disney Experience app, offering a seamless way to see your party's plans for the day, including DAS and any Genie+ and/or Lightning Lane selections. "After you have used your first two selections, the DAS system will allow you to select two more right from the app," Tolbert adds. "The assigned DAS guest is able to add up to five family members to ride with them. This works particularly well for families with children qualifying for DAS because then the whole family can ride together."

Not every attraction qualifies for DAS. Some of the most popular rides don't, Tolbert explains. If a ride has an Individual Lightning Lane and/or a Virtual Queue option (such as the popular Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT and Tron Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom), you will need to pay and/or reserve a spot in advance of riding, since these experiences don't include a traditional queue.

Misconceptions and Rumors

Though social media has dubbed DAS a "hack" for skipping the lines, it's worth pointing out that not every disability, illness, or injury is visible, and this service exists for people who truly need it. That said, healthcare in the U.S. is prohibitive and costly for so many, and someone should not shy away from accessing something that will make their trip easier and less stressful, physically and/or emotionally.

As for what conditions qualify, Tolbert notes that Disney makes the call on a "case by case" basis, which means you'll need to explain why you cannot wait in long lines. That said, if you have a mobility concern and physically cannot stand for long periods of time, you will be directed to use a wheelchair or a scooter, as most Disney attractions are wheelchair accessible.

Tolbert once traveled with a broken foot and did not qualify for DAS access, but says conditions like autism, sensory conditions, diabetes, heat- or sun-related sensitivities, mental health issues, and other chronic illnesses that aren't mobility-related would qualify.

And though you might see TikTok videos of people faking certain conditions to "skip the lines" (or mocking those who qualify for DAS), you should not be discouraged from using it if you or someone in your group genuinely needs it.

"I think Disney has definitely gotten more strict on who receives a DAS pass and who doesn't," says Tolbert. "Not allowing access for mobility issues definitely cuts down on who qualifies. Obviously, there will still be those that try to beat the system and fake a health issue to skip the lines, but I do think social media really exaggerates how much of that is actually going on."

Additional Info

DAS isn't the only tool available for parkgoers with disabilities. Disney's Handheld Device offers assistive listening, captioning, Braille guidebooks, and audio descriptions for attractions and experiences. Guest Services can also provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter if registered in advance of your trip.

You can also stay on-site in rooms that accommodate disabilities at most Disney resorts, and service animals are allowed within the parks. Any rides that require you to be ambulatory (such as Tom Sawyer Island or the Swiss Family Treehouse at Magic Kingdom) or where you cannot bring an oxygen tank or prosthetic limb will be noted at the entrance, and Cast Members can assist and answer any questions you have. All Disney transportation is wheelchair and/or assistive device accessible.

Setting up advance dining reservations or utilizing mobile order wherever possible is a great way to minimize waits for food or drink at both resorts.

If you're in the parks and have questions about anything disability or health-related, Guest Relations is your best bet. There are multiple locations at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

Locations at Walt Disney World Resort include:

Each and every person who steps foot at the Disney parks deserves to have a magical experience, and thankfully, Disney seems to do everything it can to help make it happen.

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