Using DAS to Avoid Lines
A couple years ago, Jennica, one of our older children moved back to Orlando with her husband. At the time, Andy, had a short list of attractions that he would ride, none of which included a roller coaster. Basically, that meant I had seen “O Canada” at EPCOT and Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom over 50 times. Why? Because those two films include lots of horses. Yes…there are more horses than presidents in the Hall of Presidents (infer that any way you would like).
Of course, Toy Story’s Woody loves horses, so Andy does too! Additionally, at the other Disney parks, it was an equally unexciting list of attractions that we watched over and over again. Then Jennica arrived on the scene. Using some ABA methods, she had learned as a paraprofessional in her previous job, she set to work, to help Andy enjoy the rest of Walt Disney World. She was a pro. Before we knew it, our experience at the parks had changed from the kiddy rides to the teen scene. So, why was Jennica so persistent? Of course, Jennica, loved to help her brother progress and take on new challenges, but don’t miss it, part of her motivation was DAS (Disability Access System). If you are unfamiliar with how DAS works check out Disney’s information page here. Also, some of the queues at the Disney Parks are so engaging your autistic child might enjoy playing in the regular line. Check out our favorite seven queues here.
Because of DAS, taking Andy to the park became a great perk. Basically, he became everyone’s ticket to the front of the line. Now, before I am accused of making light of this program or sounding like a family that is capitalizing on their child’s disability, let me explain. DAS does not allow families with disabled family members to get into an attraction before everyone else. It just allows them to skip the line. They wait the same amount of time as the typical guest, but in another area of the park of their choosing. If the wait time is 60 mins, the return time for the DAS family is 60mins from the time they check in at the attraction. This program is a huge gift to those who have children with disabilities who struggle in so many ways to make a vacation work with their children’s needs. Additionally, it helps families, like our own who find themselves in uncomfortable situations with other guests, who may not understand. Let me give a couple of examples:
Andy likes to choose his own seat. Although we have tried to convince him that this isn’t always appropriate, like on an airplane (story for another day) what generally happens is that when 6’4” Andy is having a meltdown over where he wants to sit, whoever has control over the situation, makes arrangements for him. Sometimes, that isn’t too difficult. For instance, at Mickey’s PhilarMagic, he wants the front seat on the far right? Who else wants that seat? But in his earnestness for sitting there, we have to restrain him from plowing through others waiting in the lobby for entry.
In another example we were lined up in the Fast Pass line with a large number of people in front of us, at the Festival of the Lion King. When they allowed us to enter it was obvious that a small group had been allowed to enter a little before us. The theater was only about 10 percent full. Unfortunately, about 8 people were sitting in the exact row that Andy was claiming. Here comes the tantrum! I tried everything that I could do to reroute him to a different row. The theater was now filling up around us. Finally, standing in front of these eight guests Andy put his hands together and motioned for the group to separate and slide to both sides, leaving room for us to sit between them. You guessed it. They moved. We sat down and, of course, I was a bit embarrassed. Since then we utilize DAS and since many of the cast members know Andy by name, he often gets first in the door privileges so that he doesn’t cause a scene with other guests.
Here’s another example. Andy, once again, imagine a 6’4” 16 year old young man in line in a princess meet and greet. It doesn’t take long for many people to realize that he is a little special, but what if they don’t speak English. And what if he is wanting to take pictures of their little princess in her Bell costume? And what if he tries to pick up the cute little princess in the Bell costume? Let’s just say that when we are asked what prevents Andy from using the typical stand-by line to ride an attraction, we often explain that Andy might be ok, but his behavior could be difficult for others who are waiting with us. We’ve never had trouble renewing the DAS.
We should also mention that we have a high-functioning autistic daughter, and we never utilize DAS with her. We could take advantage of it, but we feel that she is capable of experiencing waits like most other guests. So an important aspect of making DAS fair is how families choose to use it. But by and large, the system works, and it creates a fair experience for all.
To see Disney’s best queues world wide, visit this post.
To see how Disney thinks about different personas in designing its queues, visit this post.