Countless families venture to Walt Disney World each year to embrace its magic and wonder! Disney prides itself on customer service as they strive to accommodate all kinds of families, including those with special needs. Families with children and adults with cognitive disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder, can rest easy. Disney World is committed to providing an inclusive environment, and it has special services in place to ease and support these special guests.
Q. What are some items I should bring to the parks for my family member with a cognitive disability?
A. Disney suggests bringing a bracelet or nametag with your contact information, earplugs or headphones to block out loud noises, a favorite device or activity for downtime or waiting periods, and/or a sensory toy to serve as a calming item.
Q. What other planning and preparation strategies can help ensure my family member has an enjoyable experience?
A. Consult the Walt Disney World guide for planning a trip for guests with cognitive disabilities, which can be found here. This guide includes a list of attractions with specific details about each. Additionally, visit Disney’s site or other websites to watch videos of attractions you are planning to ride. You might also study park maps (including selecting a location to meet if you become separated) and create a visual schedule of your planned park itinerary.
Q. How can I find out the specific accommodations at each park that are available to my family member?
A. There are park-specific guides for guests with disabilities at each of the parks. These list all of the supports available for guests along with family bathroom locations, wheelchair rental locations, and more.
Q. What happens if my family member strays from my group?
A. Contact a Cast Member who will assist in this circumstance. There is also a lost persons location at each of the parks where Cast Members escort those guests who have been separated from their family or party. Disney suggests you take a picture of your family member on your mobile device as well as create a nametag with your contact information; this will assist in a hopefully swift reunion.
Q. It’s hard for my family member to get around the parks. What are our options?
A. Stroller, wheelchair, and ECV/motorized scooter rental are available at the theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs. Guests might also consider using Disney’s partner vendors for stroller or scooter rentals, which include Orlando Stroller Rentals (800-281-0884), Kingdom Strollers (407-271-5301), and Magic Strollers (866-866-6177.)
Q. What should I do if my family member is unable to get out of his or her stroller to stand in attraction queues?
A. Visit Guest Relations to receive a “stroller as a wheelchair” tag, which will be placed on your stroller for easy identification by Cast Members.
Q. My family member struggles to wait in long lines. How can we still enjoy the attractions?
Consult the Guest Relations lobby outside of the park upon your arrival. Guests with special needs, including cognitive disabilities, qualify for the Disability Access Service (DAS). This service allows guests to schedule a return time for a specific attraction that allows you to return 10 minutes before the current wait time. For instance, if a guest is interested in riding the Dumbo attraction and the wait time is approximately 30 minutes, the guest will be allowed to return at 20 minutes so that he or she can avoid waiting in the queue. This leaves time to enjoy other park offerings, including grabbing a snack, taking a break, visiting another attraction, or meeting a character. Once the return time is redeemed, guests are able to schedule a return time for another attraction. Lastly, the DAS can be used in conjunction with FastPass+ reservations and can even be scanned through using your MagicBand.
Q. Where can my family member go if he or she needs a break?
A. Each park has many places appropriate for taking breaks, including special spots that are a little less crowded. These locations include the following:
- Magic Kingdom:
- Main Street, U.S.A: First Aid /Baby Care Center; Side Street by Crystal Arts
- Adventureland: Swiss Family Treehouse; Corridor to the left of Pirates of the Caribbean
- Liberty Square: Behind Ye Old Christmas Shop
- Frontierland: Tom Sawyer Island; Splash Mountain garden area
- Fantasyland: Pathway leading from Cinderella’s Castle to Fairytale Garden; Pete’s Silly Sideshow area; Pathway behind The Barnstormer
- Tomorrowland: New Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Future World West: First Aid/Baby Care Center; Courtyard and restroom area outside Imagination pavilion; Area between Seas entrance and Coral Reef Restaurant
- Future World East: Near Ellen’s Energy Adventure (now closed)
- World Showcase: (Mexico) Outside area to the right of the pavilion near the backstage gate; (Germany) Garden area next to Glaskunst; (Japan) Garden area; (Morocco) Village Corridors; (France) To the right of the buildings along the water’s edge; International Gateway; (United Kingdom) Garden area at back of pavilion
- Hollywood Studios:
- Hollywood Boulevard: First Aid/Baby Care Center
- Echo Lake: Walkway surrounding Echo Lake
- Animation Courtyard: Near the restrooms to the left of The Magic of Disney Animation attraction
- Sunset Boulevard: Courtyard outside The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Commissary Lane: Outside ABC Commissary
- Animal Kingdom:
- Discovery Island: First Aid/Baby Care Center; Discovery Island Trails
- Africa: Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
- Asia: Maharajah Jungle Trek
- DinoLand U.S.A.: Courtyard of Dinosaur; alcove across from the entrance to Finding Nemo: The Musical
These special services are designed to support Disney’s extra special guests so that they, too, can enjoy the magic of Walt Disney World.
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