The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
What fantastic things Disney Parks are doing for accessibility, and things that I think would help in the future!
So rationally speaking, this is the last day of our series; which means it makes sense to write about heading home, and what that's like. However, figured I'd throw a curveball, and write about something else since nobody likes thinking about heading home! (If you would still like to read about this, I wrote a bit about it HERE)
Instead I'd like to talk about accessibility, and what you can find at Disney to help you make the most of your experience.
Lets start with something that has recently evolved from it's previous format; the Disability Access Service Card. (Previously the Guest Assistance Card) Something that we've seen for a while is abuse of the Guest Assistance Card, and so Disney has reformatted the rules, conditions, and what the card can do. The Disability Access Service Card, or DAS Card shortened, is a way for guests who are unable to wait in the average queue (oh look at that callback to earlier in the week) to wait outside it. Basically, if you show the DAS Card to a lovely cast member at any of the rides and attractions, they can give you a callback time. (which is relative to the current wait times for the ride) This allows you to wait the same amount of time as other guests, but just not in the Queue. We're already seeing systems like this in place for Rise of the Resistance, and it's a really clever way of helping out with the Queue problem.
To obtain the card, just head to Guest Relations at the entrance to any of the parks! They will help you through a registration process, and afterwards take your photo. (I read this on the Disney website, so I assume its for the card? but not completely sure.) Disney has been stressing in all their material on this that its for people with Physical Disabilities and Non-Apparent Disabilities, which I appreciate considering many downplay what mental health is!
The next device I actually learned about while reading info on the DAS Card. It's called the Disney Handheld Device, its been around for a WHILE but I've personally only heard about it now! This is a great way to experience the full audio of shows, rides and attractions. I also bet you its a great way to possibly block out other sounds for sensory issues, and reintroducing the sound in a more direct way; avoiding overstimulation without dampening the experience.
"Disney’s Handheld Devices feature Assistive Listening, which amplifies sound through headphones or an induction loop at specific theme park attractions. Recommended for Guests with mild to moderate hearing loss, Disney’s Handheld Devices are available from Guest Relations at all 4 theme parks on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a fully-refundable $25 daily deposit for use." -- Disney Website
Disney also offers a whole heap of options for people with Cognitive Disabilities (That includes Autism y'all!) and seem to be really thriving for an amazing experience for everyone. Something that really piqued my interest in their listings was the Rider Switch. If you're a party of 3 or more including a person with a cognitive disability, this is for you. If the person with a cognitive disability is unable to go on a ride, one person is able to wait with them, while the other goes through the line and gets on the ride. After that, they can switch places, and the person staying outside the ride can enter the ride without waiting in line again. This is great, because you no longer have to make the person with Cognitive Disabilities go through a Queue that would overstimulate, understimulate, or freak them out, and all others in the party are able to do enjoy what they want to do.
The final thing I would like to talk about is wheelchairs and strollers, particularly their relation to people with Cognitive Disabilities, myself included. If you can believe it, despite my legs working fine, I used a wheelchair for a long time while visiting Disney Parks. It wasn't to get pity, or get any kind of "special treatment," it was so that I was given and was able to maintain a space, a bubble if you would. That way, I didn't go mad trying to get shoved and pushed around Disney crowds, and I wouldn't have the sensory issues of constantly brushing and touching other people. The endless funny and disgusted looks I would get, as I moved my legs in the chair, or sat up to reach something. For me now, I'm definitely in a place where I don't need that space anymore, but when I was young it was crucial, and definitely prevented many meltdowns in the parks. I guess the moral of the story is, don't assume somebody doesn't need something, just because you can't see what they are dealing with.
Here are the links to resources on the Disney website. They actually also have fantastic guides to experience Disney with Cognitive Disabilities.
Now, for future ideas. I would love to expand more on this in the future, but these are my main two ideas moving forward and would absolutely LOVE to see implemented in the Disney Parks. They aren't necessarily what I need now, but things that would have greatly benefited me, and I know would benefit others. The first one is for the fireworks and evening spectaculars that Disney puts on.
They. Are. Loud.
They. Are. Crowded.
I would love to see each park section off an area for people with sensory issues. Something a little further back, but still a decent view of the show. In this area, I would also love to see them offering noise dampening ear protection. Like those big honking things that go over your ears at construction sites and stuff. They wouldn't even need to charge, it could be similar to the Disney Handheld Device rental, where they just hold onto a deposit until you return them! That way, we aren't dumping thousands of these things into landfills, and its financially more inclusive to everyone. The second idea... Well we have Extra Magic Hours? Why not offer an Extra Special Magic Hours? This way, you can invite people with a Cognitive Disability and/or Sensory Issues to experience the park for a bit less crowded, quieter ambiance, and possibly Sensory Friendly ride through's. I'm not an Imagineer, I'm not a programmer, and I'm definitely not an Engineer, but I'm sure you could reduce the sounds in the ride, and reduce/raise different lighting effects. You know, some rides have A modes and B modes, these could be C modes. (Cognitive Modes!) I'm sure there is a bunch of logistics for all of this that I just don't know, which would make them difficult to implement. However, I'd like to take a moment and talk about why I would even bring these ideas up. I'm not some celebrity, or corporation, or influential person. I'm me, and the most I can do is to continue pushing for not only my rights as a person with Autism, but for everyone's right to live fulfilling, happy lives. We're all alive, and we are all human, which means we must look out for each other. I hope if you've taken anything from my blog so far, it's that. I hope you all have a wonderful, super fantastic, day. Now I'm off to our Honeymoon suckers!!