Disney World's Message to the Disabled: Wait in Line

Disney World. Photo: Getty ImagesFans of Walt Disney World were fuming last spring following reports of people gaming a system that allowed disabled park guests to advance to the front of lines. Now it seems the entitled few have ruined it for everyone. Disney Parks has just announced a change in policy: People with disabilities will no longer be ushered to the front of lines. 

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It “certainly has been problematic, and we wanted to curb some of the abuse of this system,” Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register.

Further, a statement by Disney, provided to Yahoo Shine through a spokesperson, noted, "We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests. Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process to create a more consistent experience for all our guests while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities. We engaged disability groups, such as Autism Speaks, to develop this new process, which is in line with the rest of our industry.”

According to an Associated Press report, the new policy, which takes effect on Oct. 9, will issue disabled visitors with tickets that offer an entry time and a shorter wait, similar to those of the FastPass system that’s offered to all park guests now.

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The change has come in response to numerous reports of guests abusing the system.

In May, for example, social anthropologist Wednesday Martin told the New York Post about one scam in particular: wealthy Manhattan moms hiring a disabled “black-market” guide, who used her position — sitting in a motorized scooter — to help entitled families gain special access to rides. Martin, a former New York Post contributor, uncovered the scheme while conducting research for a forthcoming book, “Primates of Park Avenue,” due out in 2014.

“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” one unnamed mom had bragged to the Post. “You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge ... This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”

On Monday, Martin told Yahoo Shine, "While it is admirable that Disney seeks to address abuse of and profiteering from their policy for the disabled by those who got disability passes unfairly, the park's 'solution' penalizes disabled children and adults, who were supposed to be served by the policy in the first place, by revoking their ability to go to the front of the line." She added, "This 'privilege' is actually a necessity for some kids with disabilities. Hopefully Disney will work closely with groups that advocate for people with disabilities to refine this policy so that it actually serves the people who need it the most."

Other criticisms were just beginning to hit Twitter on Monday, with one mom noting that because her daughter suffers from fibromyalgia, she would not be renewing the family's park passes. "See? One more reason we can't have nice things," tweeted another critic of the policy change.

Disney had told Yahoo Shine it was investigating the various scams back in May, and that it would “take appropriate steps to deter this type of activity.” It clearly found reason to change its rules, and, in order to formulate its new policy with sensitivity, looked to others for input.

“Disney reached out to us,” Autism Speaks spokesperson Michael Rosen told Yahoo Shine. “A large segment of our population with autism has sensory issues, so having patience to wait on noisy lines is a really hard thing.”

When Rosen has taken his own son, who has autism, to Disney World, for example, “he would start crying and screaming when we stood on a line, because he didn’t realize that in 25 minutes he would go on a ride. He had no idea why he was standing on a line, and that really takes away from the fun.”

Rosen said Autism Speaks has been urging parents concerned about the change to be patient and wait for the official release of the new policy from Disney. “We worked with them so they would make it as comfortable an experience as possible for our community,” he said. 

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