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I am going to let you in on a little secret. Wheelchair users love Disney Parks. They are one of the few places where being ‘special’ pays off. Despite spending the majority of your time looking for accessible entrances, staring at people’s butts in crowds, and trying to smile politely when people run into you because they didn’t see you ‘down there’, there is a major perk to being a chair user.
You get to skip most of the lines.
That’s right, when there is a 90 minute wait for Toy Story Mania, wheelchair users roll happily past to a private loading area where they usually get on in less than 10 minutes. Want to know an even bigger secret? If there are no other chair users in line, Cast Members have been known to let you ride over and over to your hearts content.
The answer usually comes down to logistics and a little bit of sympathy. Most ride vehicles have to come to a complete stop and it takes quite a bit of extra time for a wheelchair user to transfer themselves. The process isn’t pretty and usually involves having a family member lift them into and off of the vehicle or completely strapping down the wheelchair. Instead of stopping the ride each time a chair user wants to load, making everyone in line miserable, they have a separate loading area. Once loaded they send the car into the regular track line, limiting any down time to the ride and the typical passenger experience. Most Cast Members who see what a family goes through to get their loved one on the ride are kind enough, if they can, to let them get a few chances at it while they are on.
I made this video at Disneyland a few years ago if you want to see how this separate loading area works.
While we know it really isn’t done for the pure benefit of the chair user, most of us families consider it a perk. Hey, we don’t get many so we will take it.
Except it isn’t so much anymore. Everyone and their dog (literally) have figured out this one small benefit we had. And they want in on it, all but ruining one of the few things we had to brag about. Year after year we have experienced longer and longer lines in the wheelchair entrance. You would think there was an epidemic of people becoming chair users. But no, because its seems the second these people get out of line they are miraculously healed as they run to push their rented wheelchair to the next attraction.
It happens all the time.
And frankly, it ticks me off.
And it ticks me off even more when the cast members working the lines don’t do anything about it.
But what ticks me off the most is that they can’t do anything about it. Due to the ADA and the age of political correctness we live in, they literally have to accommodate anyone claiming to need it without questioning them and with a smile on their face. They may not be able to cry bullcrap to this but I can. And I do.
It’s complete and utter bull.
We got in line at Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom with a family of 5 in front of us. My mouth hit the floor when she argued with the Cast Member that she had to have the wheelchair car for her stroller because she didn’t want to wake her baby up. She was quite upset to find out that while the safari cars can lock a wheelchair in safely, the baby would have to be held on the ride. The poor Cast Member gracefully listened to all her whining while trying to explain that she wished she could help but it just wasn’t safe for the baby. The way she went on I expected the baby to have all kinds of tubes and tanks attached to it. Nope. From all accounts it was a typical, healthy baby. Why does this woman have a guest assistance pass in the first place?
You can’t even come up with a scenario like an invisible disability for that one. The 2 month old could have cared less about the safari ride. Why isn’t one of those parents taking the older kids through the regular line if the baby needed a nap? I’d love to know what they said at Guest Relations to get it. The sad fact is that Guest Relations can’t even ask why people need them anymore. They can ask what accommodations they need but can’t ask why. I long for the days when you needed a doctors note to get one of these. The note didn’t have to explain why and violate your privacy. But it was an added step that made it a little more difficult for people to game the system.
I understand that there are plenty of people that invisible disabilities that need shorter lines, or cooler places to wait. I have Lupus. Most people seeing me in the parks probably would never guess. Kids with autism and plenty of other things need accommodations. Carter is autistic as well. We get this. We also get that people book their trips a year out and someone breaks their leg 2 weeks before the non refundable trip. I am not talking about any of that.
What I am talking about are the people that deliberately game the system and the fact that nothing can be done about it in the name of political correctness.
It’s wrong. It’s insulting. And it’s bologna.
If you don’t have a disability in your everyday life, you don’t get to suddenly develop one in line at Disney. Unless your disability is being an inconsiderate jerk. In that case you probably are afflicted in your everyday life and just don’t realize it.
PS–don’t ask me what was up with the dog. All I know is that the “service dog” was in the wheelchair line and then got on the ride in his little purse. I wonder what his high score was?
Dave Taylor says
Completely agree that it’s ridiculous, but I fear the consequences of a well-intentioned cast member saying “I’m sorry, ma’am, your child doesn’t look disabled.” and being wrong… 🙁
This is very true. Universal handles this pretty well but it is because all of their queue are wheelchair accessible. If it is obvious that the person has their own chair and can’t transfer or the party can truly explain why the ride needs to be stopped then they have a GAP pass which sends them to a private entrance. I really have not ever seen an abuse situation at Universal but I am sure there are plenty of people who could use this that don’t know about.
Denise M says
I totally agree. I was at Disneyland this past weekend and in some instances, the disability line was as long as the regular rider line. The worst is in Fantasyland. It bothers me that when i go with someone with a true disability, we are in line with typically young adults and their friends. I do realize that people can have disabilities that are not visible but it does seem like a lot of people abuse the line.
I am also bothered by people who rent wheelchairs who probably do not truly need them. Disneyland has been known to run out during peak days because of this
Connie Weiss says
I’m thrilled that Disney makes it so much easier for people with REAL disabilities to enjoy the park. That is exactly what I expect from them and why it’s the happiest, most magical place on earth.
In my opinion, what you experienced with the inconsiderate family with a baby is what is wrong with America today. Too many people that feel that they are entitled to thing that they do not deserve and did not earn.
I love your idea of a doctors note. Great idea!
Exactly. The note isn’t my idea. It is the way it used to be when Carter was little. Now that the note system is gone, anyone and everyone can get a pass without any real reason.
I completely hear you Barb. We went to Disneyland a few years ago and noticed this the moment we stepped into the park. Suddenly, you are surrounded by people in Rascal scooters. They come out of everywhere. Our hotel even had a desk where you could rent them. Disney is completely amazing in giving this perk to those who need it. But you are so right. The people that are gaming, and are lazy and are jerks should not be allowed in that line. I see it the same as parking in a handicapped spot. You leave it for the people who really need it.
Caroline Murphy says
Fantastic recap of what is seen at Disney. It’s so unfortunate to see people taking advantage of the system.
I was frankly shocked at the number of people at the park this weekend who had no trouble shopping in the gift shop, grabbing a soda and even hefting adorable offspring onto their hip who then needed to take a chair to the rides. All I could think about was your guy and how these people where -by their actions- disrespecting him. NOBODY gets that right! That mom with the sleeping baby should be shackled in the hold of the Black Pearl and forced to row against the wind.
That punishment totally made me laugh Lara. Thanks for thinking of us!
People suck. I didn’t realize it had gotten so bad at Disney; the last time we were there with our autistic son, we flew through the line with our guest assistance pass. I have heard multiple times, though, tales about what you experienced. I guess people really have figured out the “secret” – ruining the experience for everyone! Lame.
Amber's The Mile High Mama says
Dude, I would have went off on that woman. Seriously. I would have more than made up for the cast member being unable to do so. 🙂
They need to hire you as an undercover tourist!
Vicki L. says
I was so freaking mad when I saw your post on Facebook that this happened. I was even more upset when I said something about it to a group of friends to hear that one of them “did it all the time, all you have to do is rent a wheelchair”. They justified it by saying they paid good money to be there too and shouldn’t have to wait in those lines. I am pretty positive those that actually NEED the access have paid much more for the trip in whole, and not only that but dammit they have to deal with a lot more crap in the process of their daily lives so give them one freaking day where they are just a BIT more important than you! Not only that, but having that extra line cuts DOWN on the regular line if it is used properly. This makes me so mad I could go on for hours. I wish we could find her and make her sit in It’s a Small World for five hours. Maybe ten.
Let me at her 🙁 I hope you told her how you felt.
Vicki L. says
I did. I promise. I actually let a little of my crazy out I couldn’t believe she actually looked at me and said it.
Good time for a little bit of your crazy. Thanks
Des @StressFreeBaby says
There was a huge investigation into this type problem at airports recently in the paper… horrible. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/nyregion/a-few-passengers-use-wheelchairs-to-avoid-airport-lines.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324503204578316110013488332.html
Awesome. Thanks Des. I am off to read those.
This is a really hard scenario for me. I have to say that thankfully, we DON’T need any special assistance. But my dad (who lives in Florida) recently had back surgery and was using a walker when we came down for a family vacation. We invited him to spend a day at Disney with us and we’d get him a “wheelie cart” as I call them. I was shocked to here that they are frequently gone because they are first come first serve.
Again, this is where it gets tough for me. I know you can’t judge a book by its cover. I know you can’t always tell the people who are suffering from fatigue because of cancer treatments. But I was awfully surprised by the exceeding numbers of very large people (often times, couples) recklessly wheeling through the park with a sense of entitlement. It’s hard not to judge. It’s HARD not to think what you know I’m probably thinking.
I am, however, glad to hear it from your perspective. It is definitely something that gets abused and I think it’s a shame. As for the dogs? My husband jokingly looked it up online and you guessed it, you can order those capes for your “therapy” dog. No questions asked. He said he wants to get one so we can take our dog to Disney with us. And I told him, who wants to watch a dog at Disney?
Wow. Longest comment I’ve ever left. Great thought-provoking post!
I catch myself being judgey and then remind myself that there a plenty of scenarios that could be happening. However, there are just the jerks that do this because they can. That’s why I highlighted those two specific scenarios above. There is just no reasonable scenario behind it. The dog owners didn’t even bother with the cape. Anyone can call their dog a service dog. You only have to answer the question “what job does your dog do for you?” for it to qualify. A lot of people say their dog is there to calm their anxiety. Not judging if that is true. This dog had a lot of anxiety itself. Oh, and the teenagers who do it in groups of 6 and trade off who has their leg wrapped with the ace bandage at each line? They make me CRAZY.
This upsets me for so many reasons. I can’t even fathom abusing the wheelchair line – what kind of a person would do that?! Yes, you paid good money to get into the park, so did everyone else in the regular line and they’re not gaming the system! I grew up in Florida, so amusement park trips were a frequent occurrence. I had to use a wheelchair once – at Busch Gardens – because I had sprained my hip goofing off in the hotel pool and couldn’t walk. Even that was borderline – I was 8 but if I had been any smaller my mother would have plopped me in a stroller.
I also really hate the faux service dogs. I have a small dog, and I bring him a lot of places. He’s a great traveler, and very well behaved in public. I would never dream of bringing him to Disney, for many reasons. Mostly, because the last thing I want to deal with at Disney is dog crap, my own or anyone else’s. It’s too busy, too crowded, and there’s too much going on. The dog you pictured never should have been in the park – it’s too much for him and you can see how stressed he is. Just like abusing the wheelchair access, people who get their dogs certified under false pretenses hurt everyone. Anyone can get their dog named a service dog – or skip that step and just buy a little vest online.
Sorry that was so long, and I’m sorry that you encountered those difficulties at Disney.
I don’t know about Disneyland, but we have been to Disney World twice in 3 years, and didn’t see much of the taking advantage of the system as you experienced. Plus at DW they DO ask what the pass is needed for!!! They do ask why the assistance is needed. Also, I do understand letting the family go through (brothers or sisters) on a ride that the disabled can’t get on or is too afraid to ride, cause they can’t wait for the family for extended periods of time…BUT that said, it should be minimal use (as we did this 3 times in the week we were there, cause my son go to frightened to get on the ride)…but using a 2 month old baby as the “disabled” means it was the family that was using the pass to enjoy the parks, and that is NOT right!!!! YES, I agree, there will always be people who take advantage, and they SUCK!!! Disneyland needs more in place to stop things like this!!!
Patti Jasinski says
We live by Disneyland and it is the perfect place for us to go. My daughter is in a wheelchair so her disability is apparent to anyone looking at her. We have met other families in line and their child looks “normal” so they tend to explain why they are in line. Those are the honest people that need the extra perk. Unfortuntlay Disney;and has become too expensive to visit. I know that we are all supposed to be correct on how we approach people and the ADA is here to protect our rights but all rughts need to be protected. This is how most systems get corrupted and then they don’t workthe the intended purpose. They should have the right to ask. THat is how it was when my daughter was little.
Gina B says
We ran into people like this at Epcot a few years back. They thought it was hilarious to confide in us that they didn’t need the scooters, they were just cutting the lines. Hubby laughed but I was miffed. We had a scooter for my MIL who had injured her foot and had the pins to prove it, and that’s why we love Disney. But as for that mom? Ugh. I brought my baby to Disney, who I did not yet know had sensory issues and autism, and when she fell asleep, I skipped the ride. Light jostling always woke her up and she could howl, so I did my duty. Now that she is older, we do use the disability passes because she is incapable of waiting on line for too long, but it is so wrong to take advantage and makes it unfair for those who really need the assistance.
Selfish Mom says
This is so disgusting. I see advice all the time on Disney travel sites telling people to just say their kid has a sensory issue – the cast members can’t ask you to prove it! So sad that people take advantage of these things. If there is such a thing as karma, they will get to experience an actual disability at some point, instead of their current one of just being a jerk.
It makes me want to hunt all those sites down and respond. It wouldn’t do any good I know. But still…
I have an autistic child and we LOVE Disney world! That little pass is the only way we can visit the parks and function as a family in any way shape or form. I don’t mind the people in wheel chairs but I do mind the 20 some odd people they need to ride with them. I can see four. I can even handle five but I see many many more with some of the elderly people. It’s basically to me like they are bringing the old person as a way to get a fast pass. The rule is supposedly the person with the disability and four family members. I see people break it and I see few people enforcing it. I also wish they would allow the pass for meet and greets with the characters for at LEAST just the child in question. We never get to see too many because my son can’t handle the lines. They did allow me to wait in line and hold his spot which did help but it was still hard on my mom to be alone with him (meltdowns) last time. I think the reason they don’t is the old people in wheelchairs and their families. Please don’t think I am being horrible about old people, but a child like my son really can’t experience what average kids can without these passes. If he has to stand behind you, your grandma and 14 some odd healthy family members think of how that could affect him and many other children.
I was wondering how they handled meet and greets with autistic kids. I saw almost the same scenario you described with your son. They really should allow the passes to be used for those lines as well.
They used to let you skip the line for characters. In 2010 they let us. This year they said they no longer did that. In some lines they did allow one of us to wait and then call the others. Sometimes we lucked out and he had fallen asleep. Other times we just had to miss it. I also recommend character dinners and lunches for my friends with disabled kids because then its a lot easier.
There is a karmic place days or even years from now for people who “game” the system. This peeves me.
I have a disability and have a scooter, as well as a long time Disneyland Resort Passholder. I have noticed the wheelchair renting for a long time. It is obvious I have a disability. One thing is that California Adventure has gotten wise to this and no longer can you go through the exit. All the ride lines are wheelchair accesible. Mind you I was mad at first, because that privilege was taken away from me. But now I’m okay. Disenyland is different because most of their rides are close to 60 years old and that was before ADA.
Disgusting. And all that time, their older kids are standing there, watching their parents ‘game the system’ and learning. Learning that their parents are liars.
Jenny Ford says
totally another topic for fun conversation, right Jo?!
I first learned about the GAP with a doctors note in the mid-nineties at camp for kids/teens with chronic/life threatening illnesses. I immediately got a note from my doctor. Then about 10 years ago they changed what the GAP looks like in and of itself. I most definitely liked the old one MUCH better. I remember the first time I went after the change (I save my passes to bring it back the next time to get a new one, I find that that is by far the easiest way) when there were some changes to the “perks”. Now up until about 4 years ago I ONLY had invisible illnesses. I remember getting harrassed at the search check point by cast members because i would be walking and pushing the chair. You see at that time I could walk, but my stamina was horrible and there was no way i could even get through half the day if i had to walk the entire time.
i understand why they can’t require a doctors note anymore, but i don’t see the problem is i AM consenting to let them see it! about this time it would often take 30-45 minutes literally arguing with various cast members that i really did need the pass. i then found that if i said someone if my group had sensory issues that i could get a pass with significantly less hastle. i only resorted to that a few times when i’d waste up words of an hour trying to convince them that i did need the pass. so when i bought an annual pass for the first time i made sure that the cast member would put a note on my account in the system that i needed a specific pass (the one with the two arrow stamps, i belive there are also a couple other stamps, but i always get this one which i belive is supposed to be the most expedited one though i could be wrong).
and not just at disneyland, when i would use the scooters at target or walmart or the market i would frequently get glares and dirty looks saying “why are YOU using the scooter, you are young and “look” healthy). Now fast forward to four years ago, I ended up having serious bone diease which could possible even result in having to have my leg amputated (thank g-d i did not have to!) and ended up completely wheelchair bound for about 3 years! Of course then (or afterwards when i used crutches) people were SOOOOO much nicer and more helpful to me.
i have digestive problems and having to wait in line too long results in me having to make a mad dash to the nearest bathroom (i know where ALL of them are at both disneyland and california adbenture). It also drives me nuts when is see people blantently disreguarding the needs of those members of society that need more assistance to take part in all sorts of activities.
just because i look quite young and “healthy” that i shouldn’t be using these services. Just because I might walk into the park doesn’t mean i wont need to conserve my energy for our often very long (for me) days.
it also drives me crazy when people park in the handicap spots without a placcard. now occaisionally we’ll forget to put it up, but a few months ago i went to stop at Starbucks on the way to physical therapy and was sooo ticked off to find the ONLY handicap stops were blocked by this jerk who parked his massive (hideious too) truck IN BETWEEN THE SPACES so neither were usable. i mean if you are going to park in one then just pick ONE spot to park in, not BOTH of them! when i finally finished parking and walking all thew ay over there the idiot came out of del taco and so i told him it was extremely inconsiderate to block BOTH spots! and of course he gave me excuses, at the time i wrote down his liscene plate, but i wish there an easier way to inform police about this inconsiderate jerks! and i HATE the fast pass line as many dland rides make you go through the fast pass line instead of the exit or alternative entrance. it drives me nuts. only once (back in high school) did i have more than the (me) +5 people, so we traded off and i went of the rides twice!
those of us with disabilities know that the (literally) ONLY perk is the less lines at dland/ca adv, but even that is being runed by greedy, impatient, selfish people. if someone wanted to try essentially switches bodies and deal with what i do on a daily basis then that would be one thing, but as far as i know that is still science fiction. anyway just some of my two cents. my irritated, red, and sligtly swollen hands, so that is all i can type a resonse.
talk about a few (dozen anyways) rotten apples spoiling the bunch.
I grew up in Florida and can admit that as a teenager we mulled over the idea of renting a wheelchair and feigning an injury to skip the lines. I never did it, but it was tempting. I never thought about it from the perspective of someone legitimately disabled, this post is great for giving that perspective and I certainly wouldn’t think of it now that I’m an adult and a parent.
Bear with me for a minute as I get insensitive… The lines at Disney can cause issues for even kids without diagnosed sensory processing disorders. All kids, just by virtue of being kids have difficulty with processing the hour+ wait, the heat, the crowds, the overstimulation of lights and sounds. We have chosen not to go when the kids were under a certain age because of this. To be honest I have issues with it, can get overstimulated and feel almost panicked if its too crowded or loud or hot.
I can see a parent wanting to save their kids from that and claiming sensory processing to do it. To me, with many kids, there is likely a grain of truth to it. The difference is the severity between kids on the spectrum or not.
Then there are those that simply want to get as many experiences in (aka rides) as possible and game the system as had been said. None of it is fair to those with true disabilities. Not because I necessarily feel like they deserve a perk, but because it takes away the ability for Disney to accommodate those that truly need it. If the lines are equally long because of gamers, there will be some that simply can’t go to Disney anymore. What a shame and tragedy that would be…to have Disney’s wanting to be accommodating and polite to everyone end up making it impossible for some to even go at all. That is why Disney should have the right to ask why someone needs accommodation and proof of it if necessary. To maintain the option for Disney to be experienced by everyone.
I hate it when good things are ruined for everyone by just a few taking advantage.
Jenny Ford says
Apparently “selfish” is a disability now…hmmmm. It’s disgusting really.
Did you say anything? I mean what could you say?
Laura DeHoog says
Word!!!! It drives me crazy….it’s just wrong!!!!
Margaret Street says
Disney needs to Stop Renting Wheelchairs. A “true” handicapped person/child has their own. Stop the Renting of Wheelchairs, Stops the Abuse. If a person/child has a broken leg or can’t walk/stand for long periods of time, many companies rent wheelchairs on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis at a low cost and the person / family can bring them to the parks. A standard wheelchair can be folded and placed in the trunk of a car. Disney “PLEASE” stop renting wheelchairs, “THANKS” .
I understand where you are coming from, and I completely agree that faking a disability in order to secure an accommodation is disgusting to say the least. I just wanted to point out something that you may not have thought of. You mentioned a person who was in the wheelchair and then got up and ran to the next attraction. While I certainly did not do any running while at Disney, I AM capable of running short distances. Will I pay for it later? Yes. Has my doctor told me that I cannot be a runner? Yes. Are there plenty of times that I cannot walk, much less run? Yes. My conditions are rare and complicated, and they involve dislocating joints, extreme fatigue (especially in the heat), passing out when standing too long), constant severe pain, and on and on. I also have children who have inherited my bad genes. So, when we took a recent trip to Disney, we rented wheelchairs (at the insistence of a good friend of mine who is a nurse and threatened me if I did not use one). I got one, and my oldest daughter got one. Then, my other three children took turns sitting in the chairs with us at times when they felt they could not walk any longer or when were feeling weak. There were even some times when (briefly) when I stood up and walked (like transferring into rides or brief times that I wanted to stretch my legs). I feared that people would judge my daughter and me when they saw us get right up and walk out of the chairs, but I had to put that out of my mind and do what I knew was best for us. And, yes, we realize now that we DO need our own chairs. It is something I have been fighting for a while now, but I am going to talk to our doctors this week about getting the scrip written for us. We will not be renting the chairs next time. I totally agree that they need to stop renting them out in order to mitigate the abuse. Like i said, I stand with you on your feelings about everything. I just wanted to make sure that people do remember that even if they see someone like myself or my daughter who CAN walk using a chair and then getting up and appearing to walk fine, please do not assume that we are abusing the system. We are sick, and we need to rest. We also need to get to the front of the line because the heat is very rough on us and will cause us to pass out. I actually had a very bad experience in the gift shop our last night there. I pushed myself too hard and walked around the gift shop with my kids for too long. I became very faint and was near passing out. I had to sit down right where i was-up against a wall in a pass through area of the gift shop. My wheelchair was outside the shop out of view. A store employee came over and was very nasty to me, insisting that I get up immediately and sit somewhere else-even though I explained to her that I was about to pass out and could not get up. I ended up in tears and crying hysterically because she would not leave me alone, and I was so sick. My daughter called my husband to come to me, and the manager came over as well. It was quite a scene, but it reminded me, once again, how terribly we get treated sometimes because we “look fine.” I am giving myself the weekend to to recover from the trip and the experience, and then I plan to call Disney to report this situation. The manager ended up paying for all of my kids’ souvenirs for which we were very grateful. However, I would have been so much more grateful if she had seemed sincere and regretful about what happened. She seemed more annoyed that she was bothered than anything else.
Lynette whiting says
There is a fantastic place in Texas called Morgan’s Wonderland it is made for special needs kids and their families. PLEASE check them out they are AMAZING!!!