By Jessica Leigh Johnson
As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” And this time, that saying rings true for the Disneyland disabled pass. Sadly, it is no longer.
A few weeks ago, IG Living brought to our attention an NBC News report on the abuse and mishandling of disabled passes at Disney theme parks. Many of us were shocked to read about certain disabled Disney patrons regularly selling their “chaperone services” along with their disabled passes to make extra money by helping complete strangers jump to the front of the lines with them, avoiding long waits.
This unethical activity was no secret to Disneyland execs who, until now, weren’t sure how to handle the situation. Finally, a solution has been found, and although it is a bit controversial, it should at least put an end to the practice of profiting from disabled passes. The solution: The disabled line-jumping pass has been replaced with a “come back later” ticket. It is much like the hand-held buzzer you receive at a restaurant when the wait is lengthy, and you don’t feel like sitting in the entryway for a long time. In this case, when disabled guests arrive at an attraction, they will receive a ticket with a time stamped on it. They are free to leave, do their waiting somewhere other than the line, and return at the appointed time. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Still, some who once held the disabled pass are criticizing this change. One mother of two autistic boys said, “There are so few things for my boys that bring them utter joy and happiness. To mess with it just makes me sad."
So, did Disney make the right decision by eliminating the disabled pass, or did they go too far to fix the problem? Could they have simply amended their pass-issuing policies, placing more strict guidelines in place for those wishing to obtain a pass? Up until now, guests weren’t even required to show proof of a disability in order to get a disabled pass. They simply had to ask for one.
Do you think Disney is already doing more than enough to cater to their special-needs visitors? Disney’s disabled guests will still be able to ride the rides, they just won’t be able to quickly go from one ride to the next, skipping to the front of the line every time, resulting in fewer rides enjoyed per visit. That would make their experience much like that of every other able-bodied park-goer. And, it’s not as if going to Disneyland is an inalienable right for all Americans. Maybe it’s just not for everyone. Look at it this way: Disneyland is in California; Disneyworld is in Florida. For those of us who live somewhere between the east and west coasts (and that is a lot of us), getting to either Disney park is no small feat. Add to that the outrageous cost of nearly $100 per ticket, and I’d say a trip to Disneyland, for many people, would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And the larger the family, the more expensive it gets. My family of six will likely never go to Disneyland, and I can live with that. I would venture to guess that there are many people in this country who have never been to either of the two Disney parks, and yet, somehow, they still manage to live fulfilling, abundant lives.
Although some may view Disney’s actions as extreme, I do hope a lesson was learned. The disabled passes were a special privilege. When you abuse a privilege, it can be taken away. And unfortunately, the biggest losers are the ones who are not guilty of any abuse at all, but who truly appreciated the extra graciousness that was passed their way.
How about you? For those of you who weighed in on the topic the last time, do you think that Disney has come up with a fair compromise? Were they right in changing their policy, or have the disabled been unjustly punished?
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