THE BLOG
25/10/2013 09:09 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Disability and Disney: The New Disability Access Service

Over my summer in America, I was really surprised to see how prevalent the use of Guest Assistance Cards (GAC) was. Every morning at City Hall (guest services) there was a long line of people trying to get their card to prove their disability and to get them to the front of the rides. With this old system, anyone could get a card that would have a number stamped on it with the amount of guests they could bring on the ride and they could use this card at most attractions. Unsurprisingly there was much abuse to this system, and the cards were just seen by many as something to cut in front of lines with.

The new system was introduced on October 9th and there has been much controversy over this new way of doing things. The new system sees guest be issued with a card which has a photograph included, guests can then go to any kiosk in the park and get a return time for the particular attraction they would like to ride.

Whilst working for the company I saw much abuse of the system. In my role as character attendant all my queue lines were accessible and still people came up to me with their card about access and say could they cut the line because they were in a wheelchair, when I explained it was accessible most of the time, instead of being pleased it was accessible, they would sigh and walk away. Of course, I would make sure make a wish children got to meet their favourite character as quickly as possible, but that was the only exception.

Sometimes, I met lovely families with children who were clearly struggling with the line, when seeing these families, I would suggest one of their party wait in line while the others with the child that was finding it difficult should go and take a seat away from the queue, Disney likes to be accommodating, but also believes strongly in equality. One mother even told me how her son had severe autism, and making him wait in line for characters was actually really helping him.

Many suggest it is unfair to punish those that are actually disabled for the actions of those that abused the system, but I disagree with this, I do not think the new system has been brought in as a punishment. Before the new system, it was not unusual to have 10% of the guests in the park with a guest assistance card. Guests with these cards use the fast pass line at the majority of attractions, and this could be in some occasions that this line was as long as the actual attraction line, which does not help those with disabilities that affect how long they can wait in line at all.

The new system is much fairer as it offers more equal access to those with disabilities, which is what we as a society are striving for, fairer treatment of those who are disabled, rather than the old system which offered special access. This makes me wonder why people are complaining about the new system, as surely it promotes a higher level of equality.

I find it irritating reading about mothers who say their child cannot see a ride and understand why they cannot ride it right away, that their child is used to this and the change will be difficult, this promotes the idea of instant gratification. As someone who has worked with children and young people with autism I understand change can be difficult and very stressful. But you can't get a special pass that gets you to the front of the line when waiting for the monorail or when waiting to go the toilet or for food, so how does their child cope in these situations? Plus the new service means you won't have to wait in line, you will just be able to come back after a certain amount of time. In that time they could have a walk round, catch a show or go on a ride with a shorter wait time, they are not being forced to wait in any lines.

I personally think it is great that the American Disney parks are finally catching up with European theme parks, the practice of writing a time to come back comparable to the wait time is common practice in Europe. I think the system will definitely take some getting used to, but it definitely would not put me off taking my respite brother who is in a wheelchair and severely disabled, I think it would make him feel more like all the other children that he would get to go through the wheelchair accessible queue line and I feel like the magic of Disney would definitely not be lost.