A policy change in allowing disabled children to go to the front of queues in Disney’s Orlando and California parks has sparked a huge media debate, and anger within disability rights campaigners.
The change in policy, due on October 9, means that children with disabilities cannot go to the front of the queue as in other parks, because Disney state the policy was being abused by parents of non-handicapped children to avoid undue queuing.
After the effective date, the children will not have to stand in line, but they won’t get immediate access to rides.
The Star reports on 13 year old Scott Belamy, who has Autism, and visited the Magic Kingdom last year with his mother, Suzanne Lanthier, who says that it was “By far the best holiday we ever had.” Ms Lanthier, former executive director of Autism Speaks Canada said:
“They haven’t taken into account that many kids with autism are very impulsive, to walk up to a ride then not be able to get on would be very difficult. We’re not talking about a two minute cry, but rather a half-hour to an hour tantrum.”
A petition was started on September 18 by mother, and special needs advocate Kim McClain who has an 11 year old daughter with Autism. She said that she would reconsider taking her child to the resorts because of the change in policy. Within ten minutes the petition had 1,000 signatures, it has now surpassed the 30,000 number, they are aiming for 40,000 to take it to Disney CEO Mr Robert Iger.
Rumours of abuse of the old system hit the The York Post in May, which followed a Manhattan mother, who made her child pose in a wheelchair to get her fastpass.
The most liked comment on The Star article is this by a poster called Grifter 888:
People with disabilities are not making a mountain out of a mole hill, far from it. They are getting the shaft but it’s not from Disney. It’s from people who take advantage of the system; the ones who park their Range Rovers and Humvees in handicap spots without passes; even the non-1% able-bodies who occupy wheelchair stalls in bathrooms because they prefer the extra space. I challenge anyone who’s asking why the ‘whining’ to spend one day in a wheelchair.
In a press release earlier this week, the Disney corporation stated:
“We engaged disability groups, such as Autism Speaks, to develop the new process, which is in line with the rest of the industry.
“In keeping with our long history of providing accommodations for our guests with disabilities, we will contnue to provide assistance that is responsive to their needs.”