|From the Disney Parks Blog|
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Disney's Disability Access Service - A Response to the Responses
The recent launch of Disney’s new disability system has caused a major discussion thread in the Disney community. Certain individuals have more to say about the subject than others, and within these outspoken groups are both individuals who need the disability system and those who don’t. Not having any experience whatsoever with the system and limited knowledge of the needs of those who might use the system, I feel like this is a subject that should be written about, but open to the voices of others with experience or insight. Please comment if you would like to, and I gladly encourage respectful discussion.
The new system, Disability Access Service (DAS), can be obtained as a card from Guest Services. With the lines and wait times I’ve heard reports of, this does seem to be a topic of displeasure. I can understand this. I can imagine that down the line the wait won’t be as bad, as the need to extensively explain the new procedures to guests may decrease. But I can sympathize with the fact that they must wait to enjoy the parks rather than dive right in like non-disabled park-goers. I’m not sure of a way to fix this but this is something Disney should keep its eye on to further improve.
Once the card is obtained they will check in with a Cast Member, either at a nearby kiosk or at the entrance of an attraction they want to ride. The Cast Member will write down the time, current wait, and return time if the standby wait is longer than 10 minutes. The guest can then return and go through the Fastpass line on or after the written time and take advantage of other park activities in the meantime, such as food, shorter wait-time attractions, or entertainment. They cannot, however, get signed off on another attraction until they do the first one.
Guests with special needs will still be accommodated, as long as those needs are described to the Cast Members that can help. In addition, it is recommended that guests use Fastpasses in conjunction with their DAS cards to get the most out of their experience and ride choices. These details seem to ensure that Disney wants to continue assisting guests with disabilities.
Now, there is no doubt in my mind that parents of disabled children face an extreme amount of difficulty when taking their children on vacation. Disney has done much to make their parks physically accessible but there are many children with mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities, for which many places are a challenge to navigate, or even enjoy. Autistic children have trouble with social interaction, communication, and view the world in a way that is not typical to most people. One can imagine that tackling a Disney park as an autistic child and his or her parents would be an ordeal indeed.
However, it is worth mentioning and reminding that parenting a non-disabled kid is no walk in the park either. Just sit and people-watch on a bench in Fantasyland and among the magical moments you’ll see countless meltdowns, tantrums, and crying children who need to be fed, changed, hate waiting, or whatever else is bothering them at that particular moment. Most things about theme parks are, ironically, not kid-friendly, including long hours outside, waiting in lines, frightening characters, and crowds. Combine that with the fact that many parents mistakenly believe kids have no problem being in the park from open to close. The truth is, kids need breaks for naps, snacks, and recharging between activities. They get over-stimulated and tired easily, and as a result they get cranky. Parents of all types of children should be educated on what their children can handle at their particular developmental age and plan their Disney trip accordingly.
I don’t mean to reiterate this point to undermine the struggles of parents of disabled children. I am in NO WAY implying that they shouldn’t be accommodated properly for their children’s specific disability. And that seems to be what DAS is doing: helping those with disabilities enjoy the parks as best they can, while cutting out any abuse of the system. Many parents are outraged because their autistic children don’t understand having to wait to do something they want to do right now, and to that I’d like to politely remind them that this is a characteristic of ALL children. The DAS system gives the guests a time to come back so that those children don’t have to stand in the standby line for a long period of time, while the average park guests must tactically supervise and entertain their children in the longer lines. And I do understand how that can be more difficult for a mentally or physically disabled child than a non-disabled child. I hope that parents can appreciate the things that Disney can do to help make their odyssey of a trip easier, and if there are things lacking that they address Disney in a constructive manner.
What I don’t agree with is people who use statements of how much money they spend or have spent at the Disney parks as (supposed) leverage to get the system to change back. They think their minimal amount spent, in comparison to how much money Disney brings in altogether, is enough to make them get their own way. We are all familiar with this tiresome sense of entitlement we all have experienced from those with more money than average. Not only does this argument have childlike characteristics in and of itself, but also it is simply not effective and I would argue that it turns most people off to their plight. If you casually throw around that you can afford to stay in exclusive suites each trip or eat at the most expensive restaurants, it alienates those of us who may have felt for your circumstances. It also leaves us skeptical of you not being able to find other ways you can spend your spare time while waiting for your attraction time slot to arrive. Surprisingly (or not) I have found in the customer service industry that it is more how you treat those who can help you than the amount of money you spend that influences how efficiently your problem is solved.
It’s very hard for me to judge the experiences of guests with disabilities, and I really do understand many of the concerns. I urge my fellow Disney community members to try to put themselves in these guests’ shoes before they pass judgment on their frustration. Most people, myself included, cannot even imagine how extremely tiresome the lives of people with disabilities, or parents with children with disabilities can be every single day. They do deserve their share of the Disney magic.
However, when the arguments start to become hostile and guests start threatening to stop taking their children to Disney parks because of these changes, I can’t help but wonder they can better express their concerns. Guests should keep in mind that the system was revised for a reason. People were abusing it, and so for Disney to not do something about it would be irresponsible. This is the system that they have chosen to keep accommodating those who need the extra help while weeding out those who do not, and I am positive that they will continue to revise it to best help their all of their guests.