“It’s been fun, but I don’t think I need you as a friend anymore.“
That was the single line email I received from my best friend of over 20 years this afternoon when he read about the proposed new rules for disabled guests at Disney Theme Park. Having known him as long as I have, I can say with confidence that I thinkhe was kidding.
The change, sparked in large part by the well-publicized policy abuses from companies like Dream Tours, rolls out October 9 allowing disabled patrons to return to a ride at a designated time—similar to the FastPass system Disney currently makes available to everyone—effectively ending the longtime practice of line-skipping. In other words, they’re finally treating individuals with disabilities like everybody else.
Now, it is true that I will certainly miss what author John Green might call a ”wheelchair perk.“ For many years as a kid growing up in Los Angeles, frequent trips to Disneyland happened. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I didn’t enjoy circling the park multiple times on a given summer afternoon with my friends. However, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve offered to trade my disability with anyone who believes the temporary celebrity gained among friends for the day’s outing is worth dealing with other “perks” of being disabled. In my case, excessive fatigue from standing or walking the shortest of distances, attempting to maintain a steady gait while praying silently that I don’t trip, fall, and end up face-to-face greeting the pavement, and enduring awkward stares from passersby in the process who have no idea how much energy (physical and mental) it takes just to get myself from point A to point B. Not surprisingly, nobody has taken me up on it.
As a kid, I found out who my real friends were rather quickly. There were those who hung out with me all the time, and those who invited me out just ahead of their trip to Disneyland. The only difference was, despite my entrepreneurial spirit from an early age, I didn’t have the chutzpah or damaged frontal lobe required to charge the latter for an afternoon of riding roller coasters. I also had no desire to punch my ticket to Hell before I was even old enough to see an R-rated movie.
People with disabilities of varying degrees are often accused of "gaming the system” by the ignorant and uninformed whose schema of disability they don’t fit into. Accommodations of any sort are offered in an attempt to level the playing field, and because Federal law prohibits asking for specifics on an individual’s given disability there will always be those who take advantage of these safeguards who shouldn’t. Regardless, Disney is right to try and rectify abuses with their new policy. The only question in my mind is, “What took so long?”
Of course none of this would even be an issue if the park had accessible lines to begin with, but that’s another story altogether.