Let’s talk about this Disney issue, shall we? Some background…
Disney recently changed their policy for disabled guests. For about the last ten years, up until this past October, a disabled individual could get a Disney “Guest Assistance Pass” (GAP). The pass allowed that person and their family to skip the lines and get on a ride without a wait.
This system was tremendously abused.
Because of the abuse (and following the tough-to-ignore exposé on Today), Disney replaced the GAP system with a Disability Access Service Card (DAS) . The DAS works like a Fast Pass. Families with a DAS do not move to the head of the line, but make a reservation for a ride, and come back at the given time.
The special needs community has been up in arms. In the last few months, Disney has morphed from Cinderella into Cruella de Vil.
Guys, we’re mad at the wrong people.
Disney’s original program was a gift. It went above and beyond what any law required, was created by accident, and yet Disney gave this gift to people with special needs and their families so they could get maximum enjoyment from the parks. (Want more background? Here.) And what happened? People who could get the passes “rented” themselves out to able-bodied families, and off they all traipsed through the Magical Kingdom, skipping lines. These people took Disney’s gift, and then kicked Disney right in the mouth with it. And now we, the special needs community, are trying to demonize Disney? C’mon.
I do understand the effect this new system has on special needs guests. I really do. In fact, Disney’s new system effectively prevents my family from taking a Disney vacation. My son could manage a Disney park using this new system about as well as I could manage skydiving with a parachute made of mesh. And I am plenty mad about it. I’m just not mad at Disney.
I am mad at the people who capitalized on Disney’s generosity. My sword is not aimed at Disney, but at the people who actually stole Disney from special needs kids. I am mad at every disabled person who acted as a rent-a-guide, every family that paid for this service, and every person who waltzed up to Guest Services and faked a disability. These are the bad guys, folks. Feel free to disagree, but from what I can tell, Disney had a much-publicized problem to resolve, worked with the nation’s leading disability advocacy groups to do so, and designed a legally-compliant, workable system that the criminally-minded and selfish can’t hack as easily. Is it as good as it was before? Nope. But we don’t get to blame Disney for having to fix a problem that it didn’t create.
(I read more than one article whose authors believed that the actions of the people who abused the system for personal profit were justified because there are not enough opportunities for the disabled in the workplace. Are you kidding me? Well, good. I will tell my son that if he can’t find a job later on, it is okay for him to become morally bankrupt. Kiddo, forget all the awareness-raising efforts of the last few decades that are paving the way for more employment opportunities for you, just go rob a bank. Apparently, we will all blame the bank anyway.)
To the people who sold out for personal gain? Shame on you. You owe every single kid who just lost a dream vacation an apology. You owe all the parents who have to break their kids’ hearts an apology. You have a lot of karma to make up, my friends.
To the rest of us? I think we owe Disney an apology.