Tagged with: accessibility disability Disney Fastpass travel wheelchair travel
This past January I spent one of the best vacations of my life with my family at “the happiest place on Earth,” Disney World. That made it especially disheartening when I received a text from my brother yesterday with this link http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/disney_world_srich_kid_outrage_zTBA0xrvZRkIVc1zItXGDP along with his comment, “Who would do that?!” There are so many things wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to begin.
I’ll start with the term handicapped! Just like the campaigns to get the “r” word removed when referring to someone with an intellectual disability, I thought that professional journalists knew that the term “handicapped” had been dismissed years ago as inappropriate and been replaced with more person first language. My husband, who has an L1 spinal cord injury, doesn’t sit on a street corner with cap in hand begging for money as the stereotype of “handicap” has been made to imply in the past, but he is a person with a disability.
Since my husband and I got married, we have had to be creative when it comes to family vacations with my brother, his wife, and their two kids. Not all places are very accessible, so when we decided to go to Disney all my dread of having to call ahead to make sure that everything was accessible went right out the window, because I knew that Disney is one of the most accessible places on earth. We were excited because we knew that my husband would be able to participate with us on everything!
Having been raised in Florida and a frequent visitor to Disney World, I knew that lines could be crazy and we could spend hours waiting, but we did our homework! We checked their calendar for the least crowded weekend and made our reservations. It was one of our favorite vacations to date. My niece got to ride every ride with her favorite uncle and we never had to worry about whether it would be accessible or whether we would be able to find an accessible bathroom or whether the lines to wait would be too narrow for him to get his chair through.
Disney has a policy where all individuals who utilize a wheelchair get to use their FASTPASS lanes. Typically, park visitors can purchase a FASTPASS, which allows them to reserve a spot on a ride and be informed when they can come back to go on that ride. You are also only allowed a certain number of FASTPASSES if you aren’t traveling with someone who uses a wheelchair. So, did we get to skip some lines? Sure. But MY HUSBAND CAN’T WALK! Our Disney trip was the one time, the one vacation where he got to feel normal. The one time he didn’t feel like we were planning our whole vacation around him. The one time he didn’t feel like he was holding us back. I have known in the past, and it was obvious when we were there, that people were “faking it” just to get in the FASTPASS lane, which I thought that was pretty low. But to know that now you can actually hire out just so you don’t have to wait in a line?
Do you know what my husband would give to STAND UP and wait in line?
He would give anything to stand up again. He would trade you his FASTPASS ticket for every single ride in less than a heartbeat, if it meant that he got to walk again. The able-bodied world thinks of these things, like getting FASTPASS tickets or close parking spots or the bigger bathroom stall, as “perks.” In reality, these things are necessities.
My husband can’t get his chair out of his car if he doesn’t have the space provided by an accessible parking spot. He can’t fit through lanes that aren’t at least 36 inches wide. He can’t turn his chair around a tight corner unless there’s enough space. So the next time someone thinks, “Oh I’ll just park in this striped spot because I’m only running in for a second,” or that they want to use the accessible bathroom because there’s more space, or that they would hire someone to take them to Disney just so they can cut some lines, I hope they will think about all the people who live their lives in a wheelchair. As if their everyday lives aren’t difficult enough, know that you just made them a little more difficult, a little more frustrating. And the next time you look over at the guy in the wheelchair in the FASTPASS lane and are jealous, take a second to think about what you are saying.
My husband would give anything to be in your shoes. He would certainly surrender his FASTPASS ticket. So, just maybe, we can give him this. Just maybe it would mean more to teach your child some patience and the reality of what that person in the chair might be going through than to get through a line a little quicker. And the next time you have enough extra cash lying around to hire someone to take you through Disney, maybe you could donate it to spinal cord research, or at least stop and remember that we will pay more money to get my husband a new chair (because they aren’t completely covered by insurance) than you will spend on your entire Disney vacation! You are teaching your children that money can buy happiness and advantage regardless of what that means for someone else.
Disney has done a great thing—they have truly created the “happiest place on earth” by erasing all the barriers my family faces on a regular basis and letting us enjoy a care-free family vacation. And now, as always, someone else has come along and made it a little less sweet.