NEW DISNEYLAND SCORE: DISABILITY MANAGEMENT=0
As parents of kids with Down syndrome/autism/etc., we all go to Disneyland/Disney World for our kids. Period. We do it to bring them special moments of happiness. My son Jonathan (30) has the pure heart of a child and simply lights up with utter joy over his favorite attractions. He looks forward to it all year and counts the days. I go to great lengths to make his visits happen. (And anyone who brings their family there is going to great lengths of expense to do so, without exception!)
So it was distressing to me when I lost it at “City Hall” in Disneyland, just 5 minutes into the visit. I blew my temper twice in the 20 minutes it took us to get any kind of disability help. Me, the yoga practitioner who strives for evenmindedness (sad face). But I was in worthy company: in our party of 5 was my cousin, who adores Disneyland and was there as a kid with Walt Disney on the day the park opened. My cousin is always the calm one; everyone else can be losing it, but he remains the peacemaker. Well, even he lost it. We were both yelling at the robotic staff who kept repeating the same unhelpful scripts over and over again, seemingly unable to hear a word we said.
Very, very frustrating. Almost unbelievable. And poor Jonathan standing off to the side, waiting for the whole thing to resolve.
Management gets a D-
So here is my assessment: management has put a lame system in place and trained its employees (who want to keep their jobs) to stick to the script and never, ever bend. I feel certain that the employees know it’s a lousy system, but they must bypass their consciences and stick to the script.
“What is your need?” I was asked. (script). I explained that my son has Down syndrome (plus a few other things) and has difficulty waiting in long lines, so we were asking for the Disability Access help. Silence. “So, what is your need?” she asks again, as if I hadn’t said a word. From there it went downhill. They were unable to do a thing for us for 20 minutes. I’ll spare you the rest of the details. Very sad; I think what bothered me most was the total lack of compassion in the staff. This may be simply a matter of luck: some staff are probably warmer than others.
Disneyland is not Disney World
I expected better; a few weeks ago, I spoke with a mom who had just taken her son with Down syndrome to Disney World. The staff was wonderful, and the kind young cast member who helped them went overboard and registered them for seven disability fast passes. Only one is allowed, technically. And technicality rules at Disneyland: we were allowed one fast pass signup at a time on the disability program. You can’t get a second one in advance; you must first use up the one you registered for. THEN you can walk to a kiosk and register for another one.
Standing at a kiosk, trying to wrangle registration for a second attraction (we were in California Adventure, wanting to see an attraction there, but the attraction we were already registered for was in Disneyland–and we sure as heck didn’t want to let that one go), I sputtered on about the 7 passes at Disney World. A mom behind me piped up, “The rules are different at Disney World. I’ve been there.” Who knew?
And could Disney World’s leniency have anything to do with its having been sued by families? Here is some interesting additional reading, from March 2015: “Families of autistic children sue Disney over ride access.” I fully agree with this quote from that article: “(In October 2013) Disney revamped its disabled guest passes and replaced them with passes the autism advocates say are virtually useless.” Yep.
The 10-Minute Deal: The Total Benefit
Total benefit of the Disability Access Service (DAS): you get 10 minutes shaved off of the current waiting time at the attraction you want to register for. Ten minutes. So if the wait time is 40 minutes, you only have to wait 30 minutes. Isn’t that nice? Especially if you have a child with autism or a dual diagnosis of DS/autism? And you can only do this one registration at a time. So here’s the deal: register, wait, go on ride, find kiosk, register, wait. Repeat as desired.
Deal or No Deal?
That’s no disability help whatever, and I feel sure Disney management is well aware of it. So they dole out a script to the staff, and that’s the end of the story. Just amazing. Not to mention sad.
Small Consolation: couple the DAS with regular Fast Passes
Yes, you can still simultaneously work those attractions that have Fast Pass available. Just make sure you bring an athlete with you in your party, preferably someone who runs track. That helps. He/she can run off and get registered elsewhere while you wait in line.
Hi Tech Difference
The technical difference between this year and last is this: you will not be given a paper DAS card-with-ID photo on which each ride is written. They still take a picture of the individual with a disability (I have no idea what they do with it), but the identification data is all in a computer somewhere. At each attraction where you use the DAS to shave off 10 minutes, the staff must scan the Disney card of everyone in your party who has registered to go on that attraction.
Just go forearmed with knowledge, and bring a party large enough, athletic enough, and smart enough to do on-the-spot scheduling and running to get additional fast passes. At the end of our 13 hours at what my daughter calls “Dizzyland,” we were exhausted, but Jonathan was so happy. Worth it? Yes. But be kind to yourself and plan your trip with two “recovery days” tacked on at the end *for the parents*.
“A dream is a wish your heart makes…” but it may take legal action to get this dream back to where it was before October 2013.