, Salem, MA

September 25, 2013

Our view: Adults ruin it for disabled kids at Disney parks

The Salem News

---- — “No good deed goes unpunished” is an oft-quoted phrase, and unfortunately, Disney theme parks found themselves the latest to which this phrase can apply.

Disney announced this week that starting Oct. 9, it will no longer allow families with members who have disabilities to go to the front of waiting lines. Sounds like a mean-spirited decision, right?

Yes and no. As is so often the case when this kind of decision is made, it was a reaction to a small number of people blatantly abusing the rules — rules that were meant to show compassion and courtesy to disadvantaged children.

Disney had documented numerous cases of what it described as “tour guides” who were profiting from the rule. Disabled people have been hiring themselves out as phony family members in order to allow people to cut the lines. The cost to hire such a person was hundreds of dollars, but apparently, for some, it was worth the cost. In other cases, people claimed to have a disability when, in fact, they did not.

The system “certainly has been problematic, and we wanted to curb some of the abuse of this system,” Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown told the Orange County Register.

Disney’s system of vetting is loose, and that’s where part of the problem lies. There was no requirement to provide documentation of the disability or to prove that the disabled member of the party was indeed a family member. But we can understand that Disney would be uncomfortable holding visitors to such strict standards and would count on people to do the right thing. One would hope that in a child-themed park, the adults would act responsibly.

Disney plans to offer an alternative, though the details have not been worked out. It will be similar to Disney’s current “Fastpass” system, which provides electronic ticketing to certain rides. Under that system, visitors show up at a ride at a designated time, and they are allowed to get on without waiting in a line.

Of course, the people who lose out are the people for whom the system was intended — children with disabilities. Some with diagnoses such as epilepsy or autism are physically unable to stand in lines. Disney’s system offered a sensible remedy that showed compassion and caring for the children and their families. No more.

Thanks to profiteers and others who sought to abuse the system for their own selfish reasons, a little of the magic has disappeared from the Magic Kingdom.