This is my Masterpiece

This is my Masterpiece

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Disney Disability Access Service (Passport) Misses by Miles.

If Disney’s intent of the Disability Access Service was to help give guests with disabilities easier access to park attractions they missed their mark… by miles.

Why miles?  Well Disneyland is 80 acres, has 8 lands and 58 attractions; California Adventure is 55 acres and has 34 attractions.  Each park has FOUR kiosks to sign up for attractions – one at a time.  So one kiosk per 13+ acres. 

A guest wheels up to the nearest kiosk, selects an attraction which is penned onto the passport, and then rolls out to the attraction.  At the attraction they show the passport to a cast member and are advised to go through the handicapped entrance (often the exit).  At the end of this entrance another cast member meets the guest, lines through the passport, and lets them know how long the wait will be.  After experiencing the attraction the guest wheels back to one of the FOUR kiosks to sign up for another attraction.  A lot of traversing the park to find a kiosk… with a lot of time, wear-and-tear as well as energy expended.  And the bottom line is as a guest with disabilities (GWD) you wait in three lines (at the kiosk, at the entrance and at the end of the entrance to have people look at your passport) plus walk 2x as much.  In fact the passport even says, “When utilizing this service, it is possible to experience waits greater than the posted wait time.”  

Well, yeah… that is by design because the time on the passport is the wait time… you just do the waiting somewhere besides the regular line plus you do the additional waiting at the three stops.

This program is fairly new so the cast members aren’t experts at administering it.  We were there 3 days and utilized the passport for NINE attractions. (photo) Three times the cast member failed to cross out the line with the attraction as we prepared to board it (so technically we could have cheated and ridden again.) One time – Indiana Jones – the cast member at the entrance crossed out the line and when we went through the handicapped entrance (exit) and got to the where we should board the ride we were almost denied access to the ride.  Fortunately, the cast member only grumbled about it and didn’t actually turn us away… but it still wasn’t such a magical moment.  And you caught the NINE attractions in 3 days… epic fail.  At $ 225 per ticket; party of 7… that was $ 175 per ride.

My son doesn’t self-propel his wheelchair, for the same reason we used the wheelchair, he has a condition which causes him to fatigue easily.  So while at Disneyland he is pushed, pulled, turned, lifted, accelerated and decelerated by me.  He is 12 and I am pushing around 100+ pounds plus the wheelchair navigating these parks that don’t exactly have a wheels lane.  Sometimes it felt like I was swimming against the current of people.  I had two people run into me on either side, simultaneously – I was wearing a big red, polka-dot bow on my head so it’s not like you could miss me.  I almost ran over two unsupervised preschoolers after saying, “excuse me,” and navigating to avoid them as they darted in front of me three times while I was leaning back trying to control the wheelchair down an incline.  Their father snapped at me, “they’re just little kids,” and I thought, “that should be supervised so they don’t get hurt, dad.”  But I kept my mouth shut.  

The reason I share this is that we asked for Disability Access because we needed assistance and Disney’s new program took the assistance away and gave us more work to do in its place.  I understand that people were cheating the previous system, but the people now being punished at least the person writing this wasn’t cheating the system and shouldn’t be punished.  I have heard this change makes it “fair for everyone.”  If people with disabilities are waiting longer than everyone else, being asked to do more than everyone else and experiencing less, then someone needs to redefine fair.  Not one guest or cast member offered “to be fair” and take a turn pushing the wheelchair.  These are the same voices I have heard for years about “fair” that then insist that everyone be treated fairly at the egg hunt where my child gets trampled for one candy filled egg, or treated fairly as he warms the bench in club athletics, or he is fairly at the end of the line because he moves slower.  From where I stand fair is everyone getting what they need to be successful (or to successfully enjoy Disneyland.)   
My son wasn’t riding the majority of the fast pass (thrill) rides so this service didn’t assist him either.  Disneyland was a magical place for people like my son where labels such as “special needs” actually meant special, and now some of that magic is gone. 

We planned this trip, we front-loaded with a Disney app, we read all the brochures, we had an itinerary for each day, we made dining reservations, we let them know our GFCF dietary needs,  we educated ourselves on the fast pass system, we watched the trip planning video, we pre-ordered our tickets, lodging and PMD (powered mobility device for my dad who chose to only ride one ride), we mapped it out, and we knew where to go to get a passport in both parks.  I thought with all the planning it would be easy.  It wasn’t.  It was physically and mentally tiring.  In the past we had gone from one ride to the next closest ride, in a natural progression but now we had to figure out where to find the nearest kiosk. The wait time was the least of our challenges.  We would have gladly waited in a handicap-accessible line and forgone the passport altogether but the times we tried to do this the cast members didn’t know what to do… as if we were now cheating and must possess and use a Disability Access Service passport to use the accessible entrances.  It tasted of discrimination.

Here are some suggestions for changes in the future. 

One: Training.  If a cast member does it wrong another cast member should not complain to me about this. I should be in a magical place where I don’t have to listen to administrative issues.  

Two: If the average guest rides… pick a number, say 10 attractions in a day, then allow a GWD to sign up for ten attractions spaced out in 30 minute increments.   If a GWD wants to use all ten of those spaces for Radiator Springs, then allow them to spend the next 5 hours riding Radiator Springs 10 times.  Eliminate the back and forth to the kiosks. 

Three: The cast member that lines out the attraction on passport should be able to write in the next one… no kiosks.  

Four: Let me address the quality.  If you are going to take a photo of the GWD make it one that is high enough quality resolution that it doesn’t look like a black blob (see photo).  

Five:  Add a lanyard or make it small enough to fit in a pocket/pouch. 

Six:  Use a different color pen/stamp each day so if a GWD wants to ride Radiator Springs 10 times a day on a three day pass it doesn’t appear that they have already done this (also helps avoid forgery.)

I don’t want you to think our trip was without magical moments.  There were wonderful experiences, and I will blog about all of them… however the Disability Access Service wasn’t magical and Disney as well as all of my friends with disabilities need to know this.


Lydia Linares said...

Sadly, I have to agree with everything you stated in your blog. I took my son Effie last month and left very disappointed in the new system. Having to walk back and forth (countless times) to the only 4 kiosks available was exhausting; we ended up having to walk so much more than ever before in order to comply with the new system just so we could ride on an attraction. How is that fair? I would implore that the Disney officials that created this system spend a day with a family so that they may see firsthand how inefficient it truly is. I found myself having to think and strategize about our every move in order to make sense of where we could go next (that wasn't too far from the kiosk); this was very frustrating and extremely stressful. I cannot put into words what this added stress did to our trip; it took all the fun out of our Disney adventure. I understand that the “cheaters” ruined the old system….but there is nothing fair about this new system for individuals with disabilities. If Disney officials think that not having to wait in the actual line of the intended ride makes up for the tremendous amount of additional wasted time, stress and energy walking back and forth to the kiosks in order to sign up for a ride…they are not in touch at all with their guests. Sadly, Disneyland, you got it wrong.
Disneyland was the one place Effie could be just a bit more special than he already is. It was the place where autism didn’t restrict his ability to enjoy this magical place. But this new system has missed the mark so much, that we will have to reevaluate if it’s worth the price we now must pay…both in time, energy and stress. Again, I don’t understand how Disney officials can think that this is “fair”. There is nothing fair about making it harder for individuals with disabilities and their family members.
I think that adding a photo to the passport is a great way to ensure it is not being passed around. But there isn’t too much more I think they got right with this new system. Unfortunately, until this system is revamped, the Linares family will not be returning any time soon.

Nicole Johnson said...

I completely agree and have complained about the same thing. Me and my daughter both have ADHD and are bipolar, but I got the pass for my daughter. Standing in line is a mission and not only that its a safety issue because gets antsy and starts to climb on the rocks or play with chains/ropes. When I try to get her to stop, she then gets aggitated, which then gets me aggiatated. There have also been a few occasions where people have pushed her, which then upsets her and angers me. I can prove with documentation, if need be, that both of us have these disabilities. We are annual passholders and before this new "Access Pass" we were able to ride many rides and actually enjoy our time while roaming the park. I never griped or complained if we had to wait awhile for certain attractions. Now with this new system we never get ride anything because of this going back and forth, as you mentioned, between these kiosks. One day we only got to do two rides and ended up leaving because we weren't having fun. It was disappointing not just for me, but for my daughter because she gets so excited to ride all the rides only to be let down when we only end up doing just rides. I am really not pleased with this new program, but I don't want to stop going to the park because that's mine and my daughters quality time together when I'm not working. I completed one of their surveys that they send me every once in awhile and I actually left a very detailed comment on how unhappy I was with this new program. I really hope they make changes soon.

SuzeBeeBlog said...

I just wanted to comment that this is my blog, and solely my opinion based on my recent personal experience. You are welcome to leave a comment but if you are abusive in your comment and/or feel the need to write in all caps to express yourself then please know I will choose to moderate your comment and not to post your comment on my blog. You are welcome to post your comment on your own blog and/or facebook page.

Here is my reply without publishing something I read as offensive.

ADA compliance refers to access, i.e. using the exits of the rides in Disneyland because the entrances of the rides have stairs or other hindrances for someone in a wheelchair. As I stated in my blog, when we tried to do this without going to a kiosk and getting our passport filled out the Cast member did not know what to do. So we were not treated the same or equally as non-disabled guests, we were given extra duties we had to carry out in order to be entitled to ride the attraction. This is discriminatory.

If a guest is going to be accommodated at Disneyland because of their special needs, first let me operationally define accommodation:

accommodation - the act of providing something to meet a need.
assist, assistance, help, aid - the activity of contributing to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose;

This accommodation should not require more work from the person with special needs beyond identifying they have a need that requires accommodation. If to ride an attraction you have to get permission on a passport in order to be treated equally, then this fails to be equal. I had to do more to get the same as everyone else… and it wasn’t the same, we waited longer and we walked further.

My example of 10 rides was just that, an example. I wasn’t suggesting that the guest with special needs have a shorter wait time so I am not sure where you came up with that. If, like you say, the average person rides one attraction per hour then an accommodation that allows the guest with special needs this same opportunity would be great. We were there on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, mid-November and it rained so we weren’t there on a peak day – suffice to say the average guest experienced wait times less than 30 minutes. If you re-read my blog, you might notice that we rode a grand total of 9 rides in three days via the DAS. Look at the photo of the passport – it shows the wait times.

The blog wasn’t about waiting in line – that was the least of our challenges. The blog wasn’t about cutting to the front of the line or having zero wait time. It wasn’t about privilege or entitlement. But know this still happens at Disneyland if you are a celebrity or have the money to pay for a guide that gives you front of the line access (we were there the week the View was filming, trust me they didn’t wait in any lines). The blog was about a service that doesn’t help, isn’t fair or equal and is, in my opinion, discriminatory. As someone whose child needs to use a wheelchair we won’t be going back to Disneyland if the DAS is not changed.

Finally, to address your comment about preferential treatment… again please re-read my blog.
“Disneyland was a magical place for people like my son where labels such as “special needs” actually meant special, and now some of that magic is gone.”

Perhaps the preferential treatment you are referring to should be directed toward a person who is pregnant using the DAS pass and someone who rented a scooter and wore an ace bandage on their ankle. My son’s disability isn’t going away in a few weeks, or even nine months… there is no “more convenient” time we could go to Disneyland where my son will not need assistance. If our “preference” is to be “average” for a day that is probably not going to happen. What you fail to understand is we would love the privilege of just being typical and until you have spent a day in our shoes please do not preach to me about fair… maybe not even then.