Monday, September 9, 2013

Disabilities at Disney Destinations Rant

Disabilities at Disney Destinations Rant

 Saturday on Facebook on a rather large Disney Fan Facebook page, I will not name, I was shocked to see hatred, bigotry and downright ignorance directed at people with disabilities. One person had the nerve to say that people that had problems with lines, those with inability to cope with crowds and the obese should not go to Disney Parks. This ignorant person said life was not fair and that is where they lose out. This person even went further saying she was saying what many felt. I told her she was wrong! Let me tell you what I have seen Disney Parks and Cruises do for people with differing abilities that people call Disabilities.

I know a family with two children with disabilities. The elder son has autism and the daughter has traumatic brain injury. Every trip they have taken to a Disney Park has increased their daughter’s vocabulary by at least 30%! Their son has learned to deal with the crowds for a portion of the day. His parents also learned when to take him back to the hotel. He has even learned to acknowledge people when spoken too! Would you keep these children from growing to be the best people they can be?

My best friend is a fantastic woman with multiple birth defects and other physical issues that have left her disabled. She is in constant pain. She suffers from depression caused by the pain she lives with daily. She is an amazingly strong person and is an inspiration to many! I dare anybody to live with the pain she does for even one hour and not feel depressed! Her physical activity is limited due to her disabilities. If not for Disneyland she would have little or no reason to leave her bed and would most likely fall into a pit of deep depression. She skips meals to afford the monthly payment for her Disneyland AP. Would you deny her the joy of going to Disneyland? Would you keep her from having a reason to live? Would you deny the other guests and Cast Members at the park the smile she gives them while at the parks?

My father had polio as a child (back in the 1930’s), lost a leg to cancer in his 30’s and still raced boats, cars and dirt bikes well into his 60’s! When he lost a lung to cancer in his 70’s (he never smoked) and suffered several strokes he could no longer travel or do the things he loved. He was confined to his bed or recliner and could only get out for limited trips on his ECV. He said he wanted to die. Then he found Disney! He found they accommodated him without making him feel subhuman! He found he could enjoy time with his family and feel equal to everybody around him! He continued to have strokes and suffered many setbacks but his trips to Disney gave him a reason to get better and get out of bed! We believe his frequent trips to Disneyland and thinking about past and future trips kept him alive for 8 years longer than without Disneyland! Would you say let a sick old man just die instead of giving him a few more years of joy with his family?

My daughter has a genius IQ (not mom talking but doctors) and ADHD. Normal School was impossible for her. There was a great amount of trauma in her young life and I took her out of school to homeschool her. We did much of our schooling at DLR! Walk down Main Street and talk about life at the turn of the last century. Discuss the development of transportation, electricity and commerce. Stop in for a history lesson with Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Read the original Peter Pan, watch the movie and then ride the ride. How was the story told differently? What was deleted, added or changed? How would you do it? I could go on for many posts about the educational benefits of Disney! In fact I have in my Edutainment series of the past. Disney help her heal from the trauma and allowed us to educate her in ways not possible otherwise. Would you deny her the healing and education?

My husband is severely ADHD and has minor brain damage from being electrocuted. In truth he was declared brain dead after 45 minutes of CPR but he woke up talking when they took him off life support to let him die the next day! Because of the electrocution he has an underlying current of anger in him. (Natural physiological response to being electrocuted.) It also made his ADHD worse!! He controls it well 99% of the time. In 15 ½ years since his accident I’ve seen him totally lose control only a handful of times. BUT! Put him in a 2 hour long line at a Disney Park and he starts to lose it! It is not fun for him, anyone with him or anybody around us when he gets upset. He does not even realize he is saying the things he does or that he is physically moving around. Disney has played a huge part in his healing. He has learned to be more patient in lines. After the accident he could not wait 10 minutes for anything without getting agitated. Now he can wait 30 minutes and sometimes 45 on an extra good day! Praise God!!!! Yes we use the GAC Card but only use the Fastpass lines not going to the front of the lines as we could! If the regular line is shorter than 30 minutes we use it. Depression was also a major aftereffect to his accident. He goes to the parks and sees the people having fun and he smiles! Going to the parks has helped him stay on a positive side of life! Would you deny him the joy and healing he finds nowhere else?

Those with special needs such as the ones I’ve listed above should be given a GAC card. The GAC is not a one size fits all! If the person can’t wait in a line due to a physical/emotional disability fine! Give them an alternative! If the wheelchair/ECV fits the line and they can physically/emotionally handle the line then they should. For those with bad knees that can’t do stairs, and we all know some lines have stairs they should get a GAC card that passes the stairs. Stay in the regular line until the bypass to the stairs. There are some people that can’t be in the sun. Disney allows them to wait in the shade until their time to load. This is accommodation not special privileges!

Disneyland is a special exception to the wheelchair/ECV in line rule. Disneyland was built before the ADA laws so the wheelchairs/ECVs of today do not fit in the lines. Due to the size limitations of the park the lines can’t be altered to accommodate them either! That is why there must be alternative entrances for them. The GAC gives access to rides where otherwise the person and their party may not have been able to go on the ride.

Living with a disability is lifelong battle for “normalcy”. You don’t feel “normal” or accepted. You begin to feel you don’t deserve respect or fair treatment. I know many with special needs that say that Disney Parks is one of the few places they can feel “normal” and accepted. The Cast Members never rush them to load and do their best to accommodate. They are treated with the respect that everybody deserves. They are not singled out or looked down upon because of their disabilities. They are not belittled because of their physical/emotional limitations. Special ride vehicles have been made for some rides so people in wheelchairs don’t even have to transfer! This is for the disabled persons benefit as well as to speed up loading and therefor limit delays for ALL guests. Is every ride accessible for ALL forms of disability? NO!!! Nor should they be! Some rides are not for people with some disabilities. Disney does it’s best to accommodate and include as many people as possible and it is the few cheating guests that have caused problems! It is also the ignorant and cold hearted that do not see how a trip to Disney can change the life of a disabled person that cause problems.

For those of you who still think that being disabled is easy or that the disabled should be happy just sitting at home I’ve got a couple of exercises for you. I’ll leave out the few choice words I’d love to say. Try for one day to not walk. When you want something to eat or drink wait for someone to get it for you. When you need to use the restroom wait for someone to help you. When someone wants to talk to you have them stand and look down at you sitting in a chair. See the view from a wheelchair bound disabled person. It is not pretty! It feels “unequal” like you are not on the same level as those around you. Just be thankful you don’t also have the pain that many in wheelchairs feel. Better yet try to watch TV sitting in that chair with someone standing in front of you. Like the view? Thought not. Looking at someone’s butt when you want to see something else is no fun. That is the view of the parades and fireworks that many in wheelchairs get. Blindfold yourself and have someone guide you around for a day. Depend on your guide to not let you trip or run into something and to describe what is going on around you. Let your ears and hands be your eyes. I guarantee you will not see the life of a disabled person the same again! Do it for a week and I can assure you that you will want to get out of the house and have some fun! Just remember YOU can walk or see when the experiment is over. Others are not as blessed! 

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