I am a student of social studies. History, government, economics. When i taught, there were basic lessons that i would often drive home to my students as they repeated themselves in history.
- hungry people will mess your shit up and
- those in power ACT when their earning are in jeopardy.
There were a few more lessons in there, but these made up the core of my teachings.
Now, I am no longer a part of the education community, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like to pontificate from time to time. I mean HELLO. I HAVE A BLOG, FFS. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t stop the egomaniacal need to hold people hostage with the sound of our voice… or something like that.
The new disability process went into effect on Oct 9. And a few autism parent bloggers and friends with season passes have hit the parks to check out how it works for our kids.
And it doesn’t look good.
As any good teacher, let me start with a review:
It used to be you could get a GAC to help your special needs kid (or adult) maneuver through the park in a fashion that would allow everyone in your part to enjoy the park on your terms. I explain the old process here. And while it worked for MANY if not all of us, it was also open to flagrant abuses—some of which made stories on the Today show—which we all know is a BASTION of unbiased, informative NEWS. (insert eyeroll here) Anyway, once stories of the abuses came to light, so did the patience of those who did NOT have access to the special passes—and cries of “unfair!” arose. (and can I say we all knew about the abuses—those of us standing in those lines WITNESSED IT but had no idea what we could do about it other than waggle our fingers at those wayward teens.) So a new plan arose that makes our kids go and, in a sense, get special fast passes at each ride (WDW) or at special kiosks (WDL) so that our kids get to see the ride, but don’t get to ride right away. They have to wait the current wait time—just not in a line—until they come back to stand in the fastpass line. (or the handicap access line, depending on the ride). And once it was announced the interwebs blew up in attacks that this would be more fair because we were obviously just abusing the system.
And our kids bore the brunt of those attacks.
I know I’ve been questioned. Why does YOUR kid get to get on the ride right away when we don’t? Why does YOUR kid deserve special treatment? My kids has been called a privileged brat by internet trolls. My kid—whom they have never met. Who may never hold a job, or leave home, and who will have to fight tooth and nail for every thing in life because others can’t SEE his disability. My kid, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and who would more than likely try to be your friend, even if you are mean to him. My kid who works EVERY DAY to understand and navigate this world that will refuses to give an INCH for him, but for whom he must change everything about himself in order to “fit in” ASK ME AGAIN WHY HE DESERVES IT.
But I digress…
Because here’s the problem. No one questions the rights of those in wheelchairs, like my own dear Aunt, to have access to the handicapped lines. In fact this account of a recent visit even says that they witnessed people in wheelchairs pretty much having instant access as they did before. But our kids—whose disability may not be 100% VISIBLE–are questioned at every turn. That same blogger even mentioned that she had to announce his diagnosis more times on her visit than she ever had before.
So, in a sense, we have to “prove” our kids disability again, and again and again.
Ad we have to pay $75 per family member for this?
Now that same blogger actually had a good time and the system, while setting off a few privacy red flags, pretty much worked for them.
And to be honest? It would work for my family too. My son is what some would call “high functioning”—which is to say I can “reason” with him, he can voice his frustrations without meltdowns (after years of hard work, I might add), we can have conversations about what is going on, and I can use every tool in my ABA and Floortime toolbox to help him navigate a system that, to be fair, is still working it’s kinks out. Disney’s new plan does not remove it as an option for us behaviorally.
It is, however, off the table for us. Let me tell you why.
While this system would eventually work for us, there are many families (some of my son’s friends even) for whom this plan will never work. For whom the back and forth from ride to wait time is just NOT a viable plan. Kids and adults who cannot just be told they can come back later and hey, let’s go have a corndog. Because our kids perseverate. My own son, whom I have claimed can handle this—when faced with a similar scenario at the opening of the Cars Ride at CA Adventure, spent the 90 minutes we had to wait FREAKING OUT. Even though I was doing everything in my power to distract him, he spent all that time perseverating on getting back to the ride and riding it—which means he did not enjoy ANY of the things we did in that time.
This is what some (most) of our kids deal with on some scale of intensity. DAILY.
But while my son has the ability to voice his frustrations, others cannot. And the frustration they feel can physically manifest into a meltdown.
This perseveration can also manifest into the need to ride the same ride OVER and OVER. Or a number of times within the hour. I’ve heard of some families that ride the same ride 5 x in one hour—and that’s pretty much the only ride they hit while they are there.
These families, although given lip service by Disney in a letter saying they would work with families on a case by case basis, are in fact NOT getting that and told repeatedly that this is the new system. Even though they are told they want feedback—this one blogger had all of her ideas shot down. That’s not listening—that’s patronization.
So, even though my family is in a position, both geographically and financially to purchase season passes, we won’t. Even though this new system would probably work for my child, we aren’t going. Even though my son really loves Disney, we are not going to spend ONE DIME on the park, and try our damnedest to not purchase any merchandise from the company.
Now, one person refusing to buy Disney products is hardly going to make a dent in third quarter profits. I get that. But the fact is, I cannot spend any money on them while they continue to disenfranchise the one group that would support them into eternity. Our kids tend to LOVE Disney stuff. I can’t begin to tell you how much Cars paraphernalia is in my son’s room. Not to mention the fact that many Disney stories tell of characters who are deemed “different” and yet rise above the beliefs of others to achieve great things. HELLO? Symbolism, PARTY OF US.
And you may be thinking, Why punish your son because of this? What are you teaching him? I’ll tell you what I’m teaching him. I’m teaching him to stand up for those who do not share our privilege. That it is the role of those in power to help those who do not have it. In the old days it was called Noblesse Oblige. We are OBLIGATED, as people who see the injustice, to stand up and try to make a difference. Even if it means never going to Disney again.
And if anyone doubts our resolve, I have not stepped inside a Wal-Mart for 20 years. Even when our family was in difficult financial times. RE. FUSE. Because I see their injustice as clear as day.
Now, before you start trolling me, I’m not calling on any other person or family to make this same decision. Because that isn’t my bag. I am just going to witness, quietly, by doing my best to live a life that matches my ideals and conscience. If I am the only one, well then, Disney won’t give a rat’s ass. And they will go on being a corporate entity that continues to feed this national idea that invisible disabilities don’t matter.
But I have a feeling I won’t be the only one. Disney has lost a lot of Autism business with this decision. (and business obviously means a great deal to them since their ticket prices are so extravagantly expensive) And hopefully, it will affect their profits just enough that they finally live up to their promises to accommodate every special needs family.
In the meantime, we’ll be heading to another theme park that understands the autistic mind… Legoland anyone?