National Edition

At Disneyland, scam artists killed special kindness for disabled kids

Published: Friday, Sept. 27 2013 10:30 a.m. MDT

A new policy that also applies at Walt Disney World constitutes a sea change from the decades-long practice of allowing handicapped children and their families to skip the lines at popular attractions.

Tom Bricker, Flickr Commons

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The sister theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World will soon curtail their longstanding practice of allowing disabled guests and their families to bypass lines and immediately board rides.

According to multiple published reports, Disney’s policy change is an outgrowth of the New York Post article earlier this year that revealed rich tourists were scheming to avoid long lines by hiring disabled “guides” to pose as their family members.

“As of Oct. 9, handicapped guests will no longer be able to use ‘Guest Assistance Cards’ to immediately skip ahead of others in long lines at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California,” Paul Bond wrote Monday for The Hollywood Reporter. “A Disney insider acknowledged to THR that the program is being scrapped due to ‘abuse of the system.’ ”

“Currently, visitors unable to wait in the regular line can get backdoor access to rides or go through the exit and wait in a shorter line,” the Associated Press reported. “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.”

Theme Park Insider’s Robert Niles wrote, “Disney will replace the (old) program with a new Disabled Assistance System (DAS). … Visitors with disabilities that preclude their use of the traditional queues for attractions will get Fastpass-like return times for those rides, but only for one ride at a time. … Since DAS users can reserve only one return time at a time and won't be able to transfer that benefit to anyone, there should be no wait-time advantage to having a DAS pass.”

“Who is really being hurt if healthy people figure out a way to skip the lines? For starters, the children who genuinely are chronically ill or disabled, the children whose fevers and tremors are real,” Bob Greene reflected in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. “They may not have been given many breaks in their short time on earth, but Disney traditionally granted them one.

“There are other people, though, who, in a more subtle manner, are hurt in the long term: the able-bodied children who have been shown by their parents that gaming the system, that faking disabilities, is what smart people do. That it's the clever way, the winner's way. Only suckers, no matter how healthy, wait in line. It's a lesson that — sadly — will stick.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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