When we visited Disney World in February, I worried how Cordy would react to the crowds and the lines. She doesn’t like crowds, and she likes waiting in lines even less, especially when those lines are enclosed by barriers in tight spaces. She’ll get fidgety, anxious, and sometimes start to panic. She’ll repeatedly bump into others around her, and if the sensory overload lasts too long, she’ll be a wreck and unable to enjoy the ride when we finally get to the front of the line.
We were told about the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) before our trip and were encouraged to talk to Guest Services when we got to Disney. It’s fairly easy – you tell someone at Guest Services what the nature of the disability is in regards to what accommodations are needed. Based on what you tell them, they provide one of three different GAC passes. The pass is good for your entire stay at all parks, and allows the disabled guest and their family to stay together for any rides.
I was nervous about asking for the card – while Cordy’s autism can make situations difficult, I worried that she wasn’t “disabled enough” to deserve a GAC. (The Guest Services folks were amazingly kind about the whole thing, though.) I was also a little embarrassed about using it at first, feeling like I was cheating by getting to use the Fast Pass entrance instead of the standard lines. I worried we were being judged.
But then I tried to remind myself that it took a lot more energy for us to go from attraction to attraction, and we often needed more downtime for Cordy, so we really weren’t getting to more rides and attractions than any other family in the park. And OH did it make the experience SO much better for our little ball of anxiety! Without that pass, we wouldn’t have been able to get through more than one or two rides at most before she would have felt overwhelmed and been done. Or worse – annoyed everyone else around her and ruined their day. And even with the pass it still wasn’t all roses and butterflies, but it was a huge improvement.
So I was horrified when I read a New York Post story stating that a new trend in visiting Disney for an elite group of rich NYC moms is to hire a disabled person to pose as a “family member” for the day, allowing the family to use that person’s Guest Assistance Card to “skip the lines” and enter through the alternate entrance.
Yes, you read that right. Moms and their families, all perfectly healthy, free of disabilities, cutting their wait times for rides to nearly nothing all because of their newly hired “distant cousin” who is handicapped and has the ability to bypass the general line.
Before you say, “But we all know that the rich can buy their way to the front of the line with anything, so what’s the big deal?” consider this: Disney already has a VIP Tour Guide service the wealthy can pay for that will provide a Fast Pass for rides. The VIP Fast Pass will get them to the front of the line nearly as fast as a GAC access. It costs a little more, but what’s a few more dollars to those with this kind of privilege?
(It’s also possible to reduce your wait time to practically nothing through using the free Fast Pass system and doing a little planning. But I suppose that’s too much work for them.)
No, I don’t think it’s about the money. Rather, it’s about the smug satisfaction of telling your fellow rich moms at the next playdate how you gamed the system and had your own pet “cripple” (ugh, I hate that word, but it gets the sentiment across) to grant you your privilege and make you feel even more special.
Because an official Disney VIP tour guide? That’s something anyone can get! Having your own disabled fake family member, on the other hand, is only for the 1% insiders who know the secret of how to hire them.
What kind of self-absorbed idiot would willingly and knowingly take advantage of an accommodation for the disabled for their own selfish reasons? I can’t wrap my mind around what would assure someone that this was a great idea, other than they’ve lost all shame and humanity in their black hearts. The Evil Queen would be proud.
Beyond that, I’m appalled at the message this sends to their children. They’re being taught that the rules of the world don’t apply to them, and that the struggles of others can be exploited for their own gain. That any obstacle in their way, or any special exception allowed to someone else but not them, can be bypassed by throwing money at it. Good luck when those entitled kids become teenagers and will do anything to get their way.
I worry that behavior like this will force Disney World to tighten its restrictions on the GAC pass, making it harder to obtain and possibly denying some people who really do need it. Few places offer accommodations with such generosity as Disney, but any increase in the abuse of these accommodations might cause them to rethink their policy.
I’d hope that the actions of a few despicable people wouldn’t affect those who legitimately qualify for it, and I also hope Disney can find a way to weed these folks out and shut them down.
Because as much as they’d like to claim it is if it would get them to the front of the line, being an entitled, elitist cheat is NOT a disability.