Not only is Rick Munarriz the father of a disabled child, he owns shares of Disney stock. Here’s his view on the new handicap access solution for Disneyland and other Disney theme parks. As we reported recently, Disney changed its access policy for guests with disabilities because the previous system was being abused by people with lots of money and zero compassion for people other than themselves.
A Debatable ‘Service’ for the Disabled
For years, children and adults with disabilities were provided a pass that let them move to the front of the line at all rides and attractions. Wealthy people began hiring unethical “entrepreneurs” in wheelchairs to accompany their family during a day at Disneyland so they wouldn’t have to stand in the long lines. When the rich scammers bragged about it, the ensuing outrage compelled the theme park giant to take action to stop the abuse, launching the Disability Access Service (DAS) on October 9, 2013, but is it a satisfactory solution?
No, says Munarriz, who also writes for a leading financial-advice web site, where he shared his experience and his opinion in an article.
His conclusion? Munarriz says, “My family hit all four of the Disney World parks this past weekend with my special needs son, and DAS didn’t win high marks. I blogged about Disability Access Service—how it works, how it doesn’t, and how it can be gamed—and have concluded that it’s the worst of both worlds.
While Disney is said to have worked with Autism Speaks, a well-known advocacy group, to develop a plan which met the needs of families with autistic children, Munarriz says the new system is “more inconvenient for the families that need it, yet can still be circumvented by those willing to abuse the platform in the first place.”
The new pass allows disabled visitors and their family to make a reservation for a ride at a later time. When they return at the appointed time, they gain access to the ride or attraction immediately. Here are the flaws in the new system:
- Guests with no conscience or integrity can have each person in their group take the new pass to have several reservations open at the same time.
- Without promised, automated kiosks online yet, return times can easily be forged. Those who are willing to fabricate a disability for a DAS would easily load up on reservations or write in a desired return time.
- Able-bodied guests used to complain that the former Guest Assistance Card allowed adults and children with special needs and their families to enjoy many more rides and attractions during a single day than ordinary park visitors, though the “spirit of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 was to create a level playing field: It wasn’t supposed to tilt things in the other direction.” Munarriz says that line of thinking ignores an important point–the physical and mental challenges of a disabled child or adult most often prohibit a full day of fun at the park.
A Better Solution?
As one possible fix, Munarriz suggests going back to the early days of Disney parks, when they used to charge low admission prices, after which guests would pay separately only for the rides and attractions they wanted to experience. He maintains, “A system under which people paid based on how many rides they went on would turn today’s expensive Disney smorgasbord into a more reasonable deal for a special needs family that might be able to enjoy just two or three rides before having to exit the park.”
He also says hourly passes, though a more complex solution, would sync with the new access program. Already in use by smaller theme parks, hourly passes accommodate people who arrive later in the day, when they know they won’t have sufficient time to fully enjoy the park.
“Whether it’s a matter of physical challenges or having to catch a flight back home later in the day, giving guests the option to buy time in the parks in hourly blocks would help deflect some of the groundswell of protests about the new Disability Access Service,” suggests Munarriz.
This dad of a disabled child hopes Disney remains open to other solutions that satisfy the needs of guests with disabilities and their families without being open to abuse by scammers. Which of his solutions do you think would work best–or do you have a solution you’d like to suggest?
Photography by Frey