Our special needs son Andrew loves Disneyland; but that’s not what makes him unique. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find a child that doesn’t dream of spending day in and day out at the world’s most famous amusement park.

What does make Andrew unique, however, is that unlike many other children his age, he does not have the physical stamina to walk through the park without collapsing under the physical strain, nor is he able to navigate the long lines and often suffocating crowds without completely coming unhinged, from the inside out.

You see, Andrew has autism, epilepsy, and global physical and developmental delays that can turn a magical day at The Kingdom into a day of hell, and there’s not an over-sized Disney character or Lightning McQueen shaped lollipop big enough to turn things around once the downward spiral has begun.

But like most special needs families, we want to give Andrew every opportunity to experience the things he loves, and Disneyland is no exception. Thankfully, the park has always been amazing at accommodating our son by providing a special pass that allows us to get him on rides more quickly and efficiently, and we are grateful that he is able to go on his favorite rides in a way that’s accessible for him.

We aren’t the only ones who rely on this pass, as it allows individuals with a variety of physical and developmental challenges to safely experience the park on gentler terms. Like us, many of these people would have to forfeit their day at the park if these passes were unavailable.

So imagine my absolute anger and disgust when I heard about a trend among the 1% in our country that involves hiring disabled tour guides to pose as family members so that everyone can enjoy the “perks” of an accommodation that  makes all the difference in the lives of special needs individuals and their families.

This is lower than low; it’s flat-out criminal. Abusing a program in place for those who truly need it is outrageous, and it only serves to reinforce many suspicions and asinine prejudices society holds against those with special needs, mainly that they’re milking the system and using their diagnoses as a way to take advantage of able-bodied and developmentally typical peers.

Because yeah, the moment Andrew was diagnosed, the first thought my husband and I had was “YES!!!!!! Now we don’t have to wait in those pesky, long Disneyland lines!! Woohoooo!! It’s all downhill from here!”


Do we appreciate the pass? Yes. Do we consider it a “perk” of Andrew’s condition? My God, no. It’s not a PERK; it’s a way of making an experience accessible; it levels the playing field for our son (On a side note, please stop telling us how LUCKY we are that we get to by through the lines faster. LUCKY is not the word that comes to mind).

These socialite bitches hiring special needs guides need a swift kick in the ass, from Mickey and the gang themselves.

As for us, we’ll continue to enjoy our visits to Disneyland and try not to care that people may be judging us as we walk ahead of them in line, knowing in our hearts that our son is worth the accommodation.






And in case any of you wealthy jackasses reading this are wondering, my kid is not for hire.


**UPDATE** – For the record, I do know that not only the wealthy engage in fraudulent behavior regarding the guest assistance passes. It’s been brought to my attention by several readers that individuals of various economic situations –  as well as a diverse age-range – take advantage of these passes and blatantly misuse them. I know this guys. I see it too. I reference the wealthy in this post because it’s in response to the report out today regarding upper class families hiring special needs guides in order to cut through the lines. I’m not in any way suggesting that only the rich are misusing the passes. Jackasses are abundant among all socioeconomic classes. There. All better?

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72 Replies to “Disneyland Guest Assistance Passes Not a “Perk””

  1. The special needs pass makes Disneyland possible for kids on the spectrum, not “more fun” for their families.

  2. As a Mother of a child with ASD, I think you have hit the nail on the head. Without the passes, we wouldn’t even be able to consider theme parks. There are some warped and sick people out there, probably the same ones claiming DLA whilst doing building work on the side, and the odd zumba class. Scumbags.

  3. How wonderful for him and for his family. I did not know that Disney Parks accommodated special needs persons; I’ll give them big R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

  4. AMEN! Nik isn’t terribly interested in theme parks yet, but we certainly wouldn’t begin to attempt one without something to help us help *him* access the experience. The article about the upper-crustians abusing the system infuriates me.

  5. I understand your frustration at what you see as an abuse of accommodations….but I’m not certain why you feel that the people hiring them is necessarily the 1 %. Cheating the system is not an exclusively wealthy person practice. Also….it would be nice of you to consider that the “disabled person” who is being hired…is after all entitled to enjoy the extra accommodation of getting to join the front of the line as your son has a right to…..and what if there is no other way the person with limited abilities would be able to go to Disney World without someone else paying their way in? Would you begrudge another disabled person an opportunity to enjoy the magic of Disney…simply because they do not have the means to pay….as your family is able…or should that disabled person just not get to go at all. ? I’m not saying your opinion isn’t valid…..just hoping you can consider that there are many other sides to this story. I for one am happy to see that other disabled folks can enjoy Mickey…the way your son can : )

  6. We are a family who has used the disability pass at Disney World last year. We have an 8 year old Asperger’s son. The pass helped to make our experience as a family more enjoyable. The thought of people taking advantage of using these passes is disgusting. We only used the pass when G was with us as a group. When my husband and daughter went to go ride some extreme rides without us, they did not use the pass. They waited in line like everyone else. This is a powerful message we are teaching our children. Don’t take advantage of the system and your brother’s disability.

  7. Thank you for posting this. I had no idea… My daughter loves Disneyland, and despite her severe condition, being wheelchair bound, lack of patience and sensitivity to crowds, there are some rides we do have to stand in line for like everyone else there. Some rides we do get to go in front, which we are greatly appreciated for, and the last time we went almost two years ago, we only went on the rides we didn’t have to stand in line for because of her increase sensitivity. There is less than a dozen rides she can go on where we don’t have to stand in line, that her condition can handle. Yes, there are some rides she could go on, but can’t wait in the long lines. We do try, but once she is upset, its difficult to overcome it and have an enjoyable rest of the day. Our trips are so she can be in the happiest place on earth and have what I call, a day of FUN, a day of NO medical appointments, no phone calls, an escape from life focusing just on her having a wonderful time!! And she loves the characters, especially Mickey. Who doesn’t. The photos of your son are adorable and great. Such a beautiful boy. I sure hope you are able to experience Disneyland without worries many more times – same goes with all other special needs families.

  8. We are right there with you! We just returned from our son’s Make A Wish trip to Disneyworld, and yes, the passes make the trip possible. We also used a wheelchair, our son has cerebral palsy in his legs, and while he can walk, it would have been a total nightmare for him trying to walk as much as a person has to at the parks. This is a tremendous “gift” that is given to our kids. What kind of people think of doing such things!? I agree with the needed kick to the butt from Mickey and gang!

  9. Oh, and what these people are doing just makes me sick!! Really ticks me off.. So not right.. What is this world coming to? Do people just have no respect, guilty conscious anymore? I hope these families are punished for what they are doing.

  10. hey there..that thing your kid is doing with his chin..my frank does that on EVERYTHING. can you tell me why?? i have been wondering for ages!
    that aside, what a bunch of jerks!! i cant even imagine doing something like that, if i didnt have a disabled kid..they suck!

  11. Thank you for your comment. I am specifically referencing the 1% here due to an article (I link to it in the post) regarding wealthy moms hiring “guides” in order to get away with getting ahead of the line.

    I have no issues with anyone who needs to use the guest assistance passes, for any valid reason. But I do take serious issue with individuals taking advantage of a system in place meant for those who truly need it. This isn’t a matter of financial accessibility to the park. There are plenty of able-bodied and disabled individuals who can’t go to Disneyland because they can’t afford it. I can’t afford to take my special needs son to Paris. But if I were ever able to do so, I’d like to believe that he would be able to access accommodations that are in place to make his visit more accessible once he’s there.

  12. Hi Jamie –
    He’s actually gearing up to “kiss” the tractor. =) Your son may likely be doing that for some sort of sensory input (just a thought!).

  13. My wife and I have 2 children and my brother-in-law has 1. When they were little my wife’s family would go to Disneyland all the time, but as the years got on, my father-in-law had knee replacements which made it hard for him to stand for long periods of time. Because of the pass, it made it possible for him to go to Disneyland with his grandchildren which we had planned to do this summer when the children were old enough. Unfourtunatly for us, my father-in-law passed away last year, but there are so many other grandparents who I know would want the chance to spend a day at Disneyland with their grandchildren that would need this pass just to do it, and thinking about people taking advantage of this program is sickening!

  14. I agree with the fact that NO ONE who doesn’t need the pass should acquire it. However, I think the class warfare on wealthy people in unncessary. I know you’re referencing an article you read about the 1% misusing this but I have been to Disneyland many times where I’ve seen what I would consider average families misusing the pass. I’ve also seen teenagers who think its fun to rent a wheelchair and take turns pushing their squealing friends down the busy Main Street…these kids also get front of the line passes and claim their friend is injured and can’t wait in line long. So please don’t say this is a problem exclusively perpetrated by the upper classes only. Remember, the truly wealthy can afford the Disneyland plaid-clad tour guide program where an escort walks them to each ride and gets them to the front of the line without having to fake anything. I will never be able to afford this luxury, but I’ve seen people glide happily through the park escorted by a plaid and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. If they can afford it, more power to them.

  15. ” So please don’t say this is a problem exclusively perpetrated by the upper classes only. ”
    I believe if you reread the post, you’ll find I said no such thing. I’ not engaging in class warfare, just providing my own opinion regarding an article I read this am.

    Thank you for commenting.

  16. I have an ASD daughter and I wrote to Disney asking about any accommodations I am still waiting for a response…?

  17. I have been to Disney World, and Cedar Point with my disabled niece. It simply makes a day at the amusement park doable. Cedar Point in Sandusky changed their policy years ago. I think it was about the time they started serving alcohol. Obnoxious drunk people were jealous of her being able to cut. It wasn’t the whole family either. It was the handicapped individual and one guest. Now they expect you to go to the ride operator and get a “time” to come back. It could be hour, maybe two. It’s just not practical to push someone around for hours in a wheelchair from ride to ride and then back again hoping you time it right. I’m glad to hear Disney is still offering this “perk”.

  18. Hi Yelitza –
    Use my contact information and email me. I can offer you some information!

  19. We have gone to Disney a couple of times with my daughter who uses a wheelchair, and we had one trip where she was not with us at Disney. Does the wheelchair save some line time? Sometimes. Sometimes it ends up taking longer to get through the “separate” line. Many lines are now accessible so that the chair, ECV whatever, stays in the very long line until very close to the end, where there is a separate line.
    We got a heck of a lot more done on my days at the park on the trip when she was not with us. (she was actually on the trip with us, but in the hospital after emergency surgery in Orlando–my husband and I took turns at the hospital so one of us could be with our other daughter–I’m explaining this so people don’t think I left my child home for our vacation!) Moving through the park with a wheelchair or ecv is cumbersome, people cut in front of you, you can zig around people like you can when you’re walking.
    I don’t think they’re saving as much time as they seem to claim in the article. Sure, the person with the disability is getting paid VERY well to be at the park, but from that salary, she can save up for a trip a year for many years, after only a few weeks of work. It’s still not right, trying to game the system using the disability. The policies at Disney are supposed to level the playing field, so that everyone in a persons party can have equal access to the park and the rides and attractions. NOT to give an advantage to those with $1000 a day to pay someone to use their disability to the advantage of the family paying them.

  20. Also keep in mind that these “disabled tour guides” are no better than a local street hooker – selling their dignity. They also have very dirty hands in this

  21. May I e-mail you too? I have a child with ADHD, ASD and pediatric bipolar and my husband will most likely need some mode of transportation as he can’t walk more than 2 hours w/o a rest (nerve damage).

    Thank you!!!

  22. I work at an amusement park, and we also have passes that accommodate guests with special needs. From what I’ve seen at work, the passes are often somewhat of a hassle for the family, because it is sometimes difficult to obtain seats quickly, or because there are sometimes several people who need access at once. Some of our guests get angry because they believe that guests who require a pass in order to enjoy the rides are just “milking the system,” as you said, and that is grossly unfair. Fortunately we also have many guests who are very understanding and helpful when it comes to accommodating guests who arrive through the exit. I hope you only encounter reasonable people in the future! Some people are just rude and don’t even take time to try to understand your situation, and you shouldn’t have to encounter them, especially when you’re trying to enjoy an outing with your family.

  23. Yes! Just click on the “Contact” button on my navigation bar below my header and email to that address!

  24. This is an amazing post. We too have a medically fragile child that we use a wheelchair to get her around. We even have to consider the temperature at the parks, because of her condition. The last time we were at Disneyland we noticed a group ahead of us that were pushing and older man. When they got to the front of the line, with the pass, the attendant asked how many. THEY SAID 8…WTF. Really 8 of you come on. They were all teenagers with one mom age and grandpa who could care less about being there. Grandpa was in a wheelchair and may have been foaming at the mouth. Come on now really. Grandpa woke up this morning and said lets hot Disneyland…Really…

  25. My son is 3 years old and has been diagnosed with Autism, sensory processing disorder, and a host of allergies. I didn’t think that taking him to Disneyland (or any other amusement park) was ever possible. So far we have just been doing the Zoo, because it is easier him to handle (and usually fewer people). As horrible as it is what people do out there to take advantage of other, it is nice to know that places like Disneyland are trying to help those that actually need it.

  26. I want to commend you on your post. It is so appauling to hear that people would lie just so they can get their perfectly healthy child who has no physical or developmental challenges an easy way to the front of the line. As a parent of a young child with ASD, I can appreciate the need to want to allow my child a fun and memorable experience while visiting an amusement park just like any other child. As a parent if I wish I didn’t have to get an accomodation for my child but if I didn’t, he would not be able to experience the fun and excitement that other kids his age get to experience.

  27. We just used the pass at Disney World and you are so correct that my daughter (non-verbal autism, epilepsy, global developmental delay, global coordination delay). Without this pass her trip would not have been possible since she can only wait about 10 minutes tops.

  28. I have 3 boys with severe autism and we are Disney Annual passholders. This card gives us the opportunity to go to the parks and enjoy ourselves and not have to worry about meltdowns due to long lines. It makes me so angry to see people abusing the system or thinking of it as a “perk”. I would be standing along side them in that regular line if we could.

  29. You make a valid point. What is so wrong with a family making it possible for a special needs person to enjoy Disneyland who otherwise might not be able to? A “family” of more than say four going to the front of the line seems a little silly. This is an interesting topic to bat around.

  30. Valerie: It’s one thing to “sponsor” a special needs individual’s trip to Disneyland. It’s another thing entirely to “hire” one to pose as a family member so that you can abuse an accommodation in place for families who rely on it legitimately. These are two very completely different issues.

  31. I honestly think that the Disney Parks need to go back to the way Walt Disney did it and it was done on our honeymoon 39 years ago. The park was free for everyone, but if you wanted to go on the rides, you had to buy tickets for each ride. There were no lines back then, and no abuse of the ‘special needs’. I have a special needs adult autistic daughter. We have taken her to Disney World and Disneyland, 3 times. We have NEVER asked for special accommodations for her.

    We were appalled back in 1993 when we were visiting Disney World with a friend whose son had broken his arm 2 days before our planned trip. They did not ask for him to go to the front of the line on ANY ride, even though he was in a wheelchair. Here comes a woman of another nationality in a wheelchair with her armed wrapped in an ace bandage that was available in the gift shop. She moaned and groaned and was very loud about how much pain she was in. She was ushered into the line ahead of us along with her 12 ‘immediate family members’.

    Yes, I think the Disney Parks need to go back to the ‘old ways’. If you can’t afford the rides, at least you can get into the Park for free and at least you can take in the atmosphere and eat the fine food.

  32. I am in Canada and we use to visit Canada’s wordier land in Toronto,ON(Vaughan)they use to offer a similar pass to those with disabilities. This year they advised us via a letter addressed to the person with the disability that they are no longer offering this to people with disabilities. They are only offering to give a pass that let’s you not wait in the line. The only reason they are giving is the human rights code allowing everyone “equal access”. Yet if you can afford to buy the $50 a person front of the line pass you can still do it. Apparently when you pay extra $$ the human rights code does not apply to you. VERY FRUSTRATING !!!!!

  33. My 7 year old grandson has aspergers along with other disabilities….and waiting in lines, crowds, loud noises, etc….put him into his “meltdowns” as we call them…thank goodness there are places like Disneyland that offer these express entries….and for the people abusing them…GROW UP…..

  34. Frusterating to hear of this abuse but sadly it doesn’t surprise me. I have not had the chance or money to take my two sons to Disney World yet but am hoping someday to be able to. They both adore Disney but they also both have severe sensory processing issues though and both are on the Autism spectrum (one severe and one mild). On top of that though they both also are thought to have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome because they are sadly starting to walk in the clear path of my history so to speak. I have Ehlers-Danlos and it has crippled me to the point of not even being able to work and to having to struggle with heart attacks, countless dislocations, severe fatigue/weakness, and fragile health. I am only 31.

    The one time I was given the blessing to get to experience Disney World I was 18 years old and my family got one of these passes for me too. We took my best friend aka great grandmother with us too and even though we had a party totaling 6 people, the only ones that used the pass were my grandmother and me and the two people needed to push our wheelchairs. To do anything more just wouldn’t have been right in our eyes so we didn’t.

    I hope that if/when I get to take my sons there, they can enjoy a memory making experience thanks to the helpfulness of these passes and that there won’t be an abundance of abusers trying to take advantage of the system/program. I know that’s dreaming big, but I still hope for it.

  35. To be honest I would just find an activity that doesn’t jeopardize making me look like I’m cheating the system or using a perk since I don’t like making waves, personally, whether I’m in the “right” or not. I know you started off this whole deal with making Disneyland seem like the best thing there is, and I really hate to be “that guy”, but I’m sure there are other activities that your kid could be doing that doesn’t put him in danger of turning inside out (your implication, not mine). You sort of skirt the article to make it seem like your son would just shrivel up and go bonkers if you didn’t have the pass, which is the part that bothers me. Do you think he’d be okay without the pass? The pass is a generous luxury Disney has provided for you, and good them for even having such a thing, some theme parks aren’t so thoughtful. However I don’t really approve of anybody trying to take the podium as the voice of justice for its proper usage. Just use your pass and keep your family business to yourself. Nobody likes watching people get toted to the front of the line, it doesn’t matter if your children have some kind of condition, you’re better off just keeping it to yourself. As you said, you don’t consider yourself lucky and etc, but not everyone sees it like you. Not everyone has disabled children that enable them to (in fact a very small % of people do, so you’re in the minority btw).

    That being said, I agree that it’s preposterous the way people are finding ways to abuse the acquisition and usage of the pass. It’s not your problem though. That’s Disney’s responsibility. In fact, it hardly is even relevant to you, if only because they are utilizing a luxury that you are (let’s just get this out of the way, it *is* a luxury for your son, nobody argued whether it was a luxury or not that you were given a disabled child. The two are very different concepts). Disneyland in itself is a luxury, there’s no “playing field” to be leveled. Your son (disabled or not) is getting a A-1 class experience of Disneyland that other kids don’t have the opportunity to experience (unless they cheat). This can make other kids jealous which leads them to cheat as well. There’s so many reasons why people abuse it, but you will never understand since you are 10 miles off the coast of your own POV in the matter. That doesn’t make it the right thing to do, but let’s try to see both sides of the stick here.

  36. Everyone is looking at the Evil Rich Moms as the only culprit and neglecting to question AT ALL the morality of the Person with a Disability (PWD).
    So a PWD working as a tour guide was willing to pimp out their condition for $1000 a day to people who could afford it.
    Wouldn’t your son/daughter/brother/whatever benefit from a little additional income?
    Concert sold out but wheelchair tickets (1 + support worker/carer) still available? Pimp out your disability for a free ticket at premium prices!
    How about parking? Hire out to ride around with a courier so they can legally use disabled parking spots all day!
    Or maybe you feel morally obliged to do the right thing?

    The writer is a paraplegic from Spinal Cord Injury. Yes, REALLY disabled, but perhaps less than those with mental problems. Which doesn’t mean I’m going to let your kid with Autism go first.

  37. Really Sam? A pissing contest over who is more “disabled?” Really??!!


  38. Sam, I’m confused as to whether your comment is sarcastic. I’m going to go on the assumption it is NOT and ask you: What would YOU do if you were the PWD? I think it’s difficult to frame any cogent argument about what the average PWD (or any person) might do in a one-off situation. However, the person in this instance happens to WORK for, nay be part owner of, a company which specializes in travel services for people with special needs. “…Dream Tours in Florida, which on its website claims to provide “quality based, memorable, and affordable vacations, to people with special needs.” ‘ (This is an excerpt from the article linked above.)

    So, no, this person isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their heart or even to facilitate a much-desired but ill-afforded outing to Disneyland. Plain and simple, she’s “pimping” her disability. It’s despicable; it’s actions like this which set the disability rights movement back. There are people with all manner of disabilities, obvious and not so obvious, who work hard every day to be treated with dignity and respect and to be able to access things non-disabled people take for granted. INCLUDING LEISURE ACTIVITES such as going to Disneyland.

    I guess it’s a very good thing you aren’t in charge of Disney’s policies about guess access passes; you don’t get a choice about who goes first. I can only hope you aren’t in a position to determine more important issues, possibly affecting life and death, based on your misperceptions and personal biases. Statements like yours, comparing degrees of disability and rendering implicit value judgments, are the reason people with disabilities need to continue to fight for rights.

  39. So let me get this straight, just because you have an disability that people can see and children who have Autism have a disability that people can’t see, you trump them? How does that logic work? Just because a disability is not seen physically, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I would love for you to say what you just said to all those who are suffering an “Invisible” Illness and have a disability because of it. This is why the handicap have such a hard time with acceptance. You can’t even start with yourselves, regardless on what the disability is.

    The writer is a mother of THREE special needs children that are disabled. Who does see equality for those with every kind of disabilities. Mental, Developmental and Physical.

  40. So, what are you saying, that a child who needs accommodation but doesn’t have a disability that most people can see or understand should not be taken to Disneyland or other challenging outings, because other people will be jealous that they are skipping the lineup? This would limit a lot of people’s activities considerably. Is jealousy that leads to them cheating the fault of legitimate use of the special pass? That would be blaming the parents of the special needs child for everything. First, for daring to bring their child to a place that would otherwise be inaccessible (without the use of the pass) then for upsetting other kids and adults by using the pass, then for causing the jealousy that apparently causes others to cheat. Very nice. I only have an autistic kid for the perks, of course. If not, I would have to hire a disabled person to go to Disneyland with. Because that’s why I had him diagnosed, for the perks.

  41. I’m having a hard time following your line of thinking. I think Disney is a luxury for anyone. The playing field that needs to be leveled, that I think you’re not seeing, is that for some people or children, they simply can not access the park without specialized assistance. How can my son have an A-1 experience when he can’t walk? When he can’t talk? I can tell you, my child could not make it through the park without some kind of additional support and by getting a pass I would not be enabling him….I would be providing him something that he otherwise could not obtain on his own. I suppose all the other kids should be jealous of that.

  42. I’m having a hard time following your line of thinking. I think Disney is a luxury for anyone. The playing field that needs to be leveled, that I think you’re not seeing, is that for some people or children, they simply can not access the park without specialized assistance. How can my son have an A-1 experience when he can’t walk? When he can’t talk? I can tell you, my child could not make it through the park without some kind of additional support and by getting a pass I would not be enabling him….I would be providing him something that he otherwise could not obtain on his own. I suppose all the other kids should be jealous of that.

  43. Disneyland is a choice. Nobody is forcing her to take her children to Disneyland. She utilizes a special pass that Disneyland themselves qualified her children for…none of this is a bad thing but it’s all Disneyland’s discretion. If they wanted to hand out front of the line passes to people with lazy eyes, they could if they wanted to. Nobody is going to argue that being given autistic children 3 times in a row (I’d say after the 3rd autistic child you might hold the line a little bit, but it’s your life) is somewhat unfortunate. The ironic part is one of her arguments against people seeing it as a “perk” is using her own children as an example. Her children should really be her blessing, they really should just be a “perk” to her life in general, yet she uses them as a scapegoat to not be fielded with those improperly utilizing the pass.

    “I do not consider my childrens’ autism a perk”, she says. Okay then. I don’t think anybody would find that to be a perk. The autism is not the perk. The pass is. So if the pass is not a perk…then what is it? It’s certainly not leveling any playing field. Disneyland isn’t a competition, it’s a choice anyone can make to experience or not. There’s no winners or losers. That’s the only environment where a level playing field is necessary. They simply get the front of the line. This pass would only really be necessary if the kid would all the sudden become a danger to himself or those around him if he didn’t get to the front of the line. Otherwise…why not just figure out a fun activity that he enjoys without any odds or ends attached?

    I question his “need” for this accommodation, and yes, I do blame the parent. Who else is to blame for a child that can barely think for themselves? At the end of the day, they’re utilizing a “perk” that Disneyland offers to those less fortunate, and that category encompasses a great deal of conditions that their child/children happen to fall in to…so good for them *that they get the pass*. Again, nobody says they believe the child having autism is the perk.

  44. Thanks for posting this article. Were visiting Disney in july And was going to apply for these passes as our son is autistic and finds it difficult to cue for long periods. He also finds a lot of the sounds associated with these rides difficult too.After reading these newspaper articles i did feel as though i would be seen as just ‘scamming ‘ better tickets.

  45. I know that some peoples enjoyment of the park could possibly be hinged on the pass. That’s not even in question.

    The point is that the pass is a dang perk. There’s no amount of self loathing that will change that. Disneyland could just not offer it, and what then? However, they do, and you take full advantage of it…that’s not a *bad* thing. It’s just how it works. The whole thing I have against the article is attacking people for improperly using the pass when it’s not her job to do so, and the pass is simply a luxury. It’s like she’s saying “Hey, only us with *real* debilitated children get to use this”. It’s a weird & ironic form of attention getting that can press a nerve.

    It’s sort of like “backseat” moderation. It’s not like what she’s saying is incorrect (in that it’s not right for people to abuse the pass), but it’s irritating to everyone else. Let Disney handle the problem with their own discretion…

    Though I think the real solution starts at trying to find an activity that doesn’t involve much walking or talking for a kid who can’t do either, instead of arbitrarily trying to find work arounds to allow them to do such things…why not keep them in their comfort zone?

  46. Very well said Jo. My wife and I have a special needs daughter who is 18 now and the guest assistance pass has been a lifesaver for us. The first time we took our kids to Disneyland about 10 years ago it was a nightmare waiting in line while trying to keep her calm. Like you said while others might perceive it as a “perk”, they don’t realize that all it’s really doing is allowing you to enjoy a “normal” family vacation.

  47. Unfortunately it’s often difficult to say who is disabled and who isn’t. For example, I am recovering from recent spinal issues that made it nearly impossible for me to even get out of bed for weeks. Walking to the bathroom was agony. Through physical therapy I have gotten to the point where I can walk relatively pain free but standing for more than a couple of minutes is near impossible. So, my family is visiting and I’m going to disneyland with them, with a note from my doctor describing the situation. If you looked at me you’d think, “why is that guy in a scooter and why does he need a pass?” Especially since walking comes easily now. But the reality is, standing in a hour long line isn’t feasible for me. So I guess the point is, don’t be deceived by what you see. I used to look at people with disgust just because they appeared to be fine. I was sure they were taking advantage of the system. What this spinal ordeal has made me realize is that there are all types of disabilities, some more visible than others and I have learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. I look forward to the days (hopefully in the near future) when I can stand in line again because that means the days of pain are behind me…and I say to you don’t judge on the appearance of somebody, disabilities come in all shapes an sizes. I actually consider myself lucky because my condition is not permanent, but it’s nice that I can still go to disneyland with family that I rarely see despite having this temporary problem.

  48. Very well spoke and absolutely right on the mark!! It even gets harder as they get older…our Son is now 22 yrs old with Aspergers, or now an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and by appearance it is pretty difficult to tell but this Guest Assistance Pass made all the difference in the world for him to be able to enjoy the Disney Magic like the rest of his fellow disabled benafactors! Hahaha…on top of that my wife is also disabled so for us to really enjoy Disneyland this is the only solution or option! The issue is that it again gets more difficult to get as they get older and are perceived differently. The disability doesn’t go away as the get older!! Thanks for the letter and glad you were (are) able to enjoy Walt Disney’s dream!

  49. My son and I are headed to Disneyland next week. He’s autistic and yes the pass helps a great deal. If not we would never go. The only thing that really sucks is that we really never get to meet the characters because of the waiting and also the parades and fireworks. So, we have never enjoyed Disney like you should. Last year he had a meltdown waiting to meet Mickey, the Princsses, etc…it would be really nice to have something set up for that. My son owns most of the Disney DVDs and he has most of the characters and it sucks that he can’t meet them because he has to wait such a long time.

  50. My daughter’s comfort zone involves playing with her iPad in her room. If I didn’t take her out of her comfort zone, she wouldn’t see the Speech Therapist or go to school. You are implying that parents are being irresponsible with their kids who have special needs by taking them to Disneyland and allowing them to enjoy an experience that many other children are able to enjoy.

    My daughter is 8. She has Down Syndrome. She loves Disneyland. She asks to go every day. She does need extra help at Disneyland. We get a GAC to avoid waiting in the same line as a large crowded group of people where she can get overstimulated and end up having a meltdown. These meltdowns can be upsetting to other kids around her. We do not ask to go to the front of the line. What we request is that we are able to wait in an alternate area until it’s our turn. In practice, Disney employees generally let you go to the front of the line because it would be difficult to keep track of the time we are waiting. It is not our fault that this is what generally happens, because it’s not the GAC policy.

    We are very grateful that we have the means and opportunity to allow her this special joy. We are grateful that Disneyland gives this opportunity to us. It’s what keeps us coming back. Yes, I am angry that people would abuse the system because it’s immoral. Even if it didn’t affect me, I think cheating is wrong.

  51. And not only wealthy individuals cheat the system. At Six Flags recently, I wondered how large groups of teenagers had access passes. It seems like the word got out that anyone can ask for a pass, and Six Flags personnel informed me that legally they are not able to ask the individual if they are really disabled, or what their disability is. Therefore large groups (10-12) of these teenagers gather at the ride exits, blocking the way for those who really do need the special assistance. I wonder what their parents would think, or would they really care?

  52. As a young adult with mental and physical disabilities who happens to love disneyland AND work with special needs children as a part-time job, it disgusts me that people would hire someone just to cut a line. I’ve had my Disney trips fall to pieces because of my disabilities which doesn’t just waste my money, it also ruins the trip for whoever is with me.
    The guest assistance pass has helped me be able to access disneyland just like any normal young adult would be able to whether I’m with a friend or with my family. I can actually last most of a day instead of only lasting three or four hours.
    I completely agree with your position and think you have every right to be angry and frustrated.

  53. What it all boils down to is that the law says that you can’t ask for “a doctor’s note” saying you need special accommodation. Because it might be “embarrassing” to show that to ONE cast member who is writing you a pass, but you’re OK with the looks from the 100 people you just walked past to the front of the line? Those who NEED the pass are NOT embarrassed to ask for the GAC. It’s those who can’t get a doc note that know that no one can legally ask them for it who have ruined this for those who have been taking their kids who are used to going and being able to ride Jungle Cruise NOW, because they can NOT process the whole “waiting” thing, that won’t be able to do that any longer. And that is sad. Because those parents would have likely been glad to show the doctor’s note to keep their kid able to enjoy the Disney parks. I guess the only good thing to come of this is that everyone will be treated equally. Equally good or equally bad remains to be seen. But I know when I wanted to access a “stair free” ramp at WDW, I was told that unless I had a GAC or a wheelchair, I could not use the ramp. There was no line for the train. There were less than a dozen people up in the station. I wasn’t asking to board ahead of them. I was asking to walk up a sloping surface because my right knee cannot handle more than a few stairs. At Disneyland, the ramps all lead to the same entrance at the train station. Forcing me to obtain a GAC to be able to use a ramp instead of the stairs (which was only needed for TWO attractions, but gave me unlimited GAC access to the wheelchair lines, had I wished to use it) is why they are having to change the process. Unfortunately, because of ADA rules, they can’t go to a middle ground and ask for some kind of verification that special assistance is required, so they have to go a full 180 and say that everybody will now get mediocre assistance because it is all that is required by law. The few bad apples have, once again, ruined it for everyone.

  54. Yep. That’s the problem. Because of the internet, everybody knows that you can get a pass at the parks because they can’t ask you for proof, so these selfish brats who think that their time is way more valuable than everyone else’s are screwing it up for those who really DO need this service.

  55. Just wanted to ask, is a photo of your son being used on the Dream Tours website? On page two of photos under the Orlando, Fl photos?

  56. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this informing article. I wish I could print this out and post it at the exit of all the Disneyland rides so all that know they are abussing these accomodations can maybe feel a little bad while waiting in line. My son has Cerebral Palsy and although he in considered high function he too has trouble walking and has no concept of time. He cannot stand in long lines and gets overwhelmed with crowds. I cant help but get so pissed when I see teens and people who clearly dont need it taking advantage of this Guest Assistance Pass and making it harder for our kids to get through the lines. I have actually had my husband carry our son through the regular lines because it was actually faster!!!I know that there is no real way to monitor these people but I would hope that their own guilt would be enough. Guess not. Your son is beautful by the way. Both your children are. We too have annual passes and hope to see you there some time.

  57. So you knew that people of all economic classes abuse the guest assistance passes, and yet you chose to single out the wealthy anyway. By doing so you unnecessarily added a political element to your post and potentially alienated half of your audience. Your post would have been more powerful without the “1-percent” bashing, quite honestly.

  58. I would rather they allow people to misuse the passes rather than take the program away from those who really need it. Like your beautiful son!
    It’s a shame that it has to be an issue. Karma will eventually catch up to those who abuse it. The only ones suffering here are the innocent souls who deserve our compassion.

  59. Was it really necessary to point out she was from another nationality?? If anything sounds like an “Only in America” type case to me

  60. of course it doesn’t apply as its offered at a cost to everyone! It’s not their fault if someone can’t afford it and most defiantly does not breech the human rights code. I do however thinks its complete BS to take away what was once offered

  61. You are so right! This woman is VERY LUCKY Disney offer this pass and by saying she’s not I find her ungrateful. Of course its not lucky to have disabled child at all but that is not what is being talked about, its the pass that is. Some completely able bodied kids will never be lucky enough to go to Disneyland let alone multiple times without waiting in line.

    I also think your right in saying other activities would be more suitable. Some people think its their right to go to Disneyland but guess what a lot of children never go and they get over it. Also I see that most of the parents commenting state they know their child doesn’t like crowds so why the hell would you take your child to Disneyland?! Ive been enough times to expect crowds that would give even the most social person anxiety! Are you really giving your child a great experience or is it the parent just causing hassle with the child so they can get to the front without the parent having to deal with an issue?!

  62. How do you know that all the “pass abuses” you glare at don’t have disabilities?! That teenage girl who’s laughing with her friends could be having one day out of a usual nightmare medical condition. This article had a lot of potential as it is wrong people are abusing the system but you clearly have a stick up somewhere with wealthy people and well anyone that isn’t you that stems way past a Disney pass

  63. A) I just learned this WAS something we would have been eligible for on our previous trips to Disney and let me say WOW! This would have saved us a lot of heartache as my little guy had a hard time with becoming overwhelmed at times. He has SPD. We worked through it with the condecending “Your kid is a brat” stares during meltdowns. Believe me, I have developed the World’s greatest stink-eye to return while snuggling, compressing, entertaining, singing, and generally distrating my “brat”.
    B) We may not have known about this or participated but I know there are many families who have. I would actually pay extra (not that I should have to) for this for my kid so that he could feel “typical” and enjoy one freakin’ stress free day for once.
    Disney accomodated many of his sensory needs while we stayed on Disney property, because we asked. But this is something they have clearly dropped the ball on. There has to be a better soution that a bunch of jerks ruin it for all the honest people.
    Sorry for the bad grammar – typing furiously.

  64. I have been reading back through some of the previous comments. Some of the posters have clearly had no interaction with people with any sort of spectrum disorder. MANY children and adults with autisim and sensory processing disorder are not only able to think for themselves, they are off the charts geniuses. There are things that their brain does not process in the typical way. That doesn’t make them stupid or non-functional in makes them different. There was a person on here whom, if I remember correctly, was a parapallegic. I believe his thoughts function quite normally, or maybe because he cannot process sense of touch in the typical fashion, he is damaged too? (That was sarcasm.)
    My son has a photographic memory – which means his brain takes in EVERYTHING, all sights, sounds, smells, feelings, he weight of his body on the Earth, etc. This means his in-box is always overflowing. He can tell you almost everything about a trip to Disney….
    when he was 11 months old.
    His best friend is autistic and excels at sports…he is bad at vocabulary and his speech is a little behind. He is a whiz at electronics and is a phenomenal problem solver.
    So when you are thinking “those kids are fine…there’s nothing wrong with them.” You are absolute correct.

  65. It wasn’t the “cheaters” who ruined it for the disabled. In fact, nothing was “ruined” for the disabled when this system was changed. There is no law that disabled individuals should be given extra privileges, just equal access. Disney went above and beyond that by giving extra privileges for decades. Then as Americans got fatter, people kept reproducing, medical science got better, and international tourism got more prevalent, people who qualified as disabled started to grow in number, live longer, and travel more. The number of disabled park visitors grew too large, making too many people “special,” and when everyone is special, nobody can be special. The system of extra privileges was unsustainable. The only options were to make the disabled have to wait like everyone else, or to make everyone else who paid to get into the park have to wait an unacceptable amount of time to do anything, e.g. 2-3 hours per attraction. Disney opted for the solution that gets ALL its guests through the rides as quickly as possible.

    The simple fact is this: The disabled were getting preferential treatment before. Now they simply get the same experience as everyone else, IE waiting for rides. The only difference is that able-bodied people have to physically wait in a line, while disabled people get the extra accommodation of doing their waiting somewhere that is more comfortable for them. The people who are mad about the change are mad because they’re experiencing Disney the way everyone else has to (IE not quite as fun), instead of getting a free pass to easy street for having a disability.

    -A disabled veteran and happy patron of Disney parks.

  66. Wow…. such an inspiring blog. Our son was recently diagnosed with ASD, and every point made hits home. Thank you for sharing. For those who take advantage or do not see the special gift our children are, shame on you.

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