Disney and Disabilities

Nothing to proveDisney has just announced a change to their policy regarding guests with disabilities.  In the past, a guest with a disability and their family could go to the front of the line, that policy has now changed so that guests with disabilities will receive a pass with a time to enter so that they don’t have to wait online.

Some say that this change happened because of abuse of the policy.  Other say that the number of disabled people makes it untenable [TW for OMG Deatfatz language.]  This idea quickly led to people complaining that it was all fat people’s fault because too many fat people were requiring accommodations.  I don’t know if this is based in reality but let’s just pretend that it is.

First of all, let’s be clear that Disney does not require any proof of disability and I think that’s the best possible idea.  The concepts  of “able-bodied” or “disabled” are flexible based on circumstances.  Someone in a wheelchair might have no problem waiting for 2 hours in a line, whereas someone with Autism may find it unbearable. Someone may have no problems walking around on a day to day basis, but be unable to walk the miles required to get around Disney.  In the case of Disney, a person is required to be able to travel long distances and stand in long lines, some of which are at an incline, in the heat.

If someone isn’t able to do that, for whatever reason, then they have a disability in that space and I think that they should get reasonable accommodations with absolutely no shame or blame or drama.  Whether it’s a scooter, a place in line that’s guaranteed, a folding chair to carry around, food that doesn’t contain something to which they are allergic, etc.  I’m for places being as accessible as possible to the largest number of people, and if that means that I wait in line a little longer or navigate a path that includes people who are walking and rolling then that’s absolutely fine.

Based on the comments I read, most people seem to agree with me about this, except when it comes to fat people, who they seem to think don’t deserve basic accommodations.  One comment I read was from a woman who claimed that her father had arthritis and had therefore “earned” a scooter while “it would do some good” for the fat woman in front of her to have to walk.

First of all, obviously it’s inappropriate to assume that because someone is fat and disabled, then their disability is caused by their fat.  It’s also not appropriate to assume that a person’s size is their “fault” and is changeable.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say a fat person’s size is their fault, is changeable and is causing their disability.  So the fuck what?   If they are heading to Disney World they should get shame-free reasonable accommodations. Maybe that woman’s dad has arthritis because of sports injuries, or because he did 100 skydives or who knows what – I still think that guy should get a scooter.

The idea that people with disabilities should have to prove that their disability isn’t their fault is horrifying.   So if someone was hit by a drunk driver they deserve a wheelchair but if they got distracted and hit a tree they should…what…crawl around?  If someone injured themselves because they fell down icy stairs is that an accident or is it their fault because they shouldn’t have been walking down icy stairs?  If someone’s disability could be cured by a risky procedure that fails the vast majority of the time, are they obligated to try that procedure or they don’t get reasonable accommodations? Who is the Disability Decider?

Nobody is the Disability Decider because the whole idea is bullshit.  If someone is at Disney World (or wherever) today with a disability, it shouldn’t matter whether the disability is their fault, and they should be given reasonable accommodations for where they are today – not where someone thinks they could or should be. No shame, no blame, no drama.

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51 thoughts on “Disney and Disabilities

  1. Though I am fat, there are also plenty of people out there like me with “invisible illnesses.” Someone might look perfectly healthy (in other words, thin and not obviously disabled) and be in excruciating pain.

    We never know what another individual feels or deals with just by looking at them… this applies to everyone, not just fat people. I’d be in pain even if I were thin. Fibromyalgia doesn’t discriminate.

    Neither should random strangers.

  2. Interesting. I hadn’t heard anything about fat people. I only heard that it was people abusing the policy and going over and over in the handi-capable short-line, while everyone else could barely get one turn after hours of waiting. This assignment of time allows only one turn on a specific ride, so far as I can tell. Again, haven’t heard anything about fat people until your blog.

  3. I thought Disney redid their disability policy because of the people “renting” disabled people to cut lines.

    Either way, great points.

  4. I think a major reason for this policy change had to do with people abusing the system for personal gain… individuals would acquire a disability pass and then “sell” their services as a “disabled guide” for a day or a series of days to able-bodied visitors who wanted to jump the lines. Here’s a story about it:

    My understanding is that Disney didn’t want to put people in the position of having to “prove” their disability, so they shifted to this reservation-type system so that they could still accommodate people who need accommodation while discouraging those unscrupulous folks who were abusing the system.

    But it doesn’t shock me in the least that — despite the publicity around the issue — fat people are getting blamed for this change…. *sigh*.

    1. That’s what I was about to say. There was this big news expose, on NATIONAL TV, about this. They even showed a “guide” abusing the system.

      This has nothing to do with fat people and, even if a bunch of fat people DID need accommodations, that wouldn’t make a difference.

      But, stupid haters will be stupid haters so…

  5. I believe the policy was changed because people of “means” were hiring disabled people in order to get the pass to the front of the line.

  6. Sounds an awful lot like people acting like little kids crying “No Fair!” to me. I think a lot of people who are into fat shaming are unhappy people who want to make others unhappy. Misery loves company.

  7. The lack of empathy is appalling. Once can never know another’s circumstances. It is the best policy not to judge.

  8. Amen, baby. I’m disabled AND fat. Two distinct things. And it’s nobody else’s fucking business. I have avoided Disney, not knowing of accommodations it provides. This is excellent news to me.

  9. I had no idea about the fat part of it, but I do remember reading an article about the whole illegal business that popped up in/outside the park to abuse the privilege. Whole families would hire someone “disabled” (for x amount of money) and that disabled person would escort them through the park and get them to the front of the line every time. Crazy.

  10. This attitude (the general public one, not Regan’s) is precisely the reason my husband hates to use his handicapped placard for his car.

    He has a severe heart condition. He’s not supposed to carry heavy objects, especially over distances. He sometimes cannot walk far, if he’s having a bad day.

    It took me and his best friend six years to convince him to even talk to his doctor about getting a placard, and now he’s extremely hesitant to use it at all.

    Why? Because he can walk, and he knows that people can see that he’s fat, and he worries that they’ll harass him for taking the spot from a ‘real’ handicapped person by being all fat at them.

    We’re not Disney people, but even if we were and even if we could afford to go, I know he wouldn’t dare ask about taking advantage of any program to help him with his mobility or cut his time in lines for fear of being treated like he was taking the privilege away from someone who needed it more than he appeared to.

    1. Yep, going through this with my 85 yr old fat mom. She says her Dr. told her the placards are for folks who “really need it”. So she can just stay home and not see the concert she wants to because there are no non-disabled parking places within blocks?
      The self-policing is so sad!
      Grr. And I am certain that there is something of being a good fatty in all of that.

      1. I have a friend who is in her 50’s who keeps getting denied by her MD for a placard. She has damage to her legs and a shoulder caused by BEING HIT AND DRAGGED BY A CAR. She also happens to be very fat, but before her injury took the bus every day to her job on her feet as a hairdresser. I would like to smack her doc upside the head but friend won’t tell me who it is (probably because I would proceed with the head smacking).

    2. Your husband sounds like me a while back.I finally was persuaded to get a placard when a friend who had recovered from a brain aneurysm pointed out to me that she can stand longer and walk farther than I can, but that her doc insisted she have the placard because of the hidden disability. So (she argued) I SHOULD have one too.

      I was afraid, still am afraid, of attracting comments about my fat, but the good news is that I’ve gotten very little of it. My life is MUCH better for my decision to use the placard and use the scooter on occasion. Weirdly enough, I get better treatment when I’m on the scooter than when I’m on my cane.

  11. Too bad people feel the need to pick apart and complain about a change in policy that Disney made to make things better in light of different abuses and complaints.

    I agree with the invisible illness/disability thing. One should not have to prove a disability in order to get service.

    As for the ‘being fat’ isn’t a disability and we should not be in scooters or wheelchairs because we haven’t earned it… well, since I have been forced to be inactive and have zero pressure on my foot during healing from surgery, my weight has climbed by almost 30 pounds. Granted, I haven’t changed my eating habits to balance against my chance in activity… but I should not be assumed that I’m in the wheelchair because I’m fat. Either way, judging people based on appearances is just wrong.

    1. Hear, Hear! And you don’t even have to justify to yourself why you didn’t change your eating habits. IT DOESN’T MATTER! That’s the gift I’m getting from reading these blogs – the affirmation that I can do exactly what I want without explaining it away. Gaining thirty pounds isn’t a crime. It’s not a failure. It’s not a misbehavior. It’s nothing at all. Rock it, Susan! Enjoy getting used around in the wheelchair. Feel like a Queen!

  12. I admit to being guilty of this sometimes myself. I’m well aware of invisible disabilities — my stepdad may look like he’s using a scooter because of his weight, but in reality he has serious heart problems and uses a prosthetic to walk.

    But on our last Disney trip, we were waiting behind a man getting on a bus trying to properly secure his cart. He was having a lot of trouble, and I didn’t mind waiting, even at the end of a long, hot day. But then he got frustrated with parking the scooter properly and proceeded to get off it, pick it up, and secure it that way. I know it doesn’t mean he’s not disabled, but people do wonder if you’re scamming the system when they see things like that.

    The worst part of this, though, is that now people WILL have to start justifying their disabilities, just because people felt entitled to buy their way past a line. And that will just lead to more fat-shaming and questioning of people as to whether their disability is “real” or “their own fault”.

    1. There’s nothing to be guilty about, Laney, we all suspect people of cheating the system occasionally. I recently decided that whatever goes on in my head is my own business and can’t hurt anyone else, and whatever’s going in other people’s heads is their own business and can’t hurt anyone else, as long as it stays in the head:) I’ve discovered that it becomes a lot easier to like yourself when you accept that thoughts are just thoughts – not words or actions – and sometimes they don’t even mean anything.

      1. Thank you for that! It’s often hard to remember that I’m not responsible for what crosses my mind, just what comes out of my mouth. It really would have been a transgression if I’d gone off on the man, who probably really did have a legit disability that wasn’t apparent.

  13. I was at Disney World last Febuary, with family. I had rented a scooter, went to guest services & asked for/recied a Guest Assistance Card. This did allow myself & family to “jump the line”. I can’t stand very well or very long & I have to watch out for getting hot. The GAC card was AWSOME! We usually walked right onto a ride & the employees almost always had my scooter waiting at the exit for me.
    Shortly after we were there, we heard stories about people “hiring” people with disabilities to go with them to Disney so they could fast pass the family through the lines!! Want to “blame” someone? Try those who blatantly abused the system!!!

  14. I am glad to hear that Disney has disability accommodations. Gives me hope that someday I may be able to go. I know that alot of people look at me and think oh she is fat and that is why she has to use an electric cart to get around the grocery store. but as one person said…. they can’t see the illness inside. yes being over weight may aggravate some of my issues but no matter what i weigh I will still have unseen illness that make mobility a problem. some days are worse than others. some days I can walk into the grocery store but can’t handle walking all around the store. some days even riding the cart hurts me and I can hardly move when leaving. My point… NO ONE KNOWS WHAT ANOTHER PERSON IS GOING THROUGH. SO DON’T JUDGE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE PERSON’S WHOLE STORY. Kudos for Disney for helping the disabled be able to enjoy their fantasy land just like others can.

  15. I am in a wheelchair (due to a head-on car wreck 20 years ago) and fat. The wheelchair isn’t because I’m fat (I have paralysis), the fat is because of the wheelchair (and other health issues that cropped up after my wreck). BUT, I have people who approach me every day with the, “She’s just too lazy to walk because she’s fat” and “If you would just get out of the chair and exercise” (trust me, I would LOVE to be free of this wheelchair!!!).

    Until you walk a mile in another person’s shoes, you should NEVER judge. EVER.

    1. People certainly make some very bizarre assumptions. I’ve never known anyone who was so lazy that they never wanted to walk anywhere for any length of time ever, and I don’t believe such people even exist. Besides, navigating a wheelchair (especially around other people and things) probably presents its own challenges.
      It reminds me of people who decide that homeless individuals don’t work because they’re lazy. I can’t even imagine how much work it must be to live on the streets, getting enough to eat, keeping warm in winter, staying adequately hydrated in summer, avoiding danger… not to mention all the shame and stigma, no one would choose that. And I don’t care how lazy someone is, most people want to get a shower or a bath at least some of the time… no one is that lazy that they’d prefer to sit in their own dirt and beg people for money or food. And yes, sometimes they spend the money on drugs or booze. It’s called addiction and they can’t defeat it on their own, while living on the streets.

        1. Good point, xeno! It’s appalling how minimum waged jobs don’t provide people with the basic means to live.

          1. Minimum wage? Hell, you need a good fifteen an hour in TULSA to really get by! And we’ve got some of lowest urban cost of living in the entire US!

  16. I think that this attitude about fat people and disabilities inhibits me from going out and about as much as I might. My family and friends urge me to get a scooter so that I can do more. But I resist. I have breathing issues but can still walk short distances. I want to walk as much as I can. Thank you Ragan for opening up this discussion. It’s an issue, as noted in other comments, for which I need to develop more confidence. Next time I am at a store with scooters, and I am riding one, I will remember this support. I admit that my fat prejudice fighting has been more on the side of proving I can make it without the scooter. As in, “see that fat woman, she is so fit.” Unfortunately, I am not she.

    1. Seconded, Judi. You and Ragen got me thinking, and I think a combination of pride, shame, and fear is what kept me from mailing in the disabled parking permit application my pain specialist gave me earlier this year. I think I know where it is, so I think it’s time to find it and see if it’s still valid. Hell, if an average person woke up one day to my life, I’m honestly not sure what would send them to the ER first: the invisible and absolutely crippling pain itself, or suicide watch from medication overdose. (I take a lot of really nasty drugs, including amphetamines to counteract the sedative effects of multiple drugs that were first developed as anti-seizure medications. It’s a damned good thing I’m no longer actively suicidal 24/7.)

      Now I just have to get over my pride. I mean, fuck the haters. I can say, “Oh, you did NOT say that to me!” It’s harder to hang a handicapped placard on my rear view mirror and know I’m doing it because I have to. (I can walk just fine most days, or fake it pretty well–yesterday, I even managed four hours in heels. It’s the odd bad one that gets to me, and I’ve never been one to give in without a dirty fight.)

  17. I’m not surprised someone somewhere blames fat people for this, even if they weren’t the problem.

    Two things to share.

    One, and this was years ago, I ran across a blog about four people going to Disney. Two of the men were tall, heavy men (not super-fat, but fat) and there were some rides they simply couldn’t go on because of their size. That had never occurred to me and I don’t know how it is these days.

    Two, a friend of mine who is in a chair went to buy shoes. The two people who were helping her (men, I think) not only asked how she became disabled (privacy invasion) but expressed appreciation for her use of a mechanical chair instead of an electric one, like some lazy disabled people do. Apparently there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ disabled people too. *rolls eyes*

    1. I use a manual and an electric wheelchair. The injuries from my wreck were substansial (I was in intensive care for 3 months), and some of my injuries were missed or completely skipped over because there were worse issues. Both of my shoulders being broke was one of the skipped issues (so they didn’t heal correctly), so using a manual chair in the house is do-able – but not when shopping at the mall. I have gotten the ‘lazy’ comments from folks for the electric chair as well, which hurts.

      1. People are jerks. My friend was friends with the electric wheelchair user these folks were complaining about, someone who worked in the store’s office. Complaints were made.

      2. My advice would be to tell people who make hurtful comments to fuck off. If they’re not willing to treat others with decency, respect and compassion they deserve none.

        Maybe I’m just extra crabby today because I’ve been sick for a week, but there is no excuse for making disparaging comments to people. Bullies need to be held accountable for their behavior.

        Or, perhaps you could “accidentally” run over their foot with your wheelchair. I’m kidding. Sorta.

  18. Even if being fat was in and of itself a disability (which it isn’t), and even if it was always caused by poor lifestyle choices (which it isn’t), fat individuals would still deserve to be treated with basic respect, like anyone else with a disability. People end up with disabilities and impairments for all kinds of different reasons. Some people are born without certain limbs. Some people must have certain limbs amputated due to rare medical conditions. And some people lose limbs from climbing Everest or doing other similar wilderness adventures. Neither one of them is any better than the other or any more deserving of proper medical treatment and accommodations. It doesn’t matter if I, or anyone else, personally can’t understand being willing to risk life and limb to climb a mountain (and I don’t understand it, to be honest). People are free to make their own choices and take their own risks so long as they aren’t harming or endangering others. Illness and physical disabilities are not punishments doled out by self-righteous gods to those who have done wrong or made poor personal life choices.

  19. OT, but this seemed like a good thread to ask:

    I nanny a 3 year old, and he is starting to notice that people come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and physical mobility. Being three, he asks me about these things loudly and insistently. When he noticed a woman in a wheelchair at the store, he was very curious. I answered his questions quietly but not in a whisper as if it was secret or bad. I told him there are many reasons people can’t use their legs or bodies the way he does, and that a wheelchair helps people move around. He wanted to know if it was like riding in the stroller. I said some people can’t walk using their legs at all, but some only need a ride for long walks, just like him. He was satisfied. I hope I gave him the right impression. Any advice here about other approaches/things to say, or not to say, would be very welcome.

    1. It sounds like you handled it just right. The main point is that the way a person gets around isn’t better or worse, it just is. Bonus points for not whispering or making him feel embarrassed about his curiosity.

  20. Interesting that this came up about Disney today. For the record, I am not a “disney person” and don’t personally enjoy their entertainment or parks for myriad reasons.

    That said, Disney has earned (?) a reputation for offering accessiblity as part of their widely known customer service. I am hosting a client dinner at a conference for educators supporting technology for students with disabilities in Anaheim in two weeks. Based on the reputation for great service for all, I tried to book a private dining room at Disney. Two call each to three venues with the time, date, number of guests and access requirements. NO RESPONSE over a 6 week period. Not a call back, nuttin.

    I fortunately found a nice place elsewhere who can work with my clients physical and dietary needs and still provide a pampering, pleasant festive environment. Disney didn’t get any points from me for their service this time. Anybody else experienced recent slippage in the famous Disney veneer of welcome? Just wondering……….

    1. I’ve been to both Disneyland and Disney World. In my experience, Disney WORLD definitely seems more accommodating when it comes to people with special needs whether those are dietary or mobility-related.

  21. I’ve been reading this blog for a many weeks now but this is my first actual post. I just returned from a trip to Disney World in Orlando less than a week ago. Of the 8 days we were there, I rented an ECV for 4 of them. Having been there many times, I knew which parks I could navigate without one (Studios and Magic Kingdom) and which ones are nearly impossible for me (Epcot & Animal Kingdom). The first day I didn’t rent one since we got there later in the day and I didn’t want to spend the money. I use a fitbit and logged over 15,000 steps and 6.6 miles that day. It must have been the adrenaline of that “first day of vacation”. The next day I felt pretty good but the day after that, I could barely get out of bed. It was going to be an ECV day.

    I’ve used the special “pass” on one trip when I blew out my knee 2 days before the trip and literally couldn’t walk more than a few feet at a time. Since that trip, my knee (even post-surgery) has never felt good enough to walk the entire trip. I take it day to day and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I feel absolutely no shame in using it when I need it. That being said, I try not to abuse it. I’ll happily wait in line if the queue is large enough to pass through with my ECV. If it’s a short line (less than 30 minutes) I’ll park it and stand in line.

    What people often don’t realize (or at least don’t grasp completely) until they are there is that Disney World is GINORMOUS!!! People who are in the best shape still walk out of there limping and tired. How do you think someone with bad joints is going to fare? On the days when I didn’t use the ECV, I was cranky and miserable by the end of the day. It’s my vacation. I want to be happy and comfortable. I want to enjoy that beautiful, happy place that I spent a considerable amount of money to get to.

    I don’t use an ECV at home but I also don’t walk an average of 6-10 miles a day at home (gleaned from my hubby’s fitbit since he was NOT on an ECV). But if I need some things from Target and my knees, for whatever reason, are talking to me that day, you better believe I’m going to use a courtesy ECV and introduce anyone who has a problem with that to my middle finger.

  22. So I liked this blog because I am fat and I skydive and I struggle with injuries and arthritis not because I am fat nor because I skydive but because I’ve always been clumsy and have repeatedly injured myself since I was ten (when I was not fat nor did I skydive) but still managed to tear all of the ligaments in my knee. I love your blog. I love this post reminding us not to judge.

  23. A little off-topic, but this reminds me of a FB meme that I’ve seen going around. It shows a large (cartoon drawing) of a woman in a handicapped cart at Walmart and the caption reads: the wheelchair carts are for the disabled, not the lazy! My first reaction was to agree, yes they are for the disabled, not the lazy. However, the picture seemed to imply that large people are responsible for hogging disabled carts from people that “legitimately” need them. Just another example of discrimination.

    1. This just makes me want to scream at people “Did you ever think that maybe the injury came BEFORE the fat?!” I had a FB “friend” making fun of a large person who didn’t walk on the “moving walkway” at the airport. I flamed him and told him (and his hateful friends that chimed it) that for a person with mobility issues, those things are a godsend. Every step they save is one more step you can take that day.

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