I have been fortunate to have visited Disney World before the rules were changed. To those who do not know, families with ASD children, or children/teens with physical, cognitive, developmental, or behavioural challenges, were allowed to enjoy a ride with family members without having to wait in long line ups- (GAP- Guest Assistance Pass.) I was in utter shock when I heard Disney World had changed this rule. The new pass called DAS, Disability Assistance Service, is a solution to fit everyone.
Magical wishes and dreams come true at Disney World. For many families of children with ASD, the ability to go to Disney is no longer a reality. I was disheartened to read on the internet some of the comments written by families who do not have children with ASD. I decided to write about why the previous rules are so important to children with ASD. It is simply meant to educate those who never understood the importance of the previous pass (GAP).
Disney contends that the new pass they have implemented is more fair. Apparently a small percentage of people have misused the pass, bringing a child /teen with a disability to the park to have access to rides without having to wait in line. I have to stop and think here. Really stop and think logically and with objectively. There are bad insensitive people all around the world. And, I do believe in my heart of hearts this percentage is small. People who take advantage of by lying, should be punished. The question arises, why should my child be punished for the actions and wrong doings of other people? In my opinion, and in the opinion of many parents on the internet, there are options to solve this problem.
Here are a few:
1. A doctors note should be provided to access the previous disability pass.
2. A form should be filled out before the family arrives to the park, so the park has time to verify the information. There should be a concise procedure to apply for the card, the same way you would apply for a disability card for your car.
3. The immediate family, caregiver, or therapist travelling with the child/teen are the only ones that can be allowed to benefit from the pass. That is, if there is a large group of more than one family with the child or teen, only the immediate family members , caregivers, therapists and nurses can accompany the pass with the child/teen. Not the entire group.
It saddens me to great lengths to see that one of the best places on the face of this earth has taken such action. In fact, there is a lawsuit launched in California against Disney World. I hope Disney wakes up and smells the coffee. There are many people unhappy, so unhappy they are taking a stand. I think the important point in all of this, is not if the lawsuit has legal merit, or if Disney is discriminating, but there are many unhappy families. They are so upset they have launched a lawsuit to bring their feeling to the forefront. I will be watching to see how this plays out. A fight in court is not really what I want to see. I love Disney. It makes me sad to see the situation. More importantly, and , maybe its wishful thinking, but I hope Disney will understand the feeling and difficulties of families and , change their stand, not because they have, not because it is illegal, just because it would be an amazing thing to do. It’s the morally right thing to do. It is what great people and organizations would do.
Nina Jain, Founder of Able2Learn
Director of I2Us Marketing
The Best Mom Ever!