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Jump To The Head Of The Line, Disney Disabled Style

Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front. By hiring non-Disney disabled tour guides, otherwise able bodied families benefit by jumping to the head of lines because handicapped guests in scooters or wheelchairs and up to six family members are often sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.

Read more about it HERE.

I use a scooter when I go to theme parks because my hip would never survive an entire day of walking.   I last visited EPCOT in 2011, rented a three wheeled scooter but I don’t recall being shuttled to the head of the line.  There were special gates for easier access by wheelchairs and scooters to the attraction and some rides require a cast member to move the scooter/wheelchair from the entrance area to a totally different exit area.  However I recall waiting in line just like everyone else until we reached the head of the line.   Particularly at Living Seas where I wound my way through the long lines with the rest of the waiting guests.  Ditto for Test Track, the water ride in the Mexican pavilion and Norway’s Maelstrom.   It may be different at the Magic Kingdom but 2 years ago at EPCOT I did not experience any benefit of being in a scooter other than the obvious one of sitting through most of my visit as opposed to standing.   Considering that the article contains an obvious rant against the “1%”, I question whether this story is even accurate based on the bias being demonstrated instead of straight, factual reporting.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elle May 15, 2013, 6:57 pm

    ” If your pass was from 1215-115, you could show up any time after 1215 but before closing and use it.”

    This is no longer true. It used to be, but they are now enforcing the time.
    Fastpasses are not a “one at a time” thing. There is a time listed at the bottom of the card that tells you when you will be allowed to pick up another FP. This could be as short as 1 hour on a light day and much longer on a crowded day.

    Honestly, this whole thing doesn’t past the sniff test for me either.

    – For most of the queues (especially on the newer rides or the updated older rides) handicapped guests are with non-handicapped guests
    – This tactic would only really work on rides where the handocapped person has to transfer.
    So basically you’re paying for priority access to It’s a Small World and Prince Charming Crousel and access to the handicapped areas for the parade and fireworks. (Which are not *bad* seats, but there are ways to get better). On a lighter note:
    – What kind of self-proclaimed 1%er would be doing Disney on the cheap and not getting one of the official guides? And bragging about it? (I bet they stay at an off-site hotel too)
    – Why not just spend $20 a day to rent a wheelchair from the park itself?

    “That said, if I were hired to be a Disney Imagineer, the first thing I would do is redesign the line queues to make them more interesting and fun. I would at least have classic Disney cartoons playing in all of them.”
    They are working on this. Cartoons nothing, they’re working on full interactivity. Haunted Mansion has a graveyard with all sorts of activities, Space Mountain has video games, and Little MErmaid has a hologram crab to play with.

  • Michelle C Young May 15, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Mary – if you are going to the parks for a week or so, I recommend renting your very own wheelchair from an outside company. I had a great experience with BuenaVista Scooters. (Sorry, admin, please delete that, if you feel it is necessary.)

    The reasons you want to rent your own chair for the duration, rather than getting one each day at the parks:

    1) You can use the wheelchair from the moment you leave your hotel room to the moment you get back.

    2) You don’t have to wait for a Disney Rental, which is first-come, first-served and they may run out, if you get there late.

    3) Fit – Disney’s chairs come in varying sizes, but you can’t tell which will be available. If you rent your own, you will know you’ll get a chair that is comfortable for you, and it will be the same each time.

    4) Security – Disney wheelchairs all look alike and sometimes, you’ll come out of an attraction, only to find that your chair (which fit you so nicely that day) is gone, and you have to report it and get a new one. If you bring in your own, it will look different than the others, and people are less likely to take it by mistake. I also recommend decorating it somehow, with balloons, or ribbons, or battery-powered twinkly lights, or something like that, to make it easy to identify, and less easy to take by accident.

    5) Depending on who you use, and which package you get, it may actually be cheaper than the rentals from Disney, itself.

    6) If you switch parks in the middle of the day, or go back to your hotel for lunch/nap/pool/whatever, and then want to go back to the park, you’ll already have a chair, and not need to rent one again. Did I mention first-come/first-served, and you won’t know if anything is even available later in the day?

    There are several wheelchair/scooter rental companies in the area that work with Disney. In fact, when we had a problem with our scooter, we called them, and they came right away, and replaced our battery, within 30 minutes, so the fact that they were an outside company did not delay them. When we arrived at our hotel, our scooter was there waiting for us. It was so incredibly convenient!

    Have a wonderful trip with your mother!

  • Michelle C Young May 15, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Anonymous – While Fast Pass is included in the price of admission, you only get one at a time, and you have no control about what time it tells you to come back. It gives you an hour window, which is determined by how quickly you get the Fast-Pass.

    For example, if you go get a Fast Pass the very first thing in the morning, it will give you a time window that starts almost immediately. As the Fast Passes are handed out, the windows move along down the day, until they finally “sell out” with windows late in the evening.

    You can, with serious research and planning, come up with a workable strategy, but believe me, it is nowhere near as simple as yours.

  • Michelle C Young May 15, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Not of the 1% – with regard to Fast Pass/Flash Pass

    I did not know that about Six Flags, but for that very reason, I am glad of the way they handle Fast Pass at Disney. Everyone with a ticket is entitled to a Fast Pass, one at a time, for the specific Fast Pass rides. You do not pay extra for more Fast Passes. It is pretty equitable.

    I understand there is some sort of VIP thing at Disney, but it costs about $350 per hour, so I figure if anyone is determined enough to spend THAT much money, then what the heck, let them. They are so rare that it won’t be an issue.

    After all, the 1%ers did not get that rich by spending thousands of dollars a day just to skip lines. They’d be better off financially to just hire someone who knows all the peak times, and how to schedule an effective tour. And you can get that for $10 online.

  • Disneynut May 15, 2013, 8:07 pm

    I totally believe this abuse is probably happening. Just like I know people who have abused the ‘Children’s Wish’ charity by saying their chronically ill child wanted to go on a Disney Cruise but purposely waiting until their youngest child was 3 years old (old enough to be placed into the kids club all day) so mom & dad could ditch the kids and spend THEIR vacation without the kids. And the ‘choice’ of a Disney cruise? Mom says “DD, wouldn’t you like to go on a boat with Mickey Mouse?”. The child didn’t come up with that idea – mommy did.

  • Arrynne May 15, 2013, 9:12 pm

    MichelleP: at most parks the lines aren’t wheelchair accessible due to stairs and such. People in wheelchairs either enter through the exit or a specialized entrance. I think one of the main reasons wheelchair users aren’t made to wait the full time is to ensure the walkways are kept clear.

  • Anonymous May 15, 2013, 10:14 pm

    I guess I should have mentioned, I’ve never been to a Disney Park, so my knowledge of the FastPass system is purely anecdotal; mostly from things I’ve read on the Internet.

  • Goodness May 16, 2013, 12:03 am

    OK, if it’s true it’s cynical on the part of the wealthy parents. On the other hand, the disabled don’t always get to go to to amusement parks and the like unless someone is willing to take them; those without families must spend a lot of time bored. I think it’s sort of a win-win.

    I had a good friend severely crippled with Cerebral Palsy and thus in a wheelchair. We used to go all sorts of places together from the zoo to the ballet. The zoo was fun — people were very kind about making sure she (and thus I) could see the exhibits everywhere we stopped. And the double take we got from the toddler pushing her infant brother-or-sister in its stroller was hysterical; you could see that she was completely confused by the grownup in the ‘stroller.’ Her mother was embarrassed but Joni & I just laughed — it was so cute. We were well-treated in restaurants, even though her disability was so severe it was not pleasant to watch her eat, and we were smiled at by passers-by on the park paths when we went there.

    The ballet was another matter entirely — the only place they could accommodate us, they said, was in a tiny spot barely big enough to wedge the wheelchair into, right by the swinging door to the top row of the nosebleed section.

  • The Elf May 16, 2013, 7:06 am

    I suspect fast-pass policy has changed with time, so I’m reporting what I remember from my visit and another poster is reporting what she remembers from hers, etc. According to Disney’s website today, only some attractions offer fast pass, there’s a 1 hour window to use your fast pass for that ride, and the time that will have to elapse before you can get your next fast pass is printed on that fast pass. (That implies they aren’t strictly one at a time, but that a period of time will have to elapse before you can get another one.)


  • The Elf May 16, 2013, 7:14 am

    MichelleP: “After all, the 1%ers did not get that rich by spending thousands of dollars a day just to skip lines.”

    Yes, but that implies the people in question got rich and were not born rich or married into wealth! Even when we’re talking about the 99%, everyone tends to treat money they’ve earned with hard work better than money they got through other means.

  • MaryFran May 16, 2013, 10:00 am

    So I’m a Walt Disney World passholder and have been for over 5 years. It seems on the outset that some rides’ lines are built to accomodate wheelchairs and scooters and some are not. E.G. Big Thunder Mountain does not, so folks with wheelchairs go to the front, but Soarin’ does accommodate wheelchairs and so everyone waits in line together. I did once witness a family with a scooter-bound passenger arguing with a cast member as to why they had to wait in line like everyone else at Soarin’. Now I wonder if it was one of these rent-a-disabled person families.

  • camlan May 16, 2013, 11:20 am

    MichelleP, I agree with you that it is frequently not necessary for a person with a disability to skip the line. But if the amusement park feels it is necessary, for whatever reason, I’m not sure there’s anything the person with the disability can do.

    However, I can understand why all members of a group that has a person with a disability get to skip the line. People with disabilities sometimes need care that a park attendant can’t do, or won’t know how to do or won’t recognize the need for. So a caregiver may have to go with the person with the disability. And at that point, you may be breaking up a family group–one parent with the child with the disability, the other parent with the other children in the family. And what about families with only one parent? Who looks after the other kids, if they can’t go with their disabled sibling?

    It’s safer to allow the family group to go on the ride together. It might even take both parents to provide care at some point. And the parks are all about families sharing the experience. If one parent and child are getting bumped ahead in line, and the other kids and parent are forced to wait, the two parts of the family aren’t experiencing the same things. One kid is getting on more rides than the others, it’s harder to meet up when your group is split and one part is still waiting to get on their second ride while the other part is finishing up their fourth.

    Once the parks make the decision to jump a person with a disability ahead in line, they pretty much have to let their whole group go, as well.

  • MichelleP May 16, 2013, 11:42 am

    @The Elf, I did not make that statement in my post. I don’t know who did, but please check before you attribute a comment to anyone. I strongly disagree with that comment and would not post it.

  • MichelleP May 16, 2013, 11:52 am

    Rereading my post, I want to apologize for my harsh tone. I was irritated reading the story and didn’t completely think through what I was typing. Certainly handicapped persons should be given accomodations.

    I do stand by what I said about the entire family shouldn’t be able to go to heads of lines with one disabled person, however. One person can stay with the handicapped person, the rest of the guests can wait in line like everyone else.

    I didn’t think about the park not having accomodations in line for wheelchair/scooter users: stairs, sharp corners, etc. Thank you to the posters bringing it to my attention. I thought all public places and parks had to be handicapped accessible in the US now? Perhaps that isn’t true of parks and such.

  • The Elf May 16, 2013, 12:51 pm

    My apologies. I must have made a cut & paste error. It was “Michelle C Young” who said it.

  • Alison May 16, 2013, 1:28 pm

    My father was in a wheelchair when my family visited Disney World in 2004, and yes, we were fast tracked to the front of the line for at least some of the rides. I’m not sure why your experience was different, but it is a real policy, or at least it was 9 years ago.

  • Mary May 16, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Michelle C Young
    Thank you for the wheelchair advice!

  • Anonymous May 16, 2013, 3:09 pm

    Another problem with lines/waiting areas for amusement park rides is, even if the line has ramps instead of stairs, the line usually moves so slowly that, while a person on their feet would be fine standing on the ramp, a person in the wheelchair would roll backwards.

  • Lilly May 16, 2013, 3:10 pm

    I don`t see what the big drama is here.
    So a disAbled person takes control of their time and finances to escort a spoiled richo round a theme park? Not a big deal.
    Unless you don`t like the idea of a free day out somewhere fun and some easy cash money.

    Queue jumpers will always find a way, but the disAbled person is not being exploited by choosing to make themselves some quick and easy cash.

  • Michelle C Young May 16, 2013, 3:12 pm

    MichelleP – I think I was the one who said that the 1% didn’t get that way by wasting thousands of dollars just to skip lines.

    As a person who has attended with a party-member in a wheelchair, I can attest that it is best to keep the group together. More and more of the attractions are different (different endings, or otherwise interactive), and if you split the group up, they wind up not sharing the same experience, and what’s the point in going as a group, if you are not going to share the experience? Half the fun is talking about your favorite parts, or watching the face of the person who is experiencing it for the first time. Another quarter or so of the fun is chatting with each other during your wait time. I had a great time chatting with my mother, while we waited in line. If my siblings had been there with us, we would have included them in the conversation, as well.

    Disney parks look at this as a bonding experience for families and friends. Splitting them up defeats that purpose. Although, they do have the option to split up, if they choose. In fact, they have a program just for that. If two parents bring in two children, and they want to go on a ride where “you must be at least this tall to ride,” then one can stay with the short child, while the other parent takes the taller child, and then they switch off, so that the parent who waited with the shorter child can then skip to the front of the line (they have, in effect, already waited, after all), and go on the ride alone, while the other parent waits with the children. They all wind up waiting a bit longer this way, so complaining about seeing that lone parent skip to the front of the line is silly, since they actually wind up waiting longer – the length of the line plus the time of the ride.

    As for the fact that public places and parks have to be handicapped accessible, yes. And Disney World IS handicapped accessible. It’s just that sometimes that access is from the side or the rear or the exit-line. Just as when you go to a building with steps in the front and a ramp at the side. It’s not really different from that. The access is always there at Disney, just not up front and center. And furthermore, there is a lot more of it. Instead of having one place for a wheelchair in a theater, they have six or so. Perhaps it is because they have so MANY people dealing with physical issues who come to visit Disney.

    Now, as for whether or not it is all fair and equitable, all I can say is that we live in an imperfect world, but Disney tries its best. They do try to see the people dealing with these physical issues as people first, and the handicaps second. Oh, and those people who are handicapped, or live with someone who is handicapped, and have to care for them on a daily basis would generally choose to wait in longer lines, if it meant they could have the good health and lack of pain to go with it. That would be a lovely trade-off, wouldn’t it?

    Now, for my dream of taking my whole family (immediate family – parents, siblings and my one sibling’s children) to Disney World, we would require five scooters! Yeah. That’s half the family, right there. Exactly half of us would be in scooters or a wheelchair. So I, for one, am very grateful for the help that Disney provides to people like me and mine.

    Although, I do miss the halcyon days of my youth, when none of us needed a wheelchair, before illness and accidents.

    As for the guide in a scooter – I sincerely hope that person was simply a guide, who happened to be in a scooter, and did not actually advertise as “Come with me and skip lines.” If the tourists just caught on that someone in a scooter has this accomodation, and they could leach off of it, then that’s on THEM, not the guide. If the guide is using that as a selling point, though, that just makes me feel all queasy, because it gives a bad impression about all the other people in wheelchairs and scooters. I find that whole story quite upsetting, because of that.

  • Anonymous May 16, 2013, 3:32 pm

    P.S., Here’s another thought: About families with one (legitimately) disabled member, if you look at the difficulties and sacrifices they have to make in their daily lives, maybe it’s not so unfair for them to be skipped to the front of the line at an amusement park, along with their disabled sibling/parent/child. I mean, has anyone here seen “I Am Sam?” In that movie, little Lucy loves her father, but she’s also a bit embarrassed to be seen with him, because he’s mentally handicapped. So, just imagine being, say, seven or eight years old, and able-bodied/neurotypical/whatever, while a family member of yours isn’t. You’re constantly told by adults to “be grateful” that you have no issues, but meanwhile, at school, the other kids constantly call your sibling “cripple” or “spaz” or “Retardo,” or worse. You have to walk to and from school and keep an eye on your sibling (who may even be older), and you often have to intervene in cases of playground bullying from other kids, which gets you teased worse. At home, the majority of your parents’ time and attention is devoted to your sibling–not maliciously, but simply because Sibling needs to be helped with EVERYTHING, and because Sibling’s small advancements in life are so few and far between, that yours get overshadowed. Win the poetry slam at school? Good job–But did you hear? Sibling said “Mama.” Stick your first back handspring at gymnastics? That’s nice, dear. Oh, hey, big news–Sibling transferred from bed to wheelchair without help. Want to go to summer camp alone? Sorry–we need your help around the house with Sibling. All of this would be difficult enough for an adult, but for a child who’s still growing, and developing life experience, it’d be brutal.

    So, when it comes time for a family vacation at Disney (which would be a massive luxury for most families with a disabled member, because insurance or publicly-funded health care doesn’t come CLOSE to covering all the expenses), then maybe front-of-the-line-access is at least within shouting distance of “fair” for a family that probably has to make all kinds of adjustments not only in their daily lives, but at the park as well–they can’t easily go on rides that aren’t wheelchair accessible, or visit the laser light show if one member of the family has epilepsy or autism, they have to cut the day short if the disabled family member looks close to a meltdown, they have to plan what to eat, at what restaurants, around the disabled member’s dietary restrictions, if they have any, they have to map out which bathrooms have “oversized” changing facilities if one member is incontinent, and probably a lot of other things that I didn’t even think of. So, what would be a relaxing vacation to most people, is a huge undertaking for a “special needs” family.

    I’m not saying that this is the experience for everyone with a disabled person in their family, but I’m sure that at least some of these points are true, for a lot of people in that situation. I’m not saying that it’s the responsibility of everyone else to make the world fair for complete strangers, but there’s a reason why you don’t see a lot of people with special needs at amusement parks–for a lot of families like that, it’s simply not financially or logistically possible. So, if you do see a family with one or more members with special needs at an amusement park–even a smaller, non-Disney park like Canada’s Wonderland or Six Flags–this might just be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for them.

    However, all of this only applies to legitimate, REAL disabilities. People who are just faking it in order to jump the queue, are just being rude and entitled. Since Disney doesn’t seem to require documentation for their Guest Assistance Passes, then it hinges largely on the honour system. Unfortunately, while the honour system is a good idea in theory, it seems to expose a lot of dishonourable behaviour.

  • Allie May 16, 2013, 3:37 pm

    I used to work at Disney (not in rides) and this is my impression: some older rides were built before some of the specific regulations were in place so the lines cannot accommodate those who are handicapped. There are also specific cars on various rides to accommodate wheelchairs. In those cases, the cast members make attempts to accommodate parties. However, Disney would likely not approve of doing this as a policy to skip lines and would be on the watch out for this.

    Remember, the people working there are just doing the best they can – balancing the needs of all guests. It’s not Disney’s fault some guests behave badly.

    People are right about the Fast Passes – the rule is you have one hour in that designated space (and getting another Fast Pass depends on a number of factors). Depending on the day and how far you are out of your ride time, some ride operators will let you use an expire fast pass, however. I wouldn’t count on it.

    I’d also beg people who are using scooters to practice with their scooter and to be aware of those around them. I myself got run over a couple times in stores by people who weren’t used to their scooters and got complaints from other guests occasionally about getting run over.

  • Anonymous May 16, 2013, 3:46 pm

    P.S., About my “hypothetical” situation with the family with a disabled member, I didn’t entirely make it up out of my head. I went to elementary school with a girl a year behind me (we were in the same split grade 6/7 class, and then 7/8 the year after), who had a younger sister in this situation. The sister had been born healthy, but she had a stroke when she was three, and since then, she’s been in a wheelchair, incontinent, unable to communicate, and severely mentally handicapped. The older girl was well-liked, but she didn’t have that “Mean Girl” streak about her that you often see with popular kids that age. I think having a sister with special needs forced her to grow up more quickly than she would have otherwise done. Anyway, this girl was very cavalier and matter-of-fact about the whole deal, and rarely talked about it, and she obviously loved her sister. Looking back, though, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her family to co-ordinate things like birthday parties, sleepovers, family outings, and other staples of childhood–not just for the younger sister with special needs, but for the older sister as well.

  • Anony May 16, 2013, 5:08 pm

    @MichelleP: The thing is, handicapped accessible doesn’t mean that *everyone* has to go through the same lines, or reach the same point by the same means. This can be seen by the inclusion of wheelchair ramps right next to stairs, etc. Different lines at theme parks are no different, really. By offering different/less complicated lines (or other services) to handicapped people, Disney and similar places are allowing handicapped people (and their family members that might have to stay with them) access to rides and attractions that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. Disney also makes sure that their rides are accessible to all, so your last two sentences are kind of a moot point.

  • Ginkiguy May 16, 2013, 5:24 pm

    @MichelleP – while it is true now that all parks and public areas have to be handicapped accessible, those rules did not exist when the park and many of the rides were built. This is why a lot of lines have corners, stairs, and other features which are not navigable via a wheelchair.

    When those rules took effect it was often much, much simpler and more cost-effective to provide a separate wheelchair entrance than to completely redesign the line to be compliant, especially where the line wraps through or around the ride and would require a redesign of the entire ride and not just the line.

  • The Elf May 17, 2013, 8:58 am

    Lilly, I agree that the disabled guide is not being exploited. In the article, the guide in question is part-owner of the business. My problem is that this is essentially line-jumping. The policy was created for disabled people and their families, not for able-bodied people to hire a disabled guide specifically to wait in fewer lines. It’s not illegal. It’s not against WDC policies. It’s just plain rude.

  • Jenn50 May 17, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Anonymous, thank you for that post about the struggles of caring for disabled family members, and it being a kindness to let the whole family to the front of the line. My boys have had large chunks of “normal” childhood stolen from them due to their little sister’s special needs, and IF we could ever afford to go to Disney (HA!) we would certainly be grateful for any accommodation anyone made for us. It’s nice to hear someone who “gets it.”

  • Anonymous May 17, 2013, 3:44 pm

    You’re welcome, Jenn. Did I get it about right, or did I forget any details? Anyway, even independent of all the other “background” stuff that non-special-needs families forget about, or don’t think of, I think I should have stressed the point that, for some special needs kids, maybe they can only handle a few hours at an amusement park, rather than a full day. So, from the family’s point of view, if they have the option to make the most of the time they have while the special needs child is at his or her best, and from the public’s point of view, that family may be “jumping the line,” but they’ll be going home/back to their hotel at lunch time (or maybe they came just for the afternoon), so they’re getting the same amount of park enjoyment as anyone else, just in a more condensed timeframe–if they can even get there in the first place. Anyway, good luck to you and your whole family. 🙂

  • Anonymous May 17, 2013, 3:48 pm

    Jeanne–I meant to say, “from the family’s point of view, if they have the option to make the most of the time they have while the special needs child is at his or her best, then they’re probably going to take that option.” Could you please edit my post accordingly?

  • ddwwylm May 17, 2013, 5:34 pm

    What caused skipticism for me is the fact that you don’t need an actual disability to get the disabled pass at Disney. There’s no medical form or anything you need to prove you are disabled. You can rent a WC at the park for like $30. I’ve personally seen families walking around disney where you will see the same group with a different person riding in the WC each time which leads me to belive they were probably faking it. Disney did try to curtail this awhile back with the need for the disabled pass, but again, you just have to ask for it, it’s not like you need a Dr.’s note or anything. Plus many of the rides at Disneyland were made before handicapped access was mandatory so really the only way to get people in WC on the ride and to meet ADA requirements is through the exits. What stinks to me about this story is why would a family pay someone up to $1000 per day to pretend to be their family member and get the special access when all they would need to do is rent a WC and push mom or dad around all day.

  • The Elf May 18, 2013, 12:08 pm

    And be seen in a wheelchair or scooter, Ddwwylm? The horror!

  • SoCalTraffic May 19, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Disney could do what Six Flags does – have a handicap accessible area but make the group wait the posted wait time before boarding.