If a child spills a drink, ruins a shirt or beaks a toy at a Disney theme-park, any “cast member” (employees of the park), can replace the item at no cost. Characters are known to comfort upset children. Every square inch of a Disney Park is designed with children in mind.
Unless your child is autistic.
Autistic children don’t always display the appearance of a disabled person. There’s no wheelchair or physical abnormalities and at arm’s length autistic people seem as typical as the next. When they get upset or can’t process the social situation typical people would find typical, all of that changes.
Until October of 2013, Disney employees were trained to accommodate, comfort, and expedite people with neurological disabilities like autism. They were issued a “guest assistance pass” that alerted employees that this person may not respond well to long lines and it would be in the best interest of everybody at the attraction to expedite their experience in the most pleasant way.
On October 9, 2013, Disney completely changed its stance on kids with autism. They were to be issued a “disability access pass” that alerted workers that this person is to be treated…no different from anyone else.
The “pass” informs caretakers that they will be given a time to come back and wait in line. They aren’t guaranteed a shorter wait, and according to one of the more than a dozen new lawsuits on the matter:
As one Disney employee in disability services put it toward another similarly-disabled guest, “I don’t care what your child’s issues are”
The lawsuit puts in a perfect light just how easy it is to reprogram a Disney employee:
Disney’s employees who previously showed the highest care and attention for plaintiff during his visits to the park turned overnight into a terrible new version of themselves. Disney employees uniformly reversed all of their prior characteristics; courtesy was replaced with rudeness, acceptance with suspicion, understanding with impatience and consideration with discourtesy.”
The suit further alleges that Disney is attempting to make it so uncomfortable for autistic children that their parents will stop bringing them, which is what happened in this case.
One in eighty-eight children are born with autism. That number is staggering if you think about how many kids will be crammed into a movie theater next weekend to watch the Penguins of Madagascar. Three hundred? Three or four of those kids may not be able to stay through the whole movie.
Being the parent of an autistic child is quite a challenge. For many the financial strain alone might keep them from a Disney park. At almost $100 to get in and a guaranteed chunk of change to eat and buy souvenirs, parents of autistic children had insult added to injury when they were informed that they should make use of the “fast pass” service when available, which adds another chunk of change to your magical experience.
Those who are fortunate enough to be able to take their child often found that a trip to Disney could be a completely positive experience, something that doesn’t happen all that often. Now they’ve found they are no longer welcome.
Bad news, Disney. Universal is so much better.
H/T: Deadline.com Image: