Disabled At DisneylandHeather Spohr
My husband, Mike, and I wanted to do something special for our daughter, Annie, and take her to Disneyland one more time before her little brother is born. Before I could go, however, I knew I’d have to run this idea past my high risk obstetrician. She’d placed me on modified activity ever since I began having contractions in my second trimester, and was vigilant about making sure I didn’t do anything that might jeopardize the pregnancy.
“Walking around Disneyland in the sun all day?” she said. “There’s no way I can clear you to do that.”
I was disappointed, but understood. This is my fourth pregnancy, and none of them have been easy. My first child, Madeline, was born twelve weeks premature and later passed away from prematurity related issues. Annie was born premature at 36 weeks after a very difficult pregnancy, and last year I miscarried. I had to be careful. On the way out the door, though, my doctor said she’d clear me to go so long as I used a wheelchair to get around. When I agreed, she wrote me a doctor’s note for a rental and told me to say hi to Mickey for her.
It was an interesting experience using the wheelchair. Getting around was far more difficult than I’d anticipated because people rarely moved out of the way to let me by, and maneuvering around tight spots took serious concentration.
There were only a couple, slow moving rides I could go on, so I spent much of the day waiting for Mike and Annie to go on fast moving rides like “Radio Springs Racers Ride.” Finally, we headed to a ride I could go on, “It’s A Small World.”
Upon arriving the attendant directed us through the disabled line to the front, and I was really, really uncomfortable with the special treatment because normally I’d be perfectly fine standing up and waiting in line. But Mike rightly pointed out that this wasn’t a normal situation, and I was under doctor’s orders to keep our soon-to-arrive son safe, so I went with it.
Seeing Disneyland from this new perspective was eye opening. In fact, by the end of the day I was moved by by what I’d seen – people with disabilities getting to enjoy Disneyland the best they could with the help of Disneyland and its conscientious employees. I left with a great feeling about the service Disneyland does accommodating the disabled.
And then I read this article about rich Manhattan women who hire disabled tour guides at Disney World so their kids can cut lines. Like a lot of people, it made me angry, but mostly because of the impact it might have on how people view Disney and their handling of the disabled.
I hate to think that Disney might make it harder for those who legitimately need additional assistance to go to their theme parks. Everyone should be able to go to Disneyland or Disney World if they can. I’d also hate to think that now people who are legitimately using these services are going to have people wondering if they’re gaming the system or if they truly need help. We all know that disability isn’t always outwardly recognizable, and we can’t make assumptions based on looks alone. I personally received a few snide remarks about pregnancy not being a disability, and that I should be able to get up and walk. You can’t see my pregnancy history just by looking at me, and I didn’t owe anyone any explanations, but I was still very unsettled.
The next time I’m at Disneyland I will be very appreciative that I’ll once again be able to stand in the main lines, and will do so gladly. I hope that Disney will continue to make their amazing efforts to ensure every guest at their theme parks has a great time, regardless of their ability levels. And I hope that people will stop selfishly gaming the system – sure, waiting in line sucks, but you’re in line with your family, spending time together and making memories…and isn’t that the whole point?