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I Smell a Rat: Disney Disability Scams

I Smell a Rat: Disney Disability Scams

Reader FavoriteThere are always going to be scams when it comes to living with MS or any other chronic disease. There is always that next person in line waiting to sell us something ‘special’ that will cure our MS. Those very well might be the same people who also want my money to make me a size 8 or to experience the eternal fountain of youth through special surgery-free procedures guaranteed to take years of my appearance. It’s easy to ignore those scams because they need me to do something – open my purse and share my credit card number.

But now there is a different type of scam going on that has been in the news recently – instead of lining up to take my money, there is an unscrupulous group of people who want to take my place in line. No, they don’t want to buy the next cure – they want preferential treatment and to get that, they are pretending to have our disease and others like it.

Walt Disney World is wonderful to their guests who need special accommodations. I know first- hand the value of visiting their guest services office, completing their brief questionnaire and getting a special accommodations card that allows me and my park companions to bypass long lines and get priority seating at shows. Getting that card made the difference last year when I went to WDW with my grandchildren – the heat was a stifling 90+ degrees and I would have been useless if I had to stand in long lines. But we were smart – we rented a wheelchair and got that special pass. The procedure was incredibly simple and all of the Disney employees were gracious and went out their way to accommodate my need to avoid the heat and waiting in long lines. It turned what would have been a miserable four days for me into ones full of laughs and good memories for the grandchildren and myself.

It seems others have discovered Disney’s generous policy toward guests with special needs and have taken to buying themselves a way to get one of those passes for their very own – they are RENTING the services of a person with disabilities to be their guide for the day and using them to get to the front of the line or avoid the lines entirely.  Others more brazen skip that pretense and present themselves as disabled, and fake the need for  help to get that golden ticket that unlocks the Kingdom in so many special ways.

There is very little ‘special’ that comes our way from having MS.  My adult son called the guest pass my little rainbow.  He confused me with that statement until he explained his thinking – there is nothing good that comes out of living with MS and he was happy that there was something that made my life just a little bit better, as temporary as it was. For four days, I had that little rainbow along for the ride.

The people who go to the happy, magical place the little mouse Mickey built and pretend they have a disability such as Multiple Sclerosis are rats or worse; they should also have to get in line and live with MS outside the fences of the happiest place on Earth.

Wishing you well,

Laura

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • mobilityscootergal
    6 years ago

    Hi… I don’t have MS, but I am disabled & can truly relate to your concerns. Down through the years, I’ve also had a number friends with MS, so I know how hard it can be to cope, depending on whether you’re having a flare-up or not…

    You gotta love the insensitive loons who think the little wheelchair symbol means “temporary parking just for them, because they’re ‘special'”… Here in CA, there is a black market for disabled parking placards — selling for as much as $1000! Then there was the moron legislator who wanted to allow all pregnant women the right to park, carte blanche in handicapped spaces (in spite of Ob-Drs WANTING their patients to walk!)…

    I’ve enjoyed the special access for the disabled at Disneyland. Most people understand, and don’t begrudge it. I’ve watched in disbelief as some groups or varying ages rent a manual wheelchair, then take turns being the “designated disabled person” to take advantage.

    Then there are the lazy, non-disabled types: they see me happily (happy because I’m able to safely get around!) out having a life, using a mobility scooter and they think, “oh boy, I gotta get me one of those” — and they ask how to get one. They want the “perk” without all that messy disability nonsense!

    Another pet peeve is how people abuse the handicapped stalls in public restrooms. There could be 20 stalls, but some selfish jerk decided they WANT the extra space in the lone handicapped stall to do their thing (change clothes, drag in 5 kids so they can all go the bathroom in the same stall, etc) — all while your bladder is ready to burst & you are forced to wait a long time for the selfish folks to finish up so you can use the grab bars & use the facilities safely.

    I’m a bit of an activist, speaking up when people abuse what is so helpful for all disabled folks to have in order to live a more normalized life. Like when disabled parking is abused. Or when people try to circumvent the ADA & other laws that help us, by denying us access or opportunity.

  • Marilou Hatler
    6 years ago

    I would like to have some kind of “Disability Card” so as to be able to present it if the time ever calls for it. Is it different in different states as to have this on your drivers license? Have any one you know have this?

  • robinorr2
    6 years ago

    My state of New Hampshire non driver ID has a wheelchair symbol on it to say that I am disabled. Regular drivers licences have it on them as well if the driver is disabled. I look at is like this, people needing to wear glasses have it marked on their licence so whats wrong with a wheelchair user having it marked on their ID? I don’t look at it as a violation of any rights. In fact I look at it as a matter of proof for anyone needing to know like if I were to go to Disney my licence would tell them I am disabled. It’s the same with the placards for parking in handicap parking. I am not embarrassed to place it on my windshield, I need it to park in spaces near curb cuts and easier access so I don’t get run over and so I can have the energy to be able to reach the door. The fact that my family might be with me isn’t really an issue is it? Would I really be expected to go sit down at dinner alone until my family got through the line? What’s the point? We MS’ers are not trying to take advantage of anything, simply trying to make our lives a little more bearable. I’m sorry if some people take offence to it but that is their problem, not mine. (I haven’t met a single person that minded if I went ahead or used a handicap spot). That said, if I feel pretty good then I don’t use the spots or take advantage of a thing. No one’s forcing me to use my ID or handicap placard, its a choice.

  • jordandossett
    6 years ago

    Please familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a federal law your state is irrelevant. I however, do feel like you – like I have an invisible disease and that sometimes I want to wear a t-shirt with a handicap icon on the front and text on the back that says:

    “if I am standing and reading this, you were too stupid to see my cane.”

    As it is I wear an identification necklace and carry a wallet card and because I have my assistive animal with me, I know my legal rights: http://www.ada.gov/ada_intro.htm

    Good luck.
    Jordan

  • Marilou Hatler
    6 years ago

    Once, when we were in Las Vegas, my son and his family, friends, and my daughter all went out to dinner in one of their large casino in a very long line. The restaurant’s host spotted us and brought us to the beginning of the line. I was surprised and a little embarrassed (due to all the people in line starring at us). Is it acceptable that all your party be moved to the beginning of the line with you? Does Disney Land provide that extensive of preferential treatment also?

  • Kathie
    6 years ago

    Laura: I normally don’t comment on any blogs though I read them often for tips and inspiration. I myself have only been diagnosed going on 2 years with RRMS, however, they believe I have actually had this for 30 years since I was a teenager. My family and I go to DisneyWorld at least once a year as we have family that live right there. I found out about the guest assistance pass when I was diagnosed as we were going the next month. I am one that will walk until I just can’t anymore. I have used the GAP on several occasions when going and it is like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. I was only asked on one occasion to provide proof of my MS, and luckily I have my neuro write me a note before we go each time so I have this “proof” in case it is needed. The ones “hiring” the disabled person should be very ashamed of themselves, however, I also believe the disabled person who is allowing this to happen to make money off their disability should also share in the blame. Luckily I can still work full time and I know disability is extremely difficult to live on, but I do not feel that is an excuse to use your disability like that. We are already at such a disadvantage because most of us “don’t look sick”. This will make any strides we have made into understanding take steps backward in my opinion. I too have heard the comments when boarding a plane before others, “Oh I guess just anybody can board when they want”. Live a day in my life when I can’t see out of one eye and have a headache that would bring most people to their knees and let me know how you feel about it then is what I feel like saying, but I try to just let it roll off my back. Sorry this is so long, just had to vent it out I guess. Disney is the master of customer service. If you are going, just make sure you have a note with you from your doctor and they will make your day absolutely magical.

  • Allan Miller
    6 years ago

    I would not wish MS on anybody, even these people. But they do have a punishment. They have to live with themselves every day.

  • specialangel
    6 years ago

    It would be easy for any group or organization to stop this type of fraud. Require proof that the person is disabled. When WDW was giving special perks to teachers, proof had to be shown–pay stub, school ID, etc. There are many forms of proof that could be accepted. In AR, where I live, our driver’s license identifies us as disabled. Comes in handy when going anywhere that gives discounts or perks to those with disabilities.

  • jordandossett
    6 years ago

    What a joke to say that an ID would be required. As it is and in so many comments people say that they struggle with embarrassment of having a disease, add to that it is a disease where most of the time we don’t look like we have anything wrong with us. The state putting your disability on your drivers license may be in direct violation of the ADA, I would have to do additional research, I already eat, breath and speak too much on this and here is an ADA alert on how WDW cannot ask for an ID http://www.ada.gov/ticketing_2010.htm of any kind for a disease or disability. In addition due to this new 2010 law we can buy 3 (which I think is too many unless they are children seats) additional tickets “People purchasing a ticket for an accessible seat may purchase up to three additional seats for their companions in the same row and these seats must be contiguous with the accessible seat.”

    The law then goes on to state that if we wish we can be BIG ASS SCALPERS and buy these prime seats and sell them under the same rights as others, granted if the venue allows resale. So for example I have tickets to see the Pet Shop Boys next month the tickets are handicap accessible and were $75 each, same price as anyone else but are 3 row just off center. Maybe I should not go and sell em for $400. That’s what the others in my area are going for. People do strange things.

    “If venues permit patrons to give or sell their tickets to others, the same right must be extended to patrons with disabilities who hold tickets for accessible seats and to persons with disabilities who intend to buy or receive tickets on the secondary ticket market. An individual with a ticket for an accessible seat may transfer it to anyone, including someone who does not have a disability. Venues cannot require that accessible seats only be transferred to someone with a disability.”

    Just so we are clear, I do plan to go to the concert, it is the entire reason I bought the tickets 🙂

  • Katie Siepierski
    6 years ago

    That is absolutely terrible. It’s like the people that park in the handicap spots because it’s closer, when they have no disability at all. People like that make me sick. I am a firm believer in karma, and karma will get those people one way or another. If they are pretending they have cancer, they, or their spouse, or someone else they love will probably end up getting it. Not that I’m wishing a chronic illness or anything like that on anyone, but maybe then they will remember those wrongs that they did, and learn from it!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    6 years ago

    Katie, like you I also think Karma in some form plays out. I would much rather be gathering good karma for my deeds than worrying about when the bad might bite me. I try not to judge about people using the handicapped spots because there are so many of us who ‘look so good,’ but sometimes I can’t help but think that a person might be scamming the system. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Laura

  • Bill
    6 years ago

    I read all your post and I can relate….I remember how I was pusshed to the front of the lines in my wheelchair at Disney—-Cedar point—-Universal studios—ect…
    My problem was that of being embarresed. Didn’t bother my family; they had a good laugh.Me; I felt “bad”, looking at all those people who have waited for hours.
    I know they don’t have to deal with MS, but each person has their own problem….

  • kylenixon
    6 years ago

    I’ve had MS for over 12 years, fortunately I did not have it when my son was young and I took him to Disneyland. But I did take him with me to the Daytona 500, unfortunately it rained out and I didn’t have it in me to go another day – I was done. And despite paying extra in that case my health didn’t make the whole event possible, they denied any refund – oh well. So I learned I can’t do the huge crowd thing, especially not outdoor music concerts or the like, such as NASCAR. One thing as you get older with MS is when you need access to use a restroom, that window can be very small and untimely in crowded places. But I do appreciate what the airlines do for allowing us to board and hence depart early, I have heard the others have tried to do the same as what happened at DisneyWorld at the airports, but they have done a much better job of assisting those in need to get on and off the airplanes without the fakery. Disney could take a page from the airline industries playbook on this one.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s too bad the NASCAR folks didn’t understand your problem – it sounds like they need a better understanding of how some health problems as MS could be accomodated for their races. Your comment about the restrooms made me nod in agreement- I also look to find where the closest ones are at any new location.

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