Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by monomb, Sep 22, 2000.
Do I need to bring a doctors note, IEP or other proof that my child has a disability?
This has been my pet peeve about WDW. Overall, they are way ahead in terms of providing services and help to those with disabilities, but there continues to be confusion over these passes.
Is there any possibility that the moderators of the forum could initiate some communication with the Disney folks to try and clarify the situation?
The folks at Guest Services indicate that there is a standard used for giving out passes, but the responses to this forum seem to indicate a lot of "grey area" where CMs make their own rules.
My daughter and I struggled with this last year,(she's in a wheelchair and medically fragile) and we even had a doctor's letter with us. Given the overall kindness of the CMs, I don't think they are trying to be arbitrary, but there really doesn't seem to be one standard that is used.
For those of you who have family members with a "hidden" disability (not requiring a wheelchair or other obvious indications of need), how hard would it be for you all to get a note from your doctor?
WDW has gotten a reputation for letting anyone who shows up in a wheelchair, even ones rented at WDW, into the entrances marked for folks with disabilities, and many times folks did this to avoid standing in line.
Is there any hope that the folks at WDW would listen? If so, can we start a thread on this and
let everybody list ideas for a standard that WDW
I think it was Teri in Menlo Park who suggested a multi colored card system. Hopefully, we can get her ideas too.
Let's all contribute some pixie dust and see if we can solve this.
1) You don't need to bring any proof of disability. Some people feel better bringing an IEP or a letter from their doctor, but the CM will not (and can NOT legally) ask for it.
2) Be ready to explain what problems you will have and what would help you deal with them.
3) If you go to Guest Services and don't get the type of assistance you think you need, ask to speak to a manager.
4) In some ways, I think WDW wants to keep the process a little mysterious. It is harder for people who don't need a Guest Assistance Card to pretend they need one if the rules are not public. You might not think that happens, but I have heard of people pretending their 4 year is only 2, so they can avoid paying for a ticket. A person who would do that would probably have their child pretend to be autistic to go ahead in line.
5) In some rides, everyone in a wheelchair does need to use the wheelchair entrance because the regular line has stairs, etc. In most cases now, lines are being mainstreamed, so wheelchair users wait in the same line with everyone else. So, for people who are using a wheelchair and have only a mobility disability, they will wait in line.
6) Safari Steve (a CM who reads these boards) indicated WDW used to have a color coding system, but the CMs didn't read the cards and assumed they remembered what each color meant. That was one of the reasons they switched to cards of one color with different writing. I can vouch from my job (hospital) that color coding makes people think they remember and making them read gives better compliance.
7) I think some of the confusion has come from the switch over to the new cards, which happened sometime between April and September of this year. When we first started coming to WDW in 1987 with our child in a wheelchair, anyone in a chair got to the front of the line - whether they needed or wanted it or not. Then there were too many wheelchairs and the policy seemed to change to anyone in a wheelchair did not need a card and could wait in line. That is what we were told from 1996-1999. I think there is more realization now that someone in a wheelchair may have other needs that make waiting in line difficult.
I hope this helps and maybe Safari Steve will add a little more to explain it from a CM point of view.
SueM in MN
Co-Moderator of disABILITIES
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SueM is correct, you do not have to take medical documentation, and you do not have to reveal personal medical information to anyone who does not have a need to know (like the CM at the loading area...) But I always have a brief doctor's note for my son, and this year I will have a note from MY rheumatologist (who will have me committed if I ride a rollercoaster... I hesitate to even tell her I am going back to WDW!) Do I need them? In theory, no. But just flashing the note on a physician's letterhead at Guest Services, in my experience, takes about 10 seconds off the process - the first 10 seconds of guarded disbelief. It isn't always necessary...For my kids, all it takes is a few seconds of observation and they start filling out the GAC.
As for coding, or color coding, or reading long explanations... I do think there is a better way to help *Guests* know where they should expect to go at an attraction. And prevent the kind of confusion caused by differing answers from different CMs.
Right now, the only icon they use is the wheelchair icon. Well...
For example, what if I were going to the park, and my arthritis has been active... they can't "see" my arthritis or my asthma. Sure, we can use the Fastpass line... as long as I don't have to climb flights of stairs! OK, I don't need the alternate entrance every time, I need the stair-less entrance. On my GAC, there could be a little "No Staircase" icon. Then, ANYONE with 5 minutes of training could see, in a glance, what kind of accomodation I need. Then, if the entrances themselves could be marked with the same icons, I will know as soon as I get to the queue if I am headed for the right waiting area. Most times the regular queue would be OK. That would be fair. No ambiguity there.
Another example, what about someone who must avoid sun exposure, such as my cousin with lupus. A simple little "No Sun" icon stamped on the GAC would be an instant signal to the CM what this guest needs... to wait out of the sun. Then, if Disney could put the same icon on the appropriate waiting area entrance, the guest would know where they are supposed to go. Think about it! The GUEST Assistance Card would actually help the GUEST know where they were supposed to go! What a concept! Sure you can keep the long-winded legalistic explanation in the fine-print text right next to the icon, to clarify (?) the accomodation to be provided to the guest.
Someone in a wheelchair or ECV who can wait without danger in the mainstreamed queues doesn't necessarily need the GAC, Unless they plan to walk inside the attraction or pavilion and might need special accomodation from the CMs inside. On the other hand, a person who is unable to tolerate the line for medical or serious psychological reasons, with or without wheelchair, who needs to be isolated from the crowd for their protection, or is medically fragile NEEDS the GAC. A simple wheelchair icon will not do... the wheelchair is only part of the issue. I don't know what to suggest... perhaps a "Key" icon? (Key to the alternate entrances?)
Likewise, someone who is not able to transfer without full assistance needs to be able to convery that to the CMs at the loading area without having to go through a long verbal explanation... flashing a "full assistance" icon would save people from the kinds of situations where CMs start asking people to stand up now to get onto the next car... what kind of icon would do... not sure. Any Ideas?
At the same time, people who can leave their wheelchairs without any danger, just need a bit of extra help or time would be able to indicate this in a flash with a little "Guy Standing up out of the Wheelchair" icon. That could go a long way in improving the wheelchair queues on those busy days when the wheelchair line is slower than the regular queue... yes, it happens! Those folks could be loaded on regular seats and their chairs transported to the disembarking area. It makes sense. Then they can put the icons at entrances of the appropriate waiting areas, so the Guest knows they are in the right place.
This kind of coding system would save a lot of misunderstandings. The appropriate icons could be put on the directional signs and at the paths to the appropriate entrances. As we know (those of us who need the alternate entrances) most of them are not marked at all until you come upon the little gate with the blue wheelchair icon, often hidden around a dark, unmarked corner.
Sure, I know, some people would try to scam the system. They always do, most of us have seen people cheating more than once or twice. But I really do think this kind of coding system would go a long way in preventing the kind of tensions and misunderstandings that happen when people end up in the wrong place, at the wrong time. And the "Card" would really Assist the Guest!
Meanwhile, next time I go I am going to keep a tally of how many unnecessary lectures I have to endure from CMs who feel they must educate me on how the GAC is not a guarantee of immediate access... I must have heard that 5 times last time I was there, and we only did a couple of days in the parks. Enough already! /infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif
I have never used a GAC, or a SAP...My son has always been in a W/C. We have never had a problem or a wait in any of the parks. The CMs have been unfailingly courteous, helpful and smiling. I suppose I just figured the chair was self-explanitory. I have never been asked to show a pass. I do notice however, that a lot of people rent chairs for their kids, using them for special access. No, these are NOT hidden disabilities. I witnessed at least 2 instances of laughter and high 5's by people who used the W/Cs as a free pass. CMs notice too. I wish there was a better way.. But, if you go, take your own chair if possible. It does make a difference. /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif
Now, that little icon idea has a lot of possibilities. They could have the same blank card and then have stamps with the little icon. Right now the long, wordy message is stamped on the card. The icon would be much quicker - the same idea as taking words off of road signs and replacing them with icons. They could also have the long, wordy part if they want, but at least there would be a quick access way to it.
Now, for the experience:
Anyone who went to WDW in a wheelchair more than 4 years ago had a much different experience than the average wheelchair user at WDW has now. Just having a wheelchair used to be a sort of mark of "need for special attention" to the CMs and you got special attention, whether needed it on not. The word got out and people who did not need wheelchairs began using them to get the special attention. Now, anyone in a wheelchair or ecv is looked on with suspicion. In our experience, appearance has nothing to do with it. Our dd has an obvious custom wheelchair (her seating system alone cost about $800) and is obviously very thin and has some unusual movements because of her CP. We get no special treatment (without a GAC). Once the CMs see the difficulty we have in putting her into rides, they have mostly been very nice.
I can also say, you get MUCH better treatment when you go at a non-busy time. For the last 4 years, we have been going to WDW at Spring Break. It is busy, frustrating and difficult to be at the parks during that time for anyone, much less a person with special needs. We just got back from a trip Sep 13-17 and it was "A Whole New World". There were less regular guests who stared at us as though we were stealing their precious time and the CMs were uniformly nice. On some rides, because there was no line, the CM asked us if we wanted to ride a second time. This is totally different than the busy times, when we are just another delay that the other guests will complain to the CMs about.
SueM in MN
Co-Moderator of disABILITIES
Well...I guess my experiences at WDW are just the exception to the rule! I do go at least 12 times a year...My son has his own chair, and I have been pulled from cue lines by CMs who offer their help. I know that Disney is trying to find the best way to help those who need it, but CMs are human, and get frustrated by obvious attempts to "cheat", no matter what time of year it is.
I DO think the CMs are as frustrated as some of us are. I think WDW is attmepting to be fair and consistent, but with as many CMs as there are and as many visitors as come thru in a year, is it very difficult. It is much more pleasant for many reasons going when it is not busy and we will avoid going at busy times as much as possible.
One of the little extra efforts that was made on our trip in September was at the Pirates ride. We haven't taken dd on Pirates for several years because her wheelchair won't fold without taking it all apart and she won't ride one of the ride wheelchairs. We asked the CM at the entrance if there was any way she could bring her own wheelchair with. THe CM thought about it for a while then said she would call ahead and arrange something. When we boarded the CM there was prepared for us. He gave us a whole boat and hoisted her wheelchair into the back seat for us. When we got off, a CM at the exit showed us to the elevator so we didn't have to go up the moving ramp. Getting off the wheelchair led us to a pretty well hidden walkway at the back of the building on the end of Adventurland. There was a front and back door to the elevator. I'm not sure if the "front door exits to the ride boarding area. If they had an extra CM, they might be able to shuttle wheelchairs between boarding and exit, but there was only one person at each, so they couldn't do much.
SueM in MN
Co-Moderator of disABILITIES
I agree, the CMs are genuinely interested in being fair. And their frustration over the obvious abuses and 'human error' issues have caused some - not all- to take on the role of Gatekeepers rather than Facilitators. Their frustration is obvious, and some are just steeling themselves against the assault of anyone who isn't in a wheelchair who has a GAC, making us feel like we are under the microscope... or those of us who use the rental wheelchairs part-time rather than full-time to allow the mobility impaired members of our family to pace themselves are really made to FEEL like we are under scrutiny. They stand there with one corner of the mouth curled, a furrowed brow, reading the fine print on the GAC, and often feel compelled to remind us that the GAC is not a guarantee of immediate access (even though that line was read to us by the CM at Guest Services, highlighted with a yellow marker, and checked off in the little box!) It isn't every CM, it isn't every attraction, but it happens more than it should. For those of you whose kids are obviously disabled, you are not going to get as much of this. But believe me, those of us with hidden disabilities, or kids not in wheelchairs who need protection, are having some of the magic lost in those recurring moments of doubtful scrutiny.
We have certainly seen the cheaters at play. But that isn't us. And we shouldn't be the ones on whom the CMs vent their frustrations. The CMs at Guest Services already made the call based on their assessment, they already explained the GAC, they know the policy. Once that is done, we shouldn't have to reveal any further personal medical or psych information to CMs at attraction entrances or loading areas, and we shouldn't be made to feel like we are being scrutinized. It is inappropriate.
All that being said, those times that we got the 'eye' or an earfull from a CM were just a small negative part of our overall highly positive experiences with CMs at WDW and Disneyland. This is a problem that could be easily resolved with better information delivery. I am certain that the CMs would appreciate the help!
If at any time, any of you are made to feel uncomfortable,embarrassed or singled out...PLEASE..run, do not walk to find the area manager! Yes, every area has one! And let them know if any CMs were less than excruciatingly polite..WDW is trying hard to weed out those who find guest servise a chore rather than a responsiblity. You will be doing an enormous favor to everyone... The offending CMs can be recast to a less public role if necessary, or retrained in Disney Traditions.
I love the little icon idea and if you haven't all ready, why don't you contact Disney about this.
I myself have had alot of trouble with disability passes because mine is also somewhat invisible and I have multiple problems. I don't relish the idea of revealing all this info to a CM who is very young and probably doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about anyway.
What has to be will be but I think this is the best idea I've heard yet.
When you wish upon a star...
If WDW are making more and more rides mainstream for wheelchairs, are they going to make more of the rides boats, gondolas, whatever wheelchair accessible? I think not. The only place a ride should have mainstream wheelchair access are ones where no matter what point in time you arrive at the head of the line, a wheelchair accessible spot is available.
You bring up a good point Choppertester. Some of the rides have been renovated to have wheelchair accessible cars, but you have to wait between 1 and 10 minutes for that car normally. We have waited as long as 30 minutes for the accessible safari car AND as far as I can tell, it can only accomidate one occupied wheelchair. So if someone has more than one wheelchair in their party (which some of our posters do have) they will have to ride separately.
And for some of the shows thaat are using FastPass, there are only a few wheelchair accessible seats, so even if you get a fastpass, you may not be able to get into the next show becasue all the wheelchair seats could be filled (happened to us at Little Mermaid).
I think WDW is trying, but it's a huge task and any suggestions we can give are helpful. $
SueM in MN
Co-Moderator of disABILITIES
Do we have an address of a real, live human to whom we can address our suggestions? Hmmm... We all know what happens to any letters we send to Guest Communications (pat reply followed by flushing sound...)
Special Services Coordinator? Disabilities Liason? ADA compliance officer? OK all you castmembers, to whom should we send suggestions?
That's been one of our problems. we don't have any real, live person with a name to send anything to, so it just gets lost in the abbyss. Some of the people who have sent suggestions to a general address have gotten back form letters.
SueM in MN
Co-Moderator of disABILITIES
Thanks to all of you for following up on the idea to get this in to the hand of a real person who is in a position to do more than just send a form letter back. We are going to WDW in late Oct. If you actually contact someone I would like to have that name, because I would go out of my way to thank them while we are there.
We haven't really hit WDW when the FastPASS was in use, Our last visit was Feb 99. Mainstreaming makes sense for the large theater type shows where handicapped seating is laid out and the CMs do a good job of keeping them clear. We haven't had to mainstream for any of the rides yet or maybe we didn't know. Is there a list of attractions that are now mainstream? /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif
I just want to share an experience I had this weekend that has nothing to do with GAC's but has to do with CM scrutiny, etc. My son has a disabled parking permit issued by the state of Florida. They are not easy to get and anyone who has one has had a specific form filled out by a doctor.
Last Sunday I took my son to the MK and was stopped by the guard who watches over the AA and disabled lots. He saw the tag and waved us through, then suddenly made us stop. He asked me where we were going and I said the disabled lot and turned the tag so he could see the expiration date. He asked if we could walk at all and I said yes. He said to go to the regular lot and the attendent would let us park close to the tram.
I parked and the tram driver said I had pulled too far forward and should back up a little, that she would hold the tram for me. That involved more than she expected because I couldn't leave Scott standing near the car like I could my typically developing son.
The parking CM stared at me curiously and I told him that I normally parked in the disabled parking lot. He said I should have parked there and said, Oh, that guy who's there today is...and didn't finish the sentence.
The tram CM did wait for me and I sat in the last car with a couple she told to move over. I explained what happened and she was ticked off. She said that never should have happened that if the parking lot CM sees a valid disabled tag they have to let us park there.
Scott had trouble in the tram and made his growling noise and clung to both me and the stranger next to me. Fortunately, the man was very kind and told me not to worry about it. Before we left, the CM said she was going to talk to her supervisor about what happened. And next time I'm not going to let this happen and wouldn't have had I been at all prepared for it. Sorry, I just don't know how to make a long story short. To me, though, this relates to what Teri was saying. I wish CM's would just trust the Departments of Motor Vehicles and whoever issued the GAC's and quietly comply.
Oh, Kay1, I feel so bad for you. That should have never happened. A handicapped permit issued by one state is valid and accepted in any state for handicapped parking. We don't usually park at MK, but have parked at all the other lots. There have been times when we forgot to pack our parking permit and parked in the lot without it (but we put a note on our WDW resort parking permit that indicated we had a child in wheelchair and had forgotten our permit.) We have been questioned by the "GUARD CMs", but were told if we did not have a permit, we were parking with the risk of getting a ticket. I figured, fine, let them take me to court. My dd has had a parking permit since she was 2. If they want a copy, I will send it to them. It is obvious that we have a need for that type of parking and we can't park in the regular area, since we have a non-folding wheelchair that won't go on the tram.
Besides, I have seen plenty of people parking in those lots without a permit, license plate or even a note. We were told the police patrol those lots. So, if someone doesn't belong there, the CM should be calling the police to ticket them, not harrasing people who have a right to park there.
SueM in MN
Co-Moderator of disABILITIES
I have a mother is in a w/c and has a handicap permit from NJ. It works in Boston (only other place I have gone to yet with her) but does not work in New York City (don't know about rest of state).
A while ago (5 months about) a woman with NJ permit parked in handicap spot in NYC and got a ticket, permit was visible. Her defense was denied and ticket up held.
So watch out in NYC.
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