Being disabled often means that you watch from the sidelines as others participate in the normal activities of life. I have Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive neuromuscular disease that renders the muscles weak, then progressively weaker. The rate of decline is different for each victim of this disease. If I can count myself fortunate in one way, it is that the particular form of the disease I have has allowed me to grow into an adult. It is not so kind for many individuals. including the kids the public is very aware of should they watch the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon around Labor Day each year. But as a sufferer of this disease, I often cannot participate in activities and have to just adjust to watching and waiting while others take part in what most normal people can do easily.
One of the problems my book continually addresses is the challenge of access to the important venue of Disneyland (other fine books have been written about Walt Disney World, but I live near "The Original", so I focus on that). Finding your way through any venue outside the safety and security of your home can be a challenging adventure. But a venue as big as the Disneyland Resort presents numerous situations where access is difficult. The solution to access is often different for each ride or attraction.
One thing I have relied upon until now is the idea that the more I learn, the more I can do. Unfortunately, that has been true until now. It seems Disneyland is reviewing disabled access and in at least one very important case, I can no longer easily ride on and enjoy the simple delight of the carousel with my grandchildren. In short, I was denied access with the explanation of "rules are changing" from a surprisingly rude and smug cast member. I was stunned. I was disappointed. And, since I had just ridden the ride the day before, I admit I was so surprised I expressed myself with anger at the employee.
I believe the details of the denial of access was improper training of the Cast Member and a confusion over the various vehicles people present themselves in at this particular ride. There is a bench seat on the carousel that has a cut away section where a wheelchair can park. Some Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) are very large, long, and difficult to maneuver in small areas. Because of this, Disney is requiring transfer to an actual wheelchair. However, if you present yourself already in a wheelchair -- as I do -- there should be no problems. The cast member specifically said my wheelchair was not appropriate because it was electric. Though it is essentially the same size and dimensions as a normal wheelchair, apparently just because it is electric is somehow now a problem. No other explanation was given other than "Electric wheelchairs aren't allowed. Rules are changing."
I cannot transfer without great difficulty and need the help of two strong people to do so. I cannot walk without support of another person for more than a couple of steps. I cannot raise myself from a normal seated position -- I need two people to help me do this as well. Because of this, when traveling to Disneyland with my wife only -- or sometimes enjoying the park alone -- I cannot participate in any ride or attraction where I cannot just access it on my wheelchair. There are many (See a list here) and I am so grateful for each and very one. However, the park is smaller for those of us for whom access is difficult because we can only participate in these rides or attractions. Now, with the arbitrary decision by this Cast Member, or a change in policy by Disney (which seems inconsistent because I was allowed access just the day before), suddenly my Small World at Disneyland just got Smaller.
This blog is being written to convey my experience and concern. I happened to be staying at the Disneyland Hotel on this visit, so I brought my concerns to Guest Services there. I was listened to and was provided the appropriate information to elevate my concern to higher levels at the Disney Company and I intend to do so. I will report in this blog (and in my upcoming book) how they respond.
Hopefully, though this was very disappointing to my family and me, this was an isolated incident by an ill-trained employee. "Rules" may change, but there are laws in effect that guarantee equal access. Denial of access when there is not valid reason is denial of access. I am not a complainer by nature and tend to give the Disney Company high marks for effort. I also tend to give them the benefit of the doubt when there are minor glitches and problems, though I have to admit there have been other situations lately that give me concern and about which I may be writing in the future.
In the meantime, on this trip, it was supposed to be our last ride. We were leaving Disneyland this time after all getting to ride on a ride together. My granddaughters are now old enough to note when Grandpa gets to ride with them on a ride and get excited. It didn't happen this time. Hopefully, access to Disneyland will not continue to get smaller.
I would love to hear from anyone else who has had a similar experience at Disneyland or Disney World where they feel access is denied for vague reasons. Feel free to comment here or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.