Disney line jumping with a disabled guide — smart or sleazy?

by Janice Hough on May 17, 2013

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What is it about travel with children that really brings out the vitriol in people, on both sides of any argument?

This time it’s not seating on planes, but line-jumping at Disney World. Here is the short version, for those who haven’t seen the story. The New York Post report that wealthy Manhattan moms have been quietly passing around the names of disabled people who will act as tour guides at Disney World.

No, it’s not for the warm-and-fuzzy reason of trying to hire the disabled. It’s because these guides can pretend to be friends or family members and take the moms and their children in motorized scooters to the front of the line on many rides. Disney allows disabled guests to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.”

Is this illegal? Technically, no. Although Walt Disney World certainly never intended for their policy to be used by wealthy able-bodied folks to avoid long wait times. It certainly is not cheap — reports noted that these disabled escorts cost around $130 an hour.

As some have pointed out, Disney themselves sells Premium VIP tours that give travelers unlimited Fast Passes, front-row seating to shows and parades and backstage visits with characters.

Disney also has a Fast Pass system, whereby any visitor to the park can choose a limited number of timed tickets for shorter lines.

So, is this simply a free enterprise way of beating the system? Are well-to-do moms putting money in private (and handicapped) hands instead of Disney’s pockets? Or, is this despicable?

For what it’s worth, this is different. It’s setting an example for children that money means you don’t follow the rules.

Perhaps, one could say it’s making a virtue of necessity, but I think there is something basically good about the generally egalitarian nature of Disney. We all stand in line. That is good for children.

(Just as an aside, Princess Diana used to insist that her sons, bodyguards and all, had to wait in line at restaurants like McDonalds and at amusement parks.)

Not to mention the factor of learning priorities. Long-time Disney visitors may remember the A-E ticket days, when parents and children had to choose which of the top E ticket attractions they wanted.

Even now, with Fast Pass, message boards and apps that tell visitors about wait-times, Disney visits for most people are generally about deciding. “OK, what do you REALLY want to ride, and what’s less important? (These kinds of decisions can also lead to interesting family negotiations.)

Now that the story has surfaced, it will be interesting to see if Disney changes their policies. For instance, in orderto pay Florida resident reduced prices, Walt Disney World requires local identification and limits tickets sold. Therefor it’s conceivable Disney could try to find out if a group moving through long lines together was really friends-and-family.

On the other hand, will this story inspire others to set up businesses for say, getting into stadiums or other events earlier with shorter lines or special entrances.

But what do you think, Consumer Traveler readers? Is hiring a disabled person to skip the lines a brilliant idea, or a completely sleazy one? Or both?

Photo: VisitDisney.com

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  • SusanW

    WHY am I getting talking ads & viseos that I cannot turn off???

  • JHK

    Please do not use this embedded player again – one can not turn it off

  • pauletteb

    Sleazy with a capital “S.” These wealthy moms are teaching their kids that as long as they have enough money, they can circumvent the rules that everyone else has to follow. Their new motto: “Hire the handicapped; we can use them to our advantage.”

  • Rick

    Hi Janice, I love your columns and look daily for them. But PLEASE do not have video with sound that starts automatically. I open about 5 windows at a time to read in the morning, and couldn’t figure out where that blasted noise was coming from.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lori.heathorn Lori Heathorn

    I think the embedded video is coming from the site; the columnist has no control over it. But I agree, hate the embedded video.
    As for the topic at hand-sleezy!
    Interestingly, I know many people that use a wheelchair or ECV at Disneyworld who report that with so many of the queues mainstreamed they wait their turn like everyone else, and in fact may wait longer since they must use a special ride vehicle (that are few and far between). And they are okay with that. All disabled people want is equal access, not special access.

  • janice

    Okay, that wasn’t me, but our editor. I passed on the comment, and asked about taking it out. :-)

  • janice

    Hi Rick, thanks, I asked if our editor could take it out. :-)

  • Charles Leocha

    Sorry about that. I didn’t realize the video started automatically. It is gone. Worse, I can’t figure out how to turn off the auto-start-up.

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