Inside The Disney World Line-Skipping Allegations: ‘How The 1% Does Disney’

Are rich parents hiring disabled guides to dodge long lines?

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Fred Prouser / REUTERS

The fireworks show "Remember Dreams Come True" at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California

Are rich parents cutting the queue at Disney World by paying disabled tour guides to pose as family members? That’s the allegation that social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin made to the New York Post after discovering the practice while conducting research for her upcoming book, Primates of Park Avenue.

To accommodate disabled visitors, Disney theme parks allow each guest in a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.” The line at these entrances is traditionally much shorter, which is why allegedly some parents are willing to shell out big bucks to hire disabled tour guides who can usher them past the line to the special ride entrance. The Post anonymously quoted one mother as saying, “My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours. You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge. This is how the 1% does Disney.” The practice is certainly cost-prohibitive for most. The report said that the “black-market Disney guides run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.”

(MORE: Disney Withdraws Attempt to Trademark the Name of a Holiday)

The company from which the woman allegedly hired the disabled tour guide, Dream Tours Florida, disputes the claims, though. According to their website, they are no longer offering VIP tours “due to inaccurate press and slander.” The site adds, “Our focus has primarily always been providing magical vacations for adults with special needs and helping their dreams to come true.” The Post noted that Jacie Christiano, who runs the company with Ryan Clement, does use a motorized scooter due to an autoimmune disease.

In response to the claims, Disney is now investigating the alleged practice. “It is unacceptable to abuse accommodations that were designed for guests with disabilities,” Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius told CNN Wednesday. “We are thoroughly reviewing the situation and will take appropriate steps to deter this type of activity.”

Disney theme parks offer VIP tours and FastPass service allowing people to avoid long lines for $310 to $380 per hour.

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43 comments
theonepercent
theonepercent

Whatever... My family and I have shelled out a few thousand dollar per year to own PREMIUM passes at Disneyland for the past 6 years. We only pay for the Premium passes, as they guarantee you days when the hoards of the entry level pass holders will be blocked from using the park. This provides a more enjoyable experience, as the Disneyland pass holder program is now so large, that the days open to all levels, are worse than any Summer day you can imagine. October Friday nights are worse than the busiest Saturdays in the Summer. At any rate, I am so angry and bothered that these news articles are breaking and blaming the handicap assistance problem on rich people and the 1%.... are you kidding? I know first hand, based on 100+ visits per year, that this program is being abused by EVERYONE, usually masses of people who speak no english, but know enough to fake their condition and request the pass. I have seen this in action several times.... and I can assure everyone, these lines are not filled with "Rich" people. There aren't enough rich people to make it a problem... after all they are referred to as the "1%". So lame. I am sure these slimeball tour guides have exposed this, but the reality is, it is most abused by the masses of Annual Passholders visiting the park with INSIDER knowledge on how to do this.

Just a week ago, we waited 50 minutes with a 2 year old and 4 year old for Peter Pan, as we got off I walked by a Handicap line of at lest 40 people, all in their 20's, all appearing healthy with no issues. Even if there are mental or non visible conditions, really? All 40 of them have autism or something else? No. It is just being abused be people with no respect or empathy for the ACTUAL handicap people who NEED this service. You all know who you are, and hopefully these cheaters will live in a little fear of the Karma headed their way for pretending to be handicapped.

richard.jones1069
richard.jones1069

Seems like much ado about nothing.  Aren't there more important world issues to be concerned with?  It's not like anyone is being hurt by this.  On the contrary people are being helped.  So I say good for the disabled tour guides who have found a creative way to generate income and support themselves.  The few people that skip ahead in a long line aren't going to significantly increase the amount of time that hundreds of other people have to wait to get on a ride.

senseforfree
senseforfree

I'm disabled from an autoimmune disease that destroys my muscle tissue and have points to keep in mind. For one thing (and this is what makes the entire problem so difficult), not all of the people with disabilities appear to others as disabled. Although my legs were very weak and I fell all the time, to many people, I looked young and healthy if I was standing. My young looks for my age caused me particular problems with others believing that I was sick. However, I was in tremendous danger walking outdoors. Can't even protect my head when I fall because my arms are too weak to break the fall.  When we last went to Disneyworld in 2003, I didn't yet have my own power wheelchair or scooter and hoped to rent a scooter at the parks.  (We flew to Orlando) I had a fresh compression fracture in my spine from a fall at my parents' winter home three days before our Disney vacation began. It was hell renting a handicap scooter because unless we got there early in the morning, all the scooters were already rented out to mostly, obese and elderly people.  We have come to a point in this society of people believing they're disabled if they're overweight, pregnant or over 50 years old and that's ridiculous. Anyway, we often had to rent a regular push wheelchair, which hurt my back like crazy and I hated having no control over where I went.  I watched all the fat and elderly people whiz by me, seemingly by the hundreds. I caught on pretty quick that the equipment for the disabled was being used by a lot of people who just didn't want to walk. 

There's no excuse for using someone else's disabled parking placard. It's really rotten to do to people who have a terrible time going anywhere. It's so hard to get parking - especially ones that accommodate ramp vans.

DISNEY: You need to require documentation from a physician for the rental or bringing in of a wheelchair or scooter. Conditions that qualify should be required so docs don't write passes for patients who have stubbed their toes and such or just because they're too lazy to walk. Legitimate disabling conditions ONLY.  The number of people on motorized scooters driving 50 MPH is dangerous for walkers and children at the parks.  It needs controlled.  You also need to preserve the rental equipment for people who really do need it. Require some PROOF of disabling conditions. Require that it be NOTARIZED if you have to.  It's even hard to book handicap hotel rooms because all the people who want bigger rooms say they're disabled. It makes life for the truly disabled even more hellish than it already is.

@DeweySayenoff to answer his/her question about attendants: no one needs six attendants. However, the idea of Disney is that families want to enjoy the rides and attractions as a family group and not have to be separated because one member has a disability.  I would have been seriously bummed if I couldn't enjoy an attraction WITH my children and had to have my husband take me while my kids went on rides or stuff without us with them.  Get it?  Like everyone else, we do Disney as a family and wish to enjoy it together. Also, Dewey, I am willing to wait in line.  BUT, the line corals are frequently too narrow for a motorized scooter or wheelchair to make the tight corners the queues are constructed of.  The Disney people have to put we crippled folks in certain places or load us in special places at an attraction because they put us in locations intended for wheelchairs or,  so we don't hold up the lines (transferring is often hard).  It's not a matter of being unwilling to wait.  Is it nice if we don't have to wait as long as you do?  Sure, it is.  However, if you couldn't roll over in bed without help, dress yourself, dry your own hair, hold babies, walk, run, swim in the ocean (shall I go on?), I, if I was able-bodied, would not resent you having the brief moment of joy you would have by not having to wait to enter an attraction at Disney.  I'm not sorry for YOU, jerk. I was beautiful and 32 years old with small children when I began falling every day.  I'm now in a power wheelchair. F-U.

I'm happy to report that I frequently encounter people who go out of their way to lend me a hand when I'm out and about.  There are still nice people out there, thank God.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

I understand special needs folks needing attention from an assistant, but why do they get to cut in line - let alone to the head of it?  The assistant is there.  They can fetch and carry for a person in line as much as anyone else.  I can see reserving a place for the attendant in line (in case they have to go get something - which makes them a poor attendant if they do), but there's no reason the person in a wheelchair can't just sit there.  I mean the rest of us are standing and can't leave the line to get something without having to go to the back of the line (assuming we're alone).

And while we're on that subject, who NEEDS six attendants?  One is sufficient.  Two if they have life-supporting equipment such as a respirator, oxygen or other things that should make them not get on the ride at all.  But SIX?  Whose moronic idea was that?

Oh, yeah, the rich who have the means to game the system.

Make the policy more realistic if you HAVE to let the poor blighters cut in line.  But were I one so afflicted, I'd be content to sit in line and read a book while I waited my turn - just like everyone else.  At least I can sit instead of stand, and don't have to carry my shade, drink, meal, etc. on my back while I'm waiting.  That alone is enough to make someone standing in the hot sun for two and a half hours angry.  Why compound it by breezing past them to go to the head of the line, too?

I just don't get it.  We don't let them go ahead of us in line to anything else.  Why do they let them do that at Disneyland?

AlanGoldstein
AlanGoldstein

These are probably the same jerks that park in the fire lane, while they run inside the store to use the ATM.

CerealKiller
CerealKiller

My neighbor is handicapped and barely leaves the house. So I get him a bottle of booze once in a while and use his handicap parking pass in my MB 500 all over town. Comes in really handy at sporting events and around the holiday's. Anyone has a problem with that? 

AndrewPogue
AndrewPogue

As a former employee of Disney world. This happens ALL THE TIME. People will just rent a wheel chair at the front of the park and they get to cut lines in all if not most rides. I would say 80% of the people who do this dont even use the pretense of a leg brace or anything. Just go right on through. I HATED THIS, cus i knew they where cheating the system. 

SouthernSunshine
SouthernSunshine

The people faking disabilities is nothing new.  This has been going on since at least the last time I visited Disney World which was 1990.  It was rampant and disgusting then.

AdamRussell
AdamRussell

yes, your kids are learning important life lessons.

Squeezebox
Squeezebox

Disney really shouldn't stop this practice so much as put a fence around it.  They should have a process where legitimately disabled persons who can't afford to go to a Disney park can apply to Disney for a sponsor.  In exchange for sponsorship, the sponsor gets a special pass to jump the lines.  Disney Parks themselves should run the program and the list to ensure this isn't gamed by scammers.

There are a lot of patients at the Shriners' Hospitals for Children who would love to go on a Disney vacation, but can't.

bear90039
bear90039

You don't have to be rich. You can rent a wheelchair at Disneyland in Anaheim for $10 (or so it used to be). 

JeffreyGower
JeffreyGower

sounds like a dubious urban legend to me

selbymik
selbymik

If you really are the "1%", why do you need a discount guide?  Why not just use the Disney VIP service?  I go to Disney at least twice a year for 2 weeks at a time.   Personally, I have more of a problem with the strollers that are the size of a Buick that parents push at you like they are trying to kill you.  When did they get to be 5 feet wide anyway?  If you enjoy the parks, then you have to figure out a way to deal with the crowds, the lines, the prices, scooters, strollers, etc, etc.

Lauren1113
Lauren1113

This article has an error.  FastPass is free to any guest.  I have been to Walt Disney World 3 times (most recently a few days ago) and I have used FastPasses every time.

KYBamBam
KYBamBam

The 1% are not the problem...well not the vast majority.  Let's face it those folks have the money to pay for the VIP tours that are offered anyway.  The problem is the folk faking a disability.  We were at the Magic Kingdom three years ago.  The number of disgustingly obese people on the scooters was obnoxious.  The would rent the scooter for a fraction of the cost of a VIP tour because they are too lazy to walk and that gave them the privilege of line jumping as if they were disabled.  It was infuriating to see the folks that were truly disabled have to wait behind folk whose only disability was eating way too many cheeseburgers and donuts.  At one point I watched a very obese man on one of the scooters get it stuck trying to navigate a line...he was not very talented at driving the device.  To get it un-stuck he got off the scooter picked it up and moved it only to get back on and continue to the handicap entrance.  I am sorry, if you can physically move the scooter...you aren't disabled...you are just lazy. 

If the author of this article wanted to tackle a real problem they should focus on the fakers and the abuses by the obese....but that wouldn't be a politically correct as attacking the 1%.

RDFinOP
RDFinOP

I would bet that the holy grail for places like Disney is to come up with some way to all but eliminate lines.  They don't want you standing in lines.  They want you moving about buying things.  Maybe they could have little bracelets with RFID tags and you go to kiosk and schedule a time for a ride.  Then you kind of fool around for a while until you pop over to the ride and go right in.

I think you can do that now for an extra fee (I would). I would think that they would make it free or very cheap.


hamdog9978
hamdog9978

What's unacceptable are the prices Disney charges for VIP tours and FastPass services.  That's the most unethical part of the whole story.

DorieLeland
DorieLeland

I have twin sons. Both have Cerebral Palsy.  15 years ago I took both boys to one of the parks in Florida by myself.  I had one on a walk and one in a wheel chair. I would switch them out when one got to tired to walk (that did not take long either).  I was very grateful for the special entrances.  The boys are adults now and both wheel chair bound.  3 years ago we were at a wal mart and one used a store scooter.  I had a fat hog chase me down demanding that scooter.  I told her to kiss my xxx.  she followed us through the store and to the parking lot just to take that scooter.  Figure that one out. 

JaneNeubauer
JaneNeubauer

i was in a wheel chair one visit to disney for a broken leg and had to wait in the normal line which is half the fun anyway. 

jdjm74
jdjm74

My family and I have been through the hours of waiting in lines many many times at Disney World. Although I think the actions taken by the rich are elitest and snobbish, it's only part of the problem. I have no problem with the disabled having a great time at the parks. But what should be done is to allow the disabled in a special entrance, like what is already done, so they don't have to go through the tight weaving lines. Then have their family members stand in line like everyone else and join their disabled family member when they reach the front. It is only fair. Skipping lines with little to no wait should only be done for, say someone with a terminal illness or something of that magnitude, and not for someone who disabled or is obese and can't walk. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Federal_Retiree
Federal_Retiree

Are people with disabilities being taken advantage of when they are being paid even half of the $130 per hour rate?  I have no objection to people with disabilities being affored special accommodations. I do not however belief that entitlement should include the ability to earn as much as a $1,000 a day to basically tell everyone else "we are not worthy". I feel that is what they are doing every time they pull this BS move; I see it as them thumbing their collective noses at all the poor people standing there for hours waiting. As for the 1%'ers, if they have so much money and feel entitled let them pay Disney the going rate for the VIP tours. Don't allow a few spoiled rich people to encourage the disabled to cheat the systems and the rest of us. I don't see why Disney should not be able to confirm family affiliation without questioning the individual about their disability. They seem to be two very different issues. If the park finds someone who is lying to gain an advantage then ban him or her from the park. I recall they had some sort of finger or palm print mechanism at the gate to confirm identity of season ticket holders. Certainly it wouldn't take much effort to use it as a tool to prevent this from occurring. I will be very interested in the response from Disney. Will they allow this practice to continue and crap all over the rest of us as well? If so my next vacation will most certainly NOT include any type of Disney activity. Nor will it for the foreseeable future. Would anyone really be interested in paying those rates to be treated as in such a manner?

murphydogmom
murphydogmom

Fast passes and common sense can get you through the parks without huge wait times and those are free. No attraction is worth 2 1/2 hours, in my opinion. On the other hand, VIP arrangements would certainly help to get a good spot for actually seeing the night spectaculars and parades at Disneyland Resort.

TanyaAnderson
TanyaAnderson

Fast Pass is free and available to any park guest that wants to get one and come back in a later two hour time frame. My family and I have visited 3 times and used Fast Pass each time. It's awful that people would take advantage of an accomodation they don't need but the last line of the article is in error regarding the Fast Pass system. I have recommended Disney to disabled friends because they have great accommodations even at the water parks. I hope none of that changes because of a few poison apples.

jsloughrey
jsloughrey

It is not just the 1% who abuse the generous policy Disney extends to families with a family member requiring a wheelchair. I am an incomplete quadraplegic who uses a wheelchair. In 1996 when my daughters were young, we went to Disney World. We were so pleased at how well Disney accomodated wheelchair users with transportation, the bathrooms, really all the physical aspects that we did find at many places a young family likes to take their children! Allowing us to go ahead of others waiting in line was a bonus because it allowed us the extra time to transfer from the wheelchair into the ride so we were not holding up the ride for other riders....in much the same way an airline allows disabled flyers to board ahead of others. During that day we ran into the same families with disabled family members at almost all of the rides that I chose to experience or was able to experience with my young children. One such family that was obviously not in the top 1% of prosperity we saw doing one of the more memorable and remarkable things to fake the need of accomodations of the disabled that I had seen in my then 3 years of being disabled. It still is and I have seen a lot of this kind of abuse in my 20 years of using a wheelchair. The family was obviously using a rented wheelchair for the child we first saw in the wheelchair. We ran across them outside of a ride and found the little girl that had been in the wheelchair jumping up and down yelling at her presumed mother, "I don't want to be in the wheelchair anymore! It's Donny's turn to sit in it!" The mother then ordered Donny to get in the wheelchair, he jumped in and off they went. Our conclusion was the family rented the wheelchair to jump line by having the children take turns being "disabled". You come to your own conclusion. Incidentally I am not a big defender of those in the top 1% but I don't think they deserve the take the rap on being disgusting and vile enough to abuse the accomodation given to people who really need it. Need more news fodder on how people do it? I could tell you tons of stories. Most disabled people would be glad to give up those special accomodations extended in exchange for being able-bodied but I can tell you right now that all those people who do this kind of stuff would offer to take a disability to get on an amusement park ride, park in the big parking spaces and use the big bathrooms! LOL!

SandyMiller
SandyMiller

I worked at Disney World several years, and I still work here in the area. This article is ignorant and paranoid. The 1% pays actual Disney tour guides from Guest Relations to give them personal VIP tours which skip lines automatically as part of the tour. People like Oprah, Shaq, etc., are "back doored" to rides through the tunnels and backstage where the other 99% never see them (unless they want to be seen). Less recognizeable CEOs, doctors, and the like are automatically given "fast passes" or backstage access with their VIP tours. Anyone can buy a VIP tour, but they are very expensive for the better ones so "the 1%" is more likely to take advantage. Those kids and people you see in wheelchairs and with special needs (my nephew with autism for example) are completely legitimate. Disney Guest Relations is not allowed to ask questions if someone SAYS they have a child or adult with a special need so I would not put it past some people to lie about the state of one of their own children, but it's certainly not the 1% needing to do that. Your article is ridiculous and will cause people to look with paranoia at people and families with special needs like they are just trying to get by with something - Get your information straight before you post things on the Internet!

TeresaLunsford
TeresaLunsford

Not all people abuse the system, they actually need it! My brother in law for one, who has survived 4 types of cancer and struggling. He will be making his first trip to WDW in couple weeks and will definitely need a scooter. He look great, but couldn't walk more than 1/4 mile no not all appearances are how they look. Agree with poster that some people are so large they can't walk or choose not to.

suddendepth
suddendepth

Who cares? This is an alternate form of fast pass which Disney put into practice to extract profit from. In this case people with disabilities make a profit instead of the park. It's a niche service which those with disposable income can afford to pay for. I think the critics are just mad that they didn't think of it first. I worked with a guy with Cerebral Palsy who offered to do this for me at Kings Dominion for free. He must have missed his calling or be kicking himself for not thinking of marketing it first.

mahadragon
mahadragon

Actually given the fact that Disney knows people have to stand in line for hours just for rides why wouldn't they come up with a system or solution for this in 2013?? Why don't they just make more roller coaster rides? Or add cars? Or make a special fee just to ride the ride? There's gotta be an answer some place, I think they are just ignoring the question. I hear about them experimenting every once in a while to try a new solution but they should working harder.

ConGrpThink
ConGrpThink

I just love stories involving mobility scooters. America = Obesity.

JoshPGreenberg
JoshPGreenberg

I think I would be pretty happy to accept $130 an hour to let someone cut line, especially if I was a minimum wage earner at a Disney Theme Park. Obviously it's horrible to exploit disabled people, but really anyone who is upset is probably more angry that the Riiiiiiiiiiiiich 1%ers are screwing us true 'Muricans once again.

mwfriederichs
mwfriederichs

It's not about the 1%, it's about unscrupulous people.  Anyone who wants to can request a disability pass, and due to HIPAA Disney is prohibited from asking for any documentation of proof.  They cannot and will not even ask about the disability, only the reason that prohibits the individual from being able to stand in line.  

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

These rotten one percent are the cause of all the worlds problems. If we could just make them poor, everything would be great.

terrimain
terrimain

My question is why anyone in their right mind would stand in line 2.5 hours for a ride? Actually, aside from the DMV and a few times when I needed a certain class in college, I don't think I've found anything worth that. 

But then, did anyone really think the rich stood in line next to the guy who works at the mini-mart?

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@CerealKiller Ah, the rant of the ignorant.  

Here's why I say you should keep it up.  The pass has a number that's assigned to the vehicle in which it's supposed to be displayed.  One pass per vehicle.  A lot of people were doing what you did - taking someone's pass and parking because they're too lazy to get a regular parking place.

Not too long ago, about a dozen of them got busted with fines ranging upwards of ten grand each.  Their cars were impounded (you don't just get a ticket and drive away), the passes were confiscated and two were jailed.   Plus the people whose passes was used, if they knowingly let someone else use it, were fined as well.

So keep it up!  It's the Darwinian thing to do to weed out the unfit.  I don't have a problem with it.  You'll get caught sooner or later. 

drixihensa
drixihensa

@jdjm74 You are obviously ignorant to the needs of some special needs communities. 

nsr019
nsr019

@mahadragon Well, the bottom line is that people are willing to wait 2.5 hours in line for rides, so the demand isn't there for the company to put all hands on deck to fix the issue. 

The solution isn't as simple as building more rides (which cost tens of millions of dollars -- again, not worth it when people are perfectly content to wait 2.5 hours in line) or adding special fees (one of the main selling points of a Disney park is that the kids can go on whatever rides they want, unlike your average state fair).

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

That was supposed to be the great charm of disneyworld. A place where Abdul from the 7-11 and the wealthy white banker wait in line together with their families for hours and hours for some idiotic ride no one over the age of five will be entertained by. And that illusion, like so much else, has been shattered. This nation is less innocent than it was prior to the Disney scandal and subsequent implosion.

dunickvera
dunickvera

No, Disney's charm was never that. And as for the rest of the things u've said. Go save the world with greenpeace, instead of trying to save the system of Disney which absolutely doesn't need it