A few days ago, I wrote a letter to your friend, Mickey Mouse. The reason for my letter was simple…as the mother of two children with Down syndrome I felt disappointed and upset that Disney was changing their policy regarding guests with disabilities. What has unfolded since my letter was received and read has left me feeling even more disappointed and upset. Before I go into too much detail, let me reiterate what I shared with Mr. Mouse in my initial correspondence . . . For years, we have been bringing our family to your home because above all other places in the world, Disney was the one place that made our entire experience not only accessible but enjoyable. As parents of children with special needs we seek these experiences because most of the time most of the world is just not built for us. It was our impression that Disney recognized that the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — and their families — is far greater and more complex than typically developing people and that you and your friends worked hard to create a climate of accommodation and respect unlike any other organization in the world.
Sadly, it was through a telephone conversation that I had with a representative named Justin in Disability Services that I learned that my long-standing perceptions of Disney were about to be turned upside down. Over the course of a thirty minute call, I came to the realization that the one place on earth I thought had been going above and beyond for families like ours was, in reality, just working toward trying to find a way to level the playing field for all of it’s visitors. Justin explained, “The intention of the Guest Assistance Card was never to give people with disabilities a shortened wait time for attractions, but rather an alternate entrance”. He went on to say that “Disney expects all of it’s guests to wait their turn” and that the new Disability Access Service Card would serve this purpose much better than the former GAC.
The idea that a level playing field must be created for all guests absolutely took my breath away. For those of us that know and love someone with an intellectual or developmental disability, we are acutely aware that the playing field will never be level. I respectfully submit that in order to achieve this kind of “equality”, someone without an intellectual or developmental disability might have to experience a stroke or have an accident that would level their mental functioning to that of our children. Unfortunately, I think there are people that don’t appreciate, let alone understand, the challenges people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families face on a daily basis. What really disappoints me is that I thought Disney did. I thought Disney created the Guest Assistance Card so that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families could experience the magic of Disney without facing and overcoming the same obstacles they face every other day of their lives.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m reaching out to you today, Dumbo, but I have a feeling you know a little something about how it feels to be looked at and treated differently. And just like your mother fought for your acceptance and inclusion, I’m determined to continue to be a voice for my children and the millions of others that live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Very truly yours,