How I Scammed the Disney World Wheelchair Line System

Categories: Culture

disney_wheelchair.jpg
via wdwnews.com
In 1993, when I was 11 years old, my family went to Disney World. We piled into our station wagon -- my mother and father in front, my little sister and I in the back -- and set out from our home in rural Pennsylvania, driving two full days until we reached the town that Mickey built. By the time we arrived at our resort, the anticipation was unbearable. But it was the afternoon, and not worth paying full ticket price for a half day of rides. So instead, we went to the pool at our resort.

The first thing I did was run to the deep end and jump in, toes pointed, trying to touch the bottom. The pool wasn't as deep as I'd hoped, and I crushed my foot against the rough concrete. I came up, choking and wailing; hours later, my big toe was more swollen than I'd ever seen on anybody. I couldn't walk on it at all. I was certain it was broken.

So the next day, we marched ourselves up to the guest services desk at Magic Kingdom, and requested a wheelchair for me. That was when I learned the tantalizing truth about Disney World's special disabled lines: Anybody can use them. And anybody -- not just "rich Manhattan moms" who can afford disabled guides -- can scam the system.

My parents didn't have to provide any proof of my injury to rent a wheelchair at Disney. No doctor's note required, no cast -- no one even asked me to take off my sneaker to show them the bruise. I don't remember if my parents had to pay a fee for the wheelchair; today, wheelchair renters at Disney World pay between $10 and $12 per day.

But I do remember getting in that first line. It was Splash Mountain, and on that hot summer day in Orlando, it seemed like the entire park was waiting to splash down and cool off. My dad pushed me toward the end of the public line, but a park employee redirected us around the side of the mountain. There, we found a much shorter line, with maybe three other families with wheelchair-bound members waiting.

They put us on the ride first, before any of the other guests in the other queue snaking back out to the entrance. I was a kid who'd spent two days fighting carsickness to get to this place, and I thought this was awesome.

Throughout my family's stay at Disney, we found a special line for guests in wheelchairs at every ride we went to, and a guest services kiosk offering wheelchairs in every park. At each ride, my dad would half-carry me as I limped to my seat on the coaster, while a Disney employee collected my wheelchair and made sure it was waiting for me at the exit. We blew through those parks at least three times faster than your average guest. Privately, my parents joked that breaking my toe was the best thing that could've happened to us on vacation.

But here's the thing: my toe wasn't broken. It was just really badly bruised, and it healed fast. By day three of our five day stay in Orlando, the swelling was down, and I could put pressure on my foot without wincing. By day four, I could walk without a limp -- it was still painful, but I could do it. And by day five, our last day at Disney, I didn't really need the wheelchair at all.

But I wanted that wheelchair, and the access to which I'd become accustomed. I think we all wanted it, my parents and sister too, but their greed went unspoken. I was the one who pretended my toe was more than just a little stiff in order to get the wheelchair for that last day.


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17 comments
ianbrettcooper
ianbrettcooper

I'm all for cracking down on scammers, but many people seem way too quick to judge.

As a person with what they call an "incomplete" spinal cord injury, my disability is one that has no symptoms except pain, and the pain doesn't appear until I've been on my feet for a few minutes. After an hour it's excruciating. This means that I can do anything an able bodied person can do - walk, run, etc. - I can do these things for about 15 minutes, no problem. If I sit down and rest for half an hour or so, I can get up and do them again, no problem - it looks as if there's nothing at all wrong with me. Yet I own and use a wheelchair - paid for not by insurance, but out of my own pocket, because insurance won't cover it.

I'm sure I've been labeled a "fake" wheelchair user before. If I could loan the folks who think I'm faking my back problem for a few days, they might not be so quick to judge.

Meila6987
Meila6987

People also should realize that not everyone has a disability you can see. I visit Disney parks every couple months. With an open muscle in my stomach. As long as I'm in the chair no one can tell I have a problem most just assume it so I can cheat lines. Our lines are long too sometimes longer. Cast members are trained to wait a certain amount of time between people and between how many times someone can ride. The more you ride the longer the time between. My point is don't assume that someone is ok without knowing the truth.

krys11
krys11

My father has been paralyzed from the waist down for the past 12 years, following a spinal stroke. From one day to the next, my Superman became immobile, and needy. No one truly understands the struggle of a disabled person until that one day when life throws some reality your way and you're forced to live a new life, dealing with everything that comes with being disabled. He can't even pour himself a cup of water because he can't reach the cabinets in the kitchen. I, his 22 year old daughter, wipe his ass and shower him daily. What the fuck do you people know about disabilities?! Respect and recognize that a wheelchair is no laughing matter. Act like you need one, and I guarantee you will one day. Fuck you scammers; you make it hard for the people who really need this type of assistance.

lovefifteenthirty
lovefifteenthirty

People are stupid if they are paying for this "service."

Anyone can get a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) by going to guest services and asking for "a quieter, less crowded place to wait."

If you get grief, just tell the CM you "had an alternative entrance GAC before."

And you'll still get it.

Disney needs a better way to handle all of the so-called disabled people who visit their parks. Universal writes "return tickets" with a time equal to that of the standby line. However, some of the parents of Snowies who cannot wait in line for "autism" or "ADHD" claim that their needs aren't met because their child cannot be told to return. My question is...how will these people function in life? Do they expect people at the grocery store to allow them immediate access to a cash register? C'mon.

--Signed, a former CM who dealt with GAC abuse daily.


Tara Flynn Norman
Tara Flynn Norman

The problem is that the are adults teaching kids and that they do not have guilt, shame or remorse

shawjoe
shawjoe

My recent trip to Disneyland I encountered this alot.  My question is, at what point in life do we decide we cannot walk long enough and need a wheelchair. I think Americans are getting lazier by the day!

itsme
itsme

Scumbag, hopefully you and your dad end up needing a wheelchair for the rest of your lives.

Matt Slawski
Matt Slawski

Just be thankful you had more than one day at Disney and that they offer such a line for disabled people.

Charles Schneider
Charles Schneider

In EPCOT, they are usually all so drunk I would hardly call their disabilities "fake" either.

Dania Schneider
Dania Schneider

most of the time people in wheelchairs wait LONGER than others, there is no 'go to the front of the line' pass.

j.pollo
j.pollo

Some of us don't do things because we'll get caught, but because they are wrong. It's also real easy to take an old lady's bag, or candy from a baby.

Charles Schneider
Charles Schneider

Being in a wheelchair doesn't let me "cut the lines". It just means I have to enter at the exit where my chair can fit to wait to be allowed on, after all the other people who think they can cut by renting a chair. It usually takes exactly the same amount of time as the wait for the ride.

Alex Howard
Alex Howard

I think pretty much any Florida resident has done this at one point or another

itsjustme
itsjustme

@lovefifteenthirty Do you have an autistic child? if not then you have no clue what you are talking about. Waiting 5 minutes at the store compared to 45 - 60 mins for a ride is not even close to a fair comparison. Do some research you ignorant pig

FedUp
FedUp

@shawjoe really? How do you know they were scamming and just lazy? If you've never had a disease that affects your joints and causes severe fatigue, count your blessings, but don't be so judgmental! Many people who must use the scooters or wheelchairs have no other option. It's not fun navigating the crowd and being stared at like you're on display. Comments like yours make it hard for those of us who cannot walk the parks. I would much rather still be walking the parks, but the only way I can take my family is to use the scooter. So in spite of mean judgmental comments, I will continue to do so. Just know that it's not fun for me. 

shawjoe
shawjoe

@Dania Schneider   We just got back from Disneyland. We saw this several times. My cousin asked a father about it because he and his family of 6 were taking turns and happened to be going the same route as us but always ahead. They were always let right on.  So this does happen often. AND the dad said it cost him 50bux for the three day rental and front of the line treatment. He was proud of himself. Disgusting!!


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