How I Scammed the Disney World Wheelchair Line System

Categories: Culture

My family spent our last day at Disney the same way we'd spent the first: at Magic Kingdom, the place I'd first discovered how easily anybody can get a wheelchair at Disney World. And yes, I'll admit it: that day, my 11-year-old self scammed the system. I pretended to be injured in order to get that wheelchair.

At first, it seemed like just a tiny lie, and with such an epic payoff; the lines for rule-abiding vacationers with two working legs that day were as long as I'd seen them all week. But then, we arrived at the Haunted Mansion. Maybe it's different now, but back then, the Disney employee took my wheelchair at the entrance to the front room of the ride. In order to get to the car, I had to make it down a long corridor on my own two legs. And I had to look convincingly broken while doing it.

As usual, my dad helped me out of the chair. I leaned on him, trying to replicate the hobbling movements I'd made a few days earlier, when I really did need his support to get around. But I also realized how silly this whole situation was, and like the kid I was, I couldn't stop giggling about it.

My dad was the first to realize the scene we were making, and barked at me under his breath with a harsh "Lean on me more." That shut me up, and I pulled it together enough to look up and see an entire line of people -- tourists and Disney employees alike -- looking at us with disgust.

I don't know if I can put into words exactly how ashamed I was at that moment. Two decades later, that scene is vivid in my memory. I think I was too young to fully appreciate how awful it was to pretend to need a wheelchair when you don't -- to understand, as much as any able person can, the difficulties of a life spent in a wheelchair and the way my behavior had disrespected those difficulties. I just remember feeling so embarrassed, so truly awful, and sorry to have dragged my father into the whole mess. When I think about it now, it feels almost like watching a particularly cringe-worthy episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, except it's starring my family, and also it's real, which makes it way, way less funny. To this day, my father and I have not spoken about it since. It was that bad.

So when I read these recent reports of wealthy families who use disabled guides to get themselves into the short lines, I'm not shocked. I'm not outraged -- how hypocritical would that be? It's not like I don't get the impulse.

But most importantly, I'm not jealous at all. These "Manhattan moms" who buy their way into the disabled line, if they really do exist, might have tons of money. But it can't buy them out of the shame of using a disability (real or fake) to cut in front of other families in line. And that shame stays with you, believe me.

Rent a wheelchair at Disney again? Without a legitimate injury, you couldn't pay me to take one.

Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.

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15 comments
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 topcommenter

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

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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