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Six Flags eliminates front-of-line for disabled visitors

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Published: September 19, 2007 at 9:50 AM

In an effort to eliminate abuses by visitors faking injuries and disabilities to cut to the front of ride lines, Six Flags theme parks are now offering disabled visitors reservation return times instead of a free pass to the front of the queue. (Think FastPass/FlashPass/Universal Express, etc....)

The upside is that guests with disabilities still don't have to wait in a queue, which might not be wheelchair accessible. The downside, for them, is that they lose immediate access to rides. What is unclear is whether the return time will be equal to the current wait time for the ride, or for a later time during the day. Readers, what have you heard?

An article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quotes a mother of two autistic kids about the policy:

She said they went to a ride, booked a time to return and then left.

But that didn't make sense to her daughter, [the mother] said. The girl threw herself on the ground and bit her therapist, [the mother] said.

"My children don't understand time," she said. "The things that are reasonable to us make no sense to them. Anything more than five or 10 minutes can be a screaming meltdown for my kids."

"I knew we couldn't go through this on every ride. The stress could bring on a seizure for my daughter," [the mother] said.

The policy went into place earlier this month at all Six Flags theme parks.

Readers' Opinions

From Robert OGrosky on September 19, 2007 at 11:49 AM
I think this is great!!!!!

At my local SF park I seen people abusing the system on every visit so anything that cuts down on people scamming to get on rides sooner is a very good policy.

Now only if disney parks would not let people abuse there system to skip ahead in line.

I dont want to sound overly crass, but if kids or adults cant handle some waiting in line then maybe a theme park visit isnt for them.

Ive just seen way too many people abuse these systems and then later laugh about it among themselves as they exit rides or walk in the parks.

From Judy York on September 19, 2007 at 9:22 PM
HURRAY! It's about time. I've seen so much abuse of this practice it's enough to make your head spin. For the mother with autistic children, have a family member go to the ride without the child and get the fast entrance pass. This way the child will not see the ride to become so upset. Another practice that really grinds me are pregnant women....I wasn't aware that pregnancy was a disability...I also thought that it was a matter of choice. I've seen women who are not even showing yet acting like they are on their last legs.. maybe they should wait until after the baby if they can't tolerate the event or just take it a little slower. Then there are the older folks (of which I am one) and the people that should walk to get exercise to help get rid of a "few extra pounds"....well I could go on for hours here.. Again HIP HIP HURRAY... lets hope some of the other parks pick up the ball!! Hey wouldn't we all like to get to the front of the line...except for the Make a wish or Give kids the World I don't see why they should have special permission to jump in front of anyone else. I know there are a few exceptions but like I stated...a few...not every case.
From Claudine Deshaies on September 19, 2007 at 4:38 PM
I'm guessing they won't let another family member go in to get the pass because then they can't see the actual person with the disability.
To cut down on people faking, why don't they just have an office at the front of the park (like where they hand out the Qbots) where a disabled person (w/ family or guardian) would go in and get a wristband or pass that they could use all day to get to the front of the line? That way, no one could just walk up and say "hey I have a disability" just to abuse the system.
Re: cutting due to pregnancy - Don't most rides say not to ride if you are pregnant?
From Betty Rohrer on September 19, 2007 at 6:49 PM
my daughter, son-in-law,grandsons and myself were at SFGA in NJ the weekend after Labor Day. i went to guest relations and was given a paper listing the rides that i could use special enter. to board. the paper was to be siged as i boarded and could only be used once for each ride. as we did the poplar rides early we did not have to wait. i have a bad knee that steps kill, wish all rides had the sloping ramps. i was never given a return time and was given a seat along with one guest with in a couple trains on the coasters we did. i liked the way the program worked for me.
From Chris Walton on September 19, 2007 at 7:43 PM
Yay! Finally! Make them wait like the rest of us.
From Missy Renee on September 20, 2007 at 4:52 AM
I feel that in most cases handicapped guests should be allowed ACCESS to rides whenever possible, in a safe and appropriate manner. But I do NOT feel that disabilities should allow guests the privilege of bypassing every queue in the park. I think the idea of a pass allowing the guest to return after a designated period of time equal to the approximate wait time, therefore avoiding the physical (or mental) demands of waiting in the queue, is very reasonable.

If you allow guests with disabilities to move to the front of the line, then you are faced with the daunting task of determining at what LEVEL the disability justifies this privilege. Is it necessary for the physically disabled, who may tire more easily? Or the mentally disabled, who perhaps become distressed by the enormous visual and audio stimulation that a theme park offers? It is at that point in determination that people are able to take advantage of the system.

This is a subject that is sensitive to me because one of my children has a disorder on the autistic spectrum. Granted, my child has a very mild form of autism, probably much milder than the parent in the featured article. But I have never considered his disability justification to move ahead in a line. If he has a day that he is not able to handle a theme park (or a shopping mall, or a restaurant...you get the idea), then we just go home, try again the next time, and call it a lesson learned. Over time I have learned to take measures to prevent meltdowns, but it will always mean more work on my part. My family should be allowed ACCESS to the park and to the rides, just like everyone else. But I don't feel that it gives me the right to have a shorter wait than the other guests.

In summary, I think Six Flags has made a wise decision.

From Erik Yates on September 20, 2007 at 9:33 AM
I'll play devils advocate here. Sure you have a few people abusing the system, but I think that Six Flags is really going to lose business by doing this. People with disabled children will simply not wait. Should they? Thats irrelevant, their disability prevents them from doing so. On the same token, Six Flags wants their dollar just as much as someone who is not disabled.
From Anthony Murphy on September 20, 2007 at 10:14 AM
Well, they could just say wait in line!


Being part of a group with a person in a wheelchair, it rocked cutting the line at Disney World. However, if you have checked, all the lines are Wheelchair acessable now. Fastpasses are the best alternative to this issue.


Even so, responding to the quote, with fastpasses, you still need to wait a bit in a line. Soarin is a nightmare onto itself!


I know I am in the minority, but fastpass-esque practices seem great to me! I have never, and I mean never, had a problem with any of those "wait for a time" thing.

From Robert OGrosky on September 20, 2007 at 10:54 AM
It isnt a few people abusing the system, it is numerous people intentionally abusing a system. If people have a disability that is "so severe" that they cant wait a resonable amount of time to get on a ride, then a theme park visit may not be right for them and they should return when they can handke it.
From Mike West on September 20, 2007 at 12:26 PM
Well folks, here's a little education, some here are more ignorant than others.(You know who you are).
Ignorant is far more polite a word than you deserve.
Let's address a couple of things.
Some disabilites are permanant. Who the heck are YOU to say that someone should come back when they are better suited.
Thank god you are not in a majority(thus the Americans with disabilities act).
Thank god, people like you are NOT deciding for everyone based on your selfish perspective.
The fact is that some people cannot manage the effort neccessary, let alone navigate the queue.
You're not better than them, or derseve more by any stretch of the imagination.
To say that anyone who cannot stand the rigors of the hot sun for hours on end because the are somehow weaker than you shouldn't ride, well no one should be wished that they have a loved one with a diminished capacity, but in your cases, a lesson really is in order. When it's your child, see how you feel.
A return time is fair.
We recently experienced a refusal for the return time because the ride was listed as one with a queue which was navigable by wheelchair. The ride manager perceived that as meaning that all disabled persons could wait in the queue. Many disabilities are not about a wheelchair, they are about a weakness which prevents being in a crowed queue for that length of time. If the person waits offsite in the shade & returns at the same length of time it would take you, what difference does it make? The ride was also actually turning a woman away who's husband had cancer. When should he wait until to return to the park in your opinion? As a ride lover should you deserve less as of the day you are diagnosed?
Are you actually envious of persons who are disabled, for whom everyday is a greater struggle, because they are being given simple access to a ride?
Shame on you!
Do you really think that no one should get fair access because some people abuse the system?
I'm glad you are not my children, for I certainly would have failed to produce a human being out of you. Even worse is that you don't even see the ugliness in what you believe.
From Larry Zimmerman on September 20, 2007 at 1:55 PM
I am NOT ignorant - I believe in being inclusive, but if someone is so disabled as to require a wheelchair, then perhaps they shouldn't be riding the attraction. READ THE WARNING SIGNS! Suppose the car hangs at the top of the lift? Who's going to risk their lives to get them out of that situation? I'm not denigrating the ride workers - they have a hard enough job for darn few dollars as it is...but they shouldn't have to play Super(wo)man to rescue someone with not enough sense to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Ask the ride operators at SheiKra about the evacuation lift...
From Anthony Murphy on September 20, 2007 at 9:40 PM
Oh wow! Relax everybody!


The terrible point is that people are taking advantage of the system. Now I am not saying that everybody is doing this! Sure, there are people with special needs and they get the most punished here because idiots have ruined it for them! Its just like other policies that change because one person takes total and unfair advantage of it.


Also, let us remember that this is Six Flags, not all theme parks. Honestly, I do not think Six Flags cares as much about the patron/guest as Busch, Universal, or Disney.

I also do not think anybody is ignorant on this site. I think that we have all seen, including myself, people who take total advantage of it. Funny, its mostly at Six Flags. Also, if there is such a problem with them waiting in line (if thats the only option) then take it up with Guest Services. I am pretty sure they can accomidate that special request individually.

Oh and name calling on the site is not nice at all! Let everybody be entitled to their opinion without more or less saying they shouldn't be born or a failure to humanity.

From Robert Niles on September 20, 2007 at 10:23 PM
When I was an attractions host at Walt Disney World (1988-91), Disney's policy, as explained to me, was that "wheelchair parties" (as they were called) had no inherent right to skip the line. When possible, they were to go through the regular queue. Where not possible for a wheelchair to navigate the queue, the person in the wheelchair, plus an attendant, were to wait at load for the rest of the party to come through the queue.

In practice, we hated having wheelchair parties gumming up the works waiting long periods on already crowded load/unload platforms, so we just sent the whole party through with them and loaded 'em immediately. But that did lead to a public assumption that the policy was that wheelchair parties got a free pass.

Now, there were, and are, cases where a person's disability leaves them unable to handle long queue waits. In those cases, if we were making the "wheelchair parties" wait, then someone with the party would have had to explain the situation to a lead and convince him/her to let them through. Which, if you presented a stereotypical autistic-looking kid in a wheelchair (or were wearing a Give Kids the World or Make a Wish button) was usually pretty easy to do.

From rick stevens on September 21, 2007 at 12:24 AM
I must say that I have been on the receiving end of a group with disabilities. I did feel as if I was taking advantage of the situation, but you have to realize that everyone wants to keep their party together. I don't think there is a magical solution to this since no one will be happy with any of the scenarios.

I have friends who have children with various "special needs" and I really do understand that these children are not capable of standing in a line for a significant time. In the past these families would have to just skip visits to amusement parks. I applaud the industry for helping all of those in need to experience the thrills of going to Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Knottā€™s, or any of the parks around the US.

I think that we have become a bit desensitized to the situation because we see large groups of people misusing the privilege. I don't think a teenager in a cast really needs to be allowed (with a huge party of friends) to go to the front of the line just because they are using a wheelchair. If people would not take advantage of the loopholes in the system, the people that really need to go to the front of the line would not be seen as a pariah.

From John Smith on September 21, 2007 at 6:45 AM
at magic mountain, i would see many guest abuse this system that were not disabled. on the card, they would try to get a come back time on every ride right away. i would always point to where it stated on the card that only 2 active reservations could be made at one time. i would tell them they could ge a time for this ride after one of the other ones was completed, or i could cross one of them off and give them a time for this ride.
From Matt Thompson on September 23, 2007 at 6:06 AM
I have to admit that I was at one point guilty of abusing the system. I have a cousin with a severe vision disability accompanied by a learning disability. We often took advantage of this to jump the line at theme parks. The problem lies in the fact that it wasn't just myself escorting him onto the rides, but everyone who was with us that day...ALSO...in reality none of his disabilites inhibited his ability to wait in line just like everyone else. Why am I telling you this?? For one, I was young (in my teens) ignorant and arrogant. In retrospect we have probably made problems for other guests by adding to their overall wait, we probably slowed the overall capacity of the rides for the day and we have probably broken up groups who planned on and put the work into riding together on certain coasters.

I no longer practice this..and I apologize to anyone who has been delayed by anyone doing this. When I see it happen in parks I really don't have the right to get mad, but it is easy to see who the abusers are. I, for one, am glad to see some parks gaining some control.

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