Disney World wheelchair tour guide for hire?
Published: June 2, 2013 at 9:39 PM
There are several rides where people in wheelchairs enter through the exit, thus bypassing the entire standard queue and reducing the waiting time to zero (plus some minutes to wait for the special vehicle). At It's a Small World I enter the standard queue for a short length, and then I go to the exit ramp, nice right?
At the Haunted Mansion I also enter the standard queue for a short length, and then I go to the exit where I have to wait for the cast members to stop the ride for transfer. The only bad thing about it is that I miss the stretch room part. But hey kids, you don't have to wait for hours, so stop crying while I count your mom's dough.
Wheeling through the Mansion's "interactive" queue
Other rides where I enter through the exit are Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and Big Thunder Mountain. For the rest of the rides I use the standard queue.
Disney lets people in wheelchairs to enter the rides (through the exit) with a maximum of five family members (wink, wink). No wonder these moms pay so much money for their scheme. And by the way rich-moms, I'm just joking, so don't bother calling me. Tempting, but wrong.
Daniel Etcheberry writes about theme parks and disability issues for Theme Park Insider.
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Editor's addendum: When I worked in the Magic Kingdom, Disney hadn't yet developed the Guest Assistance Card [GAC] program, and admission policies for guests with wheelchairs were much more informal. In fact, abuse of what system existed probably was worse then, as I saw plenty of teenagers with "sprained ankles," riding in wheelchairs, trying to use their condition to get them and their friends on the ride with no wait.
What they didn't realize is that getting to skip the "regular" queue didn't mean that you didn't have to wait for the ride. It just meant that you got to wait in the wheelchair queue instead. At times, the line-up of wheelchair parties waiting to get on Big Thunder Mountain extended out of the unload area, leading to longer time waits than parties would have had in the "regular" queue.
Even if there wasn't a queue of wheelchair parties waiting, unload personnel still loaded wheelchair parties at their discretion. Sometimes that meant that a party would have to wait while we sent a train with an empty car first. Given that we only had a few seconds to unload and load a train before the ride would go down, not having to take a few seconds to unload the car first when it got back to the station allowed a wheelchair party several additional seconds to board. Other times, that meant we'd just keep a group of teenagers we judged to be faking it to wait a good long time to get their ride.
The inconsistencies led Disney to develop the GAC program (in the 1990s, I believe). Disney wanted to cut down on the abusive rental of wheelchairs by able-bodied parties and to create a more formal system that gave attractions personnel and guests rules about admitting parties with wheelchairs onto rides. (One of those rules was the six-person party limit.) GACs also can be used by people with other disabilities that don't require a wheelchair, under certain circumstances.
As Daniel alluded to, GAC or wheelchair access saves a party time only on a handful of rides in the park. Smart use of the Fastpass system and timing your attractions right likely would get you on more rides in less time, when you factor in the extra time needed to navigate the park in a wheelchair. And if you want to spend money to skip lines altogether at a Disney theme park, you can't beat hiring a Disney VIP tour guide. That's why I remain skeptical that "rich moms hiring wheelchair users to get away from lines at Disney" is a big deal. But with all the publicity about it now, I wouldn't be surprised to see Disney's legal team start demanding that GAC users sign a statement that they won't sell access to their party, under penalty of losing not just their GAC, but their Disney tickets as well. -- Robert