Working the System: How People with Disabilities are Being Used to Cut Lines, Crowds

Here at Magee, we have heard some crazy stories from our patients, volunteers and staff about able-bodied people misusing spaces designed for people with disabilities. Like parking in a disabled spot only to run to catch a departing train. This is bad enough – but what has been reported at Disney World may be even worse.

The New York Post recently reported on a new phenomenon among wealthy Disney-goers: hiring people with disabilities to pretend to be a family member so they can go to the front of the line. Yes, you read that correctly. The practice was discovered by Dr. Wednesday Martin, a social anthropologist. Here’s how it works. Disney World offers accessible entrances at their rides to accommodate people with disabilities. Understanding that people are usually traveling with family or friends, up to 6 people can accompany a guest in a wheelchair or motorized scooter. All good things.

But some people have found a way to abuse the system. According to reports, families are hiring tour guides who use wheelchairs or motorized scooters to pose as family members so they can all jump to the front of the line. And it’s not cheap. These so-called “black market Disney tours” cost around $130 an hour, or $1,040 for a full, 8 hour day. One patron of these black market tours was quoted as saying, “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.” Yikes.

Disney is reacting – strongly. They opened up an investigation into the practice after the Post article was published. “It is unacceptable to abuse accommodations that were designed for guests with disabilities,” Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius told CNN. “We are thoroughly reviewing the situation and will take appropriate steps to deter this type of activity.”

But the people of Disney aren’t the only ones reacting to this news. Social media erupted shortly after it was published, but here’s what may surprise you: there were arguments for both sides. While most people were (understandably) livid at the idea, others defended it as an opportunity for people with disabilities to make some extra income. Sure, we understand – extra income is always a good thing, especially when your expenses are higher than most able-bodied people. But what is the cost of that extra income?

What do you think? Despicable or justifiable? Join the conversation on Facebook.

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  • Mike DePetris

    The word is out – with “disability” comes perks and further you don’t question the degree of a disability. Its important that those with legitimate disabilities be mindful to only seek accommodations they need and try not to play into the “you deserve it” mentality.

    I appreciate it when I get questioned for my disability credentials (state ID) by someone who’s guarding against abuse. Its the right thing to do.