That means this is the opinion of one person, not a trip report or news article. Please keep that in mind as you are reading.
It's Monday, and that means it's time for RD to make us think a bit. This time, a topic that is very near and dear to his heart, and something he knows a lot about.
Having experienced what RD has to go through on a very limited basis while visiting parks, I've seen both the good and the bad that he outlines below. - Gregg
"How come he gets to ride before me?"
"Why does he get to cut the line?"
You have NO idea how many times I've heard this in my 30 years of riding attractions at theme parks. Though I've only been using ADA access/handicapped access for the past 8 years, I've heard others complain incessently about it.
KNOCK IT OFF!
Of the multitude of parks I've visited since losing the full use of my legs (For those who don't know me, I've got Multiple Sclerosis - MS) I've seen the good, the bad & the ugly of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in both parks - and their guests. And you know what? It's a double-edged sword.
Let's take a look at the parks themselves. Some parks are quite good about the ADA access points, going so far to modify existing rides to allow for easier pathways & entry, having a clear & defined plan for how handicapped guests are handled, and are user-friendly for those of us with mobility, visual & hearing impairments. Six Flags Over Georgia does an excellent job in this respect - on the vast majority of their attractions in the park. Some are not accesible due to their age (Log Jamboree for example) but in all they have done a great job at allowing as many people as possible to ride.
Disney is also pretty good about this - but has failed in one respect overall: While their rides are ADA compliant, their policies towards ADA access have varied, wobbled & failed miserably. Here's the thing: Due to certain groups of patrons abusing the system, the handicapped are, well, handicapped for most of the park's attractions overall. Herein lies the biggest problem.
California's ADA plan is different than the Federal guidelines, and far less restrictive on the use. On one visit to Disneyland a few years back, the 'standby' wait for Space Mountain 77 was 30 minutes... while the ADA line was nearly TWO HOURS LONG. Why? Let's see: Six people, no visual handicapped, all between the ages of 13-21. Four people, one has a cast on their arm. Five people, aged 19-25 or so, no visual handicapped issues. Two people, one in a wheelchair. Six people, no visual handicaps. Why? Due to the ADA's compliance laws in California, ANYBODY could qualify to get ADA access to a ride. ANYBODY. "My mother has bad P.M.S. and I'm traumatized by it, so I've got P.T.S.D, and therefore I'm handicapped." "I've got a bad hangnail, so I'm handicapped." "My sister is marrying some guy from Singapore, and I'm depressed - I'm handicapped."
To be fair, I've seen this practice at MANY of the California parks - and to a lesser extent in other states as well. People LOVE to abuse the system. "I don't want to wait for a line, and I don't want to pay for a Q-Bot/Lo-Q system. I'll play handicapped, and I don't have to wait anymore!" I see this more often than not in many cases.
Now people say "Why do you use it? You can still sort of walk." In all reality, I -rarely- use ADA access. RARELY. I get the paperwork/card/ID for it at every park I visit - but on my last Disney trip (Two days at Disneyland) I only used it seven times over two days. Why?
Realistically, I try not to abuse the system. I do have a hard time walking up/down stairs, and almost every park now has attractions of note where stairs are prevalent and difficult to negotiate - or very slowly. Yes, then I'll use ADA access & the elevator/ramps as needed. But if an attraction has ramps both to/from an attraction, I use the line like the rest of the general public. I'll stand in queue with the rest of you - up to a point (I can't stand for more than about 20 minutes at a time without pain - if the line is longer than 20 minutes, I'll use the ADA - and get a come-back time. And I'll sit waiting until then, when I'll head back to the platform to ride. If I'm with a group of friends, I'll send them into the general line, and I'll wait until they get to the platform to ride, then ride with them.
In other words: I wait just as long as you did to ride. 30 minutes, 45 minutes - an hour. I don't get cuts in line. I don't beat the wait. I have to do it differently than you do.
So what about those with certain mental/emotional impairments? This is a grey area - and knowing quite a few mentally/emotionally handicapped people in my life, I take a look at it this way: Having Autism, Comparative Cognitive Disorder, or other such impairments is perfectly acceptible to me under the ADA. Having a bad case of ADD/ADHD, depression because your hair turned out bad, or other such issues is not.
I don't beat the system - I work with it so I don't end up having to try & negotiate stairs (Which, if you've ever been with me and seen it can be a slow experience - usually backing the line up behind me) or to stand in a line causing great pain & discomfort. Otherwise, I'll see you in line - and standing next to me.