By Jessica Leigh Johnson
Summer is finally here, and the summer vacation season has begun. My daughter's best friend and her family just left for a weeklong trip to Disney World. They go every year. And, every year my daughter asks: "When can we go to Disney World?" My response: "Honestly? Never. We'll just go to the county fair in August."
Why am I so reluctant to take my family to the happiest place on earth? Besides the fact that it would cost a small fortune to fly my family of six to Florida and pay for a hotel and admission to the park, there is another deterrent: the long lines. The wait time in the line for what could easily be considered the most boring of all Disney World attractions, It's a Small World, can be over two hours. I don't even want to know how long we would have to wait to ride something that's actually enjoyable, like Splash Mountain. And, I can only imagine how well my 4-year-old son would hold up standing in line in 90-degree weather for two hours. He can't even stand in line at the grocery store for two minutes without getting into trouble!
So imagine my excitement when I learned that there is actually a way to avoid those long lines at Disney World. I could take my family and go to a special side entrance to each and every attraction in the park, and skip the line altogether. There's only one problem. OK, maybe two. It's extremely expensive … and I would have to check my conscience at the gate.
NBC News recently reported on the misuse and abuse of disabled passes - passes given to those for whom standing in line for a long period of time would be a detriment to their physical well-being. Usually these special passes are given to people in a wheelchair or motorized scooter. But, now, it has been discovered that some people with these passes have been selling their services as chaperones to families with money who want to ride the rides without waiting in line like everyone else. The cost of these chaperones can range from $50 to $130 an hour, or $1,040 for the entire day.
What about those of you who have a condition which causes debilitating pain - a condition for which one of those disabled passes would really come in handy? If the thought of standing in line for two hours just makes your joints ache, you could probably see the benefit of having a pass like that. But would you ever consider offering yourself, along with your pass, as a guide for exorbitant amounts of money just to make greedy people happy?
What if the disabled person was your child? If your child suffers from chronic pain due to an autoimmune disease or any number of the conditions for which immune globulin therapy is used, how would you feel if you saw a completely healthy family waltz past you and skip to the front of the line simply because they paid for a disabled chaperone?
Maybe I'm just missing something here. Perhaps I'm not taking full advantage of my children's health conditions and should be using them to my advantage instead. After all, they have to live with a rare disease, and it's really not fair, so why shouldn't I make the best of it? Hey, better yet, I could rent out my mother's handicapped parking sticker when she's not using it. It would help my friends get a better parking spot at Target, and I could make a little extra cash on the side.
All joking aside, one thing is for certain: Disney theme parks will definitely be keeping a closer eye on the issuance and use of their disabled passes from now on. Is that a good thing, or is Disney just raining on everyone's parade? I mean, these people aren't really hurting anyone, right? What do you think? Has the country's best-kept secret just been exposed, ruining the fun for both the disabled entrepreneur and the wealthy young family, or is something really wrong going on here? You tell me. You can check out the story for yourself by clicking here.