Public abuses disability privileges, Disney makes changes to policy

Families of children with autism concerned

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Walt Disney World and Disneyland are cracking down on those who abuse park privileges reserved for the disabled.

But families of children with autism say they're also concerned about the changes.

Park officials say too many people were taking advantage of the privilege that allows someone with a disability to advance to the front of a line more quickly.

Disney officials say reports came out earlier in the year of wealthy people paying the handicapped to tour the park with them for the ability to move quickly through a long line.

Park officials are trying to put an end to that.

In a statement, Disney officials said, "We have an unwavering commitment to making our parks accessible to all guests. Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process to create a more consistent experience for all our guests while providing accommodations for guests with disabilities."

The new accommodations include giving a person with a disability a card once they arrive at an attraction. The card will have a time listed for when they can return to the attraction, and advance to the front. The card works as a place holder, and allows someone to walk to other attractions instead of standing in line.

But Niki Meza, a  mother with an autistic son, says this may be a bad change for her family.

"You're telling me that I have to go away and then come back? That's a concept that he doesn't understand," said Meza.

She takes her 10-year-old son, Ricky, to Disney World at least three times a year.

"To be honest with you, it is the only place that I go where all four of us can be a family together," Meza said.

She said being able to advance in line was a helpful policy. Waiting in line was a stressful situation. "In 15 to 20 minutes, he wants to start poking around at stuff and jumping up and down." The ability to advance to the front prevented that.

"We were able to enjoy the parks, we were able to go on rides, and it was just a magical thing, it really was."

She now worries about how her son will react to the changes.

Disney officials say they engaged disability groups, such as Autism Speaks, when coming up with the policy change.

They also say they will work with families on an individual basis as needed.

The changes go into effect Oct. 9.

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