Now there’s a headline I never thought I’d write.
My regular readers are aware that my “day job” is caring for developmentally disabled adults. In fact, I work more than 100 hours per week doing this, so it’s more like my three day jobs. You should also be aware that Z and I are huge fans of Flash Pass/Fast Pass systems at amusement parks. Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, here’s what Cedar Fair has done to finally earn some brownie points from me…
From the Orange County Register–
BUENA PARK – In an effort to make waiting in lines fair for all, Knott’s Berry Farm has adopted a new policy that no longer allows disabled park-goers to head to the front.
The new policy is meant to thwart cheaters: Those pretending to be disabled to get to the front of lines.
Guests with disabilities now have two options:
• Get a yellow pass and wait on the sidelines for the rest of their party to get through the line.
Or, if the disabled person is alone or accompanied by only one other person, he or she can get a blue pass and have a ride operator give them a time when they can return. The time will be what the operator believes it takes to get through the line.
“There were abuses to the system, and at some point the (disabled) line was almost equal to the regular line, so it really wasn’t serving its purpose,” said a Knott’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Blazey.
Knott’s is willing to consider special circumstances, Blazey said, in which disabled park-goers could still go to the front of lines.
“We can make accommodations for them,” Blazey said.
Yes, disabled guests are finally being treated a little more equally at Cedar Fair amusement parks. The recent change was taken chain-wide in an attempt to create a uniform policy across all of their parks. Of course, many people are screaming mad as this example from the Shakopee News illustrates-
But a couple paraprofessionals from Shakopee Junior High School, who learned of the change on a field trip during the last day of school, say the new policy is ruining the experience for disabled people.
Setchell and fellow school paraprofessional Angela Cain, who accompanied two handicapped students on their ninth-grade class trip, said the change adds to the difficulty of maneuvering around the park and actually makes the ride wait longer for disabled patrons than non-handicapped patrons who are in the regular line.
“I hope [public dissent] hits them hard because they need to change it back,” Cain said. “[People with disabilities] have a hard life as it is — able-bodied people should be able to see that. … Give them a break.”
Setchell said her group was told the accommodation was eliminated to make it fair for everyone at the park, so everyone would have a chance to get on the rides.
“Does everyone have to be embarrassed by having to sit in the exit while waiting to get a ride time and have to have people try to get around them, then be turned away from the ride to come back one to two hours later and have to go through that again to get on the ride?” she wrote in a message to an autism support group.
Cain and others say the change ensures that disabled people won’t be able to make it on as many rides as others do, and a trip to the park will now be too unbearable for some, particularly those with autism, like Setchell’s son.
“The new policy will completely prevent him from going to Valleyfair,” said Setchell, who had accompanied other students with cerebral palsy on the June 4 school trip. Her son also has cerebral palsy in addition to other conditions.
Of course the new policy is “ruining the experience” that disabled people (and their escorts) have had at parks in the past. They’re now being required to actually wait to ride … just like everyone else. This policy in no way prevents her son from going to an amusement park. Only she can prevent him from doing so. If he’s not willing to wait as long as every other paying guest then that’s a choice on his (or her) part, not the parks.
This is, in fact, not a new policy. Cedar Fair’s “home park”, Cedar Fair, has had the policy in place for years and many people are happy with it. Here’s part of an epinions review on Cedar Fair from September 2001-
Entering the park, we asked about a Special Assistance Pass (SAP) for my son and were directed to Park Operations. There, we got the pass and learned about Cedar Point’s unique handicapped ride system.
Maybe a little history is called for here. For many years, parks routinely let disabled guests enter through the exits of rides. Some less scrupulous able-bodied park goers caught on and started renting electric power wheelchairs to avoid the lines. Others started to resent disabled riders who got on immediately while they waited for hours.
Disney started building all their rides to have accessible queues but many disabled persons still can’t manage to stand in line that long without problems (and Disney’s idea of accessible is somewhat lacking). They also started really cracking down on what constitutes disability…I will never forget the humiliation of having to prove my son was disabled at City Hall there when it is very obvious with his leg braces and limited movement – not to mention the expensive power chair he sits in. Six Flags said, screw it, wait in line till you can’t go farther and then try to find someone to help you.
I sympathize with some of it. Disabled guests should not skip the wait time but on the other hand, should not be made to needlessly suffer.
Back to Cedar Point Park Operations. In my opinion, I think Cedar Point has come upon a very neat solution. You are given a passport-like book with all the rides likely to have long lines listed in it. This is your SAP.
You then take this to the ride you want to go on and present it to the worker at the end of the line. The worker checks to see what the normal wait is and stamps your book like a visa with the time you should return (now plus the wait time). If it’s 12:00 and the wait time is half an hour, your book is marked with 12:30. You can only make one reservation at a time. It’s similar to FastPass at Disneyland.
When your time is up, you return and board the ride. For the inconvenience of having to wait, you are allowed to ride twice. While you wait, you can go on any ride not listed and get immediate boarding or do anything else you want but you don’t have to wait at the queue.
I asked several able-bodied guests what they thought of this and all seemed to think it was a fair and compassionate solution…as did I. The ladies in the Park Operations office told us that many disabled park goers didn’t like it. I don’t see the problem, but maybe some of us have gotten too used to not waiting in line. The ADA says everybody’s equal now, so we have to live with the same guidelines.
That last paragraph really sums it all up very well. The online amusement park enthusiast community is clearly split on the issue, though I believe that many people who agree with the policy keep quiet out of fear of looking uncaring or being ostracized. For example, a poll attached to the Orange County Register article cited above showed that 58% of respondents agreed that “Yes, disabled riders should wait as long as I do.”
The Complete Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series-
- Bravo To Cedar Fair!
- Answering Concerns About Cedar Fair And Disabilities