Aug 032008
 

Two Tuesdays back Z and I headed to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for what we intended to be a short trip.  The plan was to drive over the hill, spend about an hour in the ocean, teaching Z to dive under waves and maybe body surf a bit, then get our annual Old Tyme photo.  I suppose I should backtrack a bit here to fill y’all in on one of our most cherished traditions…

When Z and I were reunited on June 8, 2005 after a seven year separation one of our first outings comprised of me taking her, her half-brother and their mother to the Boardwalk for the day.  As part of that experience we took an Old Tyme photo with the two of us dressed in gangster outfits from the days of Prohibition.  You can see the picture above.  The following summer we returned to the same studio at the Boardwalk and had them attempt to recreate the photo in order to show how much Z had grown.  The plan was to take one each year.  Unfortunately, due to lack of both finances and time together we skipped last summer.  But we were determined not to miss out on the photo this summer.

Okay, back to the recent trip…

We arrived in Santa Cruz, changed into bathing suits, locked all of our valuables into Rover and headed for the surf.  We were about half way there when I realized that I had forgotten to leave my glasses in the car as well.  Having worn glasses 24/7 for the last 30 years or so, it’s easy to forget that I’m wearing them.  Well, I was excited to get Z into the water, so I decided that instead of returning to Rover I would just stay in the shallows so as not to lose my glasses.  To no one’s surprise it took less than 15 minutes for me to get blind-sided by a wave and lose my glasses, leaving me legally blind.

A trip back to the car and a few phone calls found us a friend that could come drive Rover home (it’s hard to drive when you can’t see the dashboard, much less the road or other cars), but he couldn’t get there for about 10 hours due to other commitments.  So, back to the surf for a while we went followed by some time playing games and riding rides – all without my glasses.  I’ve got to say that the Boardwalk (especially at night) with 20/250 vision is an absolutely surreal experience.  The lights and noise and crowd all seem completely forum and the inability to see anyone’s facial expressions leaves one feeling completely disconnected from the near-chaos of the environment.  On the other hand, I did manage to top my previous score on Desperadoes (they’re new shooting ride/game) despite being unable to actually see the “bad guys” I was aiming at 😀

We still went by the Old Tyme Photos Studio in the main arcade and had the picture on the left taken. The crew there this year (Sarah, Carney, Alejandra, and Jose) jumped all over the idea of recreating the original photo. They all thought it was an amazing idea and quickly became far more obsessive about matching the original picture than we ever were. It was absolutely wonderful! And the results are clear when comparing the three photos. If you’ve ever admired the Old Tyme Photos I couldn’t recommend any studio more highly then the one at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The next morning we rose early and Z acted as my “seeing-eye Kitten” on a long bus journey up to Lenscrafters at Oakridge Mall.  Unable to drive or work I had little choice in where or when I purchased new glasses – I needed them now.  Z managed to find some great new frames for me while I had my eyes examined yet again and $300 later could finally see again.

Jul 112008
 

After losing my wallet while riding Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain a couple of weeks back I’ve moved “get a spare pair of glasses” up on my priority list.  Luckily my wallet was found, but those three hours or so without it were not exactly “fun times at the amusement park”.  Losing (or breaking) my glasses would leave me essentially blind.  Add in the fact that I can’t drive without them (I can’t see the instrument panel, much less other cars)  and Z and I would be stranded wherever we were when the loss occurred.

The problem is that prescription glasses are prohibitively expensive.  Enter ZenniOptical.com.  They have a huge selection of frames with all the standard lens options (including sunglasses) for as little as $8!  If you’re concerned about the quality and service (as I was) then be sure to watch the video news report about Zenni on Fox affiliate WGHP.

Jul 112008
 
Part of the Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series - Previous in series         

Yesterday I praised Cedar Fair on their new policy that disabled guests now need to wait just as long as everyone else to experience the rides at Cedar Fair amusement parks.  Since I wanted to share as many details as possible the post ran fairly long.  Therefore, I decided to leave off my response to most of the objections I’ve encountered and post them separately.  Hence this post.

Objection-

Wheelchairs cannot be manuevered through the twists and turns of a queue.

Response-

They don’t need to be.  The person with the Special Access Pass is free to use the exit ramp to access the loading area.  It is only their companions (beyond the first) that must work their way through the queue.

Objection-

“I am handicapped and 38 years old and did appreciate that my family could stay and play with me all day long in prior years. NOW we have to subdivide and decide who has to go in line and who can stay and babysit me (that’s what it feels like now).”

Response-

So, your entire family goes on every ride together?  There’s no one in your family who doesn’t like rides that other family members do?  Do you insist on riding the kiddie rides as well since to not allow you to do so would mean “subdividing” from your 6 year old child?  Do you all go into the same bathroom at the same time as well?  or do you split the males and females into separate facilities like the rest of us do?  The fact of the matter is that most groups who visit amusement parks split up all the time.  It’s a fact of life for everyone, including yourself.

As for feling like someone needs to “babysit” you.  That has nothing to do with this policy.  If you’re capable of being alone in your wheelchair you still can be.  If you’re not capable of being alone in your wheelchair, then you’re being “babysat” whether you’re at the park or not.

Objection-

“The ride hosts NEVER get the time right anymore of how long it takes for me and my party to meet back up on the loading dock.”

Response-

Never?  Really?  Somehow I highly doubt that.  And what do you mean by “anymore”?  But that’s just semantic bickering.  Let’s get to the meat of your objection…

The ride-ops will get better and better at estimating wait time for the rides.  This is a new skill for many of them.  Give it time.  At most rides you can see the front of the line from the exit queue so it shouldn’t matter anyway.  Simply wait there until your party arrives.

Objection-

“I have 2 teenage boys whom i would love to go walking around your park with but unfortunatly, i can’t walk for more than 1 hour straight then i am in severe pain,with blisters upon my feet. I think that instead of changing policies like this they should verify that the person has a handicap sticker in their vehicle for parking as well. I would give anything to be able to bring my family there and ride together like we used to do. Now i am left with the decision on whom i ride with.”

Response-

You’re misunderstanding the policy.  There is nothing preventing you from riding at the same time as your teenagers.  You just can’t wait along with them.  instead they will work their way through the line while you wait elsewhere.  You’re even allowed to keep one of them with you while you wait.

Objection-

I believe a disabled person should be allowed to have his or her party accompany them. I have a disabled son and it takes two of us to transfer him in and out of rides safely.

Response-

You can still have two people transfer your son on and off the ride.  The only difference in the new policy is that if they both want to ride along with him then at least one of them must wait through the line.  When they reach the front and you and your son enter from the exit ramp you can then both help him onto the ride.

Objection-

Pushing a wheelchair up a sloped ramp can be long and exhausting work. Now that work is multiplied

Response-

There’s no need to push the chair all the way up the ramp twice.  Simply have the escort walk up the ramp themselves to get the time stamp or notify the ride-ops.  Then when it’s time to ride bring the wheelchair up.  Problem solved.

Objection-

“These kids go through enough stuff in their life when they go some place for enjoyment and pleasure,” Setchell said. “Why should they be harassed?”

Response-

How, exactly are they being harrassed?  By being asked to wait for their favorite rides just like everyone else?  We all go through drama in our lives.  We all go to theme parks for “enjoyment and pleasure”.  The only difference between the handicapped and the able-bodied i nthis sense is that the able-bodied has to work a little harder to subsidize the needs of the disabled.  Our taxes already pay the majority of the expenses for disabled folx.  That’s extra hours of work on our part, meaning we need the vacation even more.  Odds are the disabled guest’s ticket was paid for with “government” money which is really my stolen tax dollars.  So I’ve already subsidized your ticket.  Maybe you should be offering the tax-payers who pay for your worldly needs and needs go ahead of you once in a while.

/rant

Objection-

What about people who buy (or get) Flash Passes, Fast Passes, Head of the Line passes, or VIP Tours?

Response-

What about them?  All of these upgrades are available to disabled guests as well.  Feel free to take advantage of them yourself.  If your entire party has head of the line passes that you received as part of a promotion or purchased for an additional fee then you don’t have to wait in line.  This applies to regardless of one’s physical ability to wait in line.

The Bottom Line-

All of Cedar Fair’s parks are private property.  Thus they are free to make whatever rules of behavior they wish on their property.  If you don’t like their rules then feel free to not visit their property.

Part of the Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series - Previous in series        

The Complete Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series-

  1. Bravo To Cedar Fair!
  2. Answering Concerns About Cedar Fair And Disabilities

Jul 102008
 
Part of the Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series -         Next in series

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.”

Part of the Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series -        Next in series

The Complete Cedar Fair's Disabled Rider Policy Series-


May 012008
 

Last night (Wednesday) I straight up forgot to put on my new patch. I remembered after I was already in bed, but decided that getting up to change my patch wouldn’t be any better than getting up to have a cigarette. This morning I woke up without the desire to smoke. Around 11am my arm started to itch and I suddenly realized I was stil wearing yesterday’s patch so I removed it and threw it away.

This afternoon I went through my normal routine of picking up Z frmo school nictonie and urge free. I was so proud of myself, but it was obviously too soon. After dinner Z really started driving me crazy. Nicotine withdrawal? Bratty child? We’ll never know for sure. After a couple hours of it I really wanted a cigarette, but I put on a fresh patch instead. Finally, trapped in the same room with her while she drove me insane (seemingly intentionally) I snapped and went downstairs for a smoke.

Lighting it wasn’t very satisfying and I just ended up standing on the back porch holding it while it burned down. So, I got cocky and screwed up after 11 solid days without tobacco. But I did learn something – I’m perfectly capable of escaping a situation without having a cigarette. So that’s my silver lining. Oh, and I also learned that I may not be as ‘former’ a smoker as I thought. Still got 5 solid days until I need to be smoke free, though, so I think I’m doing alright.