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Why a Disability Access Pass at Disney World Isn't Unfair

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Ask any child where they’d most like to go, and almost all would respond with a resounding “Disney World!” My family is no exception, and all five of us radiated excitement on our way to the Happiest Place on Earth. The most enthusiastic of our group was undoubtedly Jessie, my 13-year-old sister who has Down syndrome.

sisters at disney world

At Disney World, it is fairly easy for us to obtain a Disability Access Service Card. The individual with the disability must simply go to guest services and set it up. Once obtained, the person with the disability and their family can use it to get through lines much quicker than the average wait time.

Despite the straightforward process, my family often questions the necessity of our pass. “Do we need it?” we ask silently, worry creasing our brows. “Do we ‘deserve’ it?” we question in our heads, second-guessing ourselves. My sister can walk, talk, and sass her way into anyone’s hearts. The irony is her abilities stir guilty feelings in my heart as we walk by the winding lines, getting on famous rides in fewer than 10 minutes. I see the mother struggling to keep four kids in line, knowing she has two hours until the ride.

I take my sister’s hand and lead her through the line. “Don’t judge us!” my heart screams, seeing people’s faces as we hurry by. “We have a reason to cut in line!” Jessie cannot stand in a line for two hours; she loves Elsa and Big Thunder Mountain but is not capable of waiting in the boiling heat. Every time we move ahead in line, I have to remind myself she needs this pass. She has a need, and Disney is simply meeting that.

girl hugging olaf

Fear of judgment can cast a cloud over even the happiest moments, and allowing it into my heart did not do me any favors. Don’t apologize for getting your or a loved one’s needs met. Don’t feel guilty that a wonderful place has a system for allowing people with disabilities to better enjoy their experience.

Let go of the fear of judgment from people who don’t understand your needs, and appreciate that visitors with disabilities can experience Disney World in a less-stressful way. It isn’t “special” treatment; it is a different way to get an equal chance at having a magical time.

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Originally published: February 11, 2017
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