New rules and procedures within the Disney Parks have caused a divide among people within the Disney community, especially on social media. Masks have been made mandatory throughout the parks along with temperature screenings upon entry. Most people have abided by these rules, but there are also some who are just not agreeing with them. There is a new video making waves of a man arguing with several Cast Members over his autistic daughter having to wear a mask.
I have an autistic brother named Austin. He was diagnosed when he was three (he is now 17). Austin had SEVERE sensory issues when he was first diagnosed. The way his clothes fit on his body bothered him, he couldn’t eat certain foods because of textures, and certain sounds triggered him. Through therapy he has overcome a lot of these sensory barriers, which is something my family and I are extremely grateful for. But I know this is not everyone’s story.
*I say all this to say that I know all too well what it feels like to see someone you love in need and not being able to help them. That feeling of powerlessness is debilitating, so I feel for this man’s frustration. I understand why there is anger, but I also know the facts of the current situation going on in the country. I also want to mention that over the course of 17 years of taking Austin to Disney World (close to 20 times) my family and I have NEVER felt discriminated by the company in any way. I speak from only personal experience. Others may have had differing experiences in the parks, but Disney has been the one place that he has felt an unconditional love like no other. It needed to be prefaced that while I feel for his anger, there is another side to this story.
The above video shows a man arguing with Cast Members over his autistic daughter having to wear a mask. This man made another TikTok, which has now been taken down, similar to this video in which he argues with a Cast Member at the entrance of Magic Kingdom. He claims that the Cast Members are discriminating against his daughter because she is ‘medically exempt’ from wearing a mask.
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) protects those with disabilities from being discriminated against. The Walt Disney Company has many accommodations in place that work with guests who have disabilities, such as the DAS (Disability Access Service) pass, audible accommodations, and wheelchair accommodations. The DAS pass acts as a FastPass for those with disabilities. Guests with this pass will go to the front of any ride and ask for a return time, much like a FastPass. The guest will return at that designated time to go through the FastPass line for the ride, or wheelchair accessibility line. This pass is designed to help guests who cannot tolerate waiting in long lines.
In the case of my brother, this pass immensely helps him while being at the theme parks. He has anxiety that makes it hard for him to wait in lines and be in large crowds. We are able to find quieter places for him while waiting for these return times, so he feels comfortable with every visit.
The Other Side
With that said, here are some other facts to keep in mind while watching this video:
- The Walt Disney Company is a privately-owned company. As much as people hate hearing that line, it is a fact. The company can make any rules they want for their theme parks. In a time such as the pandemic we find ourselves in, temperature screenings and mandatory masks were pretty much expected.
- Visiting Walt Disney World is a choice. Covid-19 or not, people choose to go to Disney World or Disneyland for vacation. As strong as our love for the theme parks may be it is just not an essential business. That being said, Disney can and already has put rules in place to ensure the safety of ALL guests who choose to visit the parks during this time.
- I mentioned the DAS pass before because this is an accommodation that the company could have easily taken away. With lower daily capacity being enforced, they could have easily taken this away, but they didn’t.
- Lastly, whether or not you have a disability you are still at risk for the virus. This goes for outings to the grocery store, barber shop, or nail salon. Disney has put the mask mandate to substantially decrease the risk for guests to get the virus and no one is exempt from this. This is not a form of discrimination. Discrimination would be if Disney would not allow for his daughter to enter because she’s autistic.
Whether or not you agree with masks, rules are rules at Disney. My family and I just went to Disney World last week and while my brother didn’t love wearing a mask, he loved being back at his favorite place. He understood why he needed to wear it and told us when he needed a break. Again, I speak from personal experience, but going to Disney World in this time and any other time is a choice.
The Cast Members in this video should be commended greatly for being calm and collected. This goes to show how well these Cast Members are trained for situations like these. People that now me know that I am the last person to discriminate against anyone. My entire family has felt the same anger and frustration this man feels when it comes to not being able to help your family member. However, this behavior is never an excuse to treat these Cast Members the way they were treated.
At the end of the day, we all need to be reminded that Cast Members (and any other employee on the frontlines) do not make the rules. They simply enforce them.