Skepticism about the rent-a-disabled-guide/skip-the-lines Disney World story

I was skeptical of the NY Post story alleging that rich New York private-school parents use a service that lets them hire disabled people to act as line-jumping Disney World guides. Now Lesley, a Disney-obsessed local, has published a rebuttal pointing out that such a service wouldn't work well because there are lots of rides that can accommodate wheelchairs through the regular entrance. She also points out that the article claims that the wheelchair guide helped skip a 2.5h line for Small World, which sounds like BS, because Small World doesn't really get 2.5h lines. The whole thing is worth a read.

I've visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World with friends who had disabilities. I went to Disney World with my mom and a friend who were both in wheelchairs (my Mom had just had a hip replacement; my friend had a broken foot), and found that there were hardly any long-queue rides that offered any priority queuing to people in wheelchairs. On the other hand, I once visited Disneyland with a blind friend and her service dog in the late 1990s and found that people with dogs and their parties did go straight to the front of the line in most cases (I don't know if this is still the case, though).

YEAH NO: Rich Manhattan Moms Allegedly "Renting" Disabled People To Skip Lines At Disney World (Thanks, Irk!)



  1. When you went with people in wheelchairs did you stop and get a guest assistance pass?  Because that’s how special accommodations are triggered, not just by someone being in a wheelchair.   Usually it works out to going through the fast pass line, though in the haunted mansion I’ve been lead through “the servant’s entrance” in the back.

    1. Yup. I do wonder if they spoke with guest services. The line isn’t obvious to dissuade persons from “accidentally” wandering there or attaching themselves to other parties.

  2. I think part of the difference might be the way the parks are laid out.  WDW was built later and covers more area, and the lines have been organized so that many of them are accessible.  Disneyland, though, is older, smaller, and many of the lines involve stairs so a wheelchair can’t really go through them.  

  3. I remember going to Disneyland with a wheelchair-bound friend in the mid-90s, and I definitely remember walking right on to many rides because of it.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if things have changed quite a bit since then.

    I’m going to Epcot on Sunday, so I’ll definitely pay more attention to the lines this time…

  4. “and found that there were hardly any long-queue rides that offered any priority queuing to people in wheelchairs”

    I visited Disney (Orlando) with my father (wheelchair-bound) a few times before he passed, I found a different experience from you. Maybe the exact times are different than the article stated, but persons with disabilities and their party DO get queued differently on popular rides.

    Your skepticism of individual details of a specific article doesn’t necessarily disprove the practice.

  5. It’s no picnic traveling with someone in a ECV. You get terrible seats usually far to close to take in most of the shows, or in the back area.  Loading and unloading is a PITA for fast loader attractions, and you might think Disney to be a accessibility paradise, many places have barriers and access to a ramp is out of the way–specifically some of the resorts where you have go to the main entrance when a side door with a barrier is right there; I’m looking at you Yacht club.

  6. I went to Disneyworld with my mom in 1999. My mom was in a wheelchair due to terminal cancer that made her weak and tired.  There were many lines that did have a separate quicker entrance for disabled visitors  It was usually an entrance that allowed us to get on the ride before the general line got to board. All the rides we went on with my mom were the slower paced rides. (we were there multiple days, so my mom stayed at hotel for part of each day while my brothers and I went on the more popular / fast rides)

  7. My wife was on a medication that kept her from spending long periods of time in the sun. She is a Disneyland freak and goes there several times a year. She was concerned about a summertime trip and her Doctor told her to go to guest services and request a line pass. We never had to wait in line for anything. There are alternate handicapped entrances for most rides at Disneyland, and in the ones without you can be escorted to the front. On some of the rides the back entrance actually takes you behind the scenes and is an experience to itself. My wife has been off of the medication for a long time, but has still asked  for a line pass from time to time. When I read the rent-a-kid story I was upset, that I never thought to monetize something that I have known of for years.  I dont doubt this story for a second.

    1. wow, “my wife has been off of the medication for a long time, but still asked for a line pass from time to time” please tell me that she’s not abusing the system and passing as handicapped to skip lines, cause that’s what it reads like.

  8. A New York Post article was unreliable and possibly contained outright lies? SHOCKED. SHOCKED, I SAY.

    That trash needs to stop being referenced.

  9. Reminds me of a scandal a few years back where the entire UCLA football team was given handicapped parking passes.

  10. Rich people can just pay to have a VIP escort and totally skip every line in the place. 

      1. VIP Tour Services
        Our dedicated VIP Tour Services team is available to customize and guide your Disneyland Resort vacation so you can spend your time playing, not planning.
        Call (714) 300-7710 to book your tour up to one month in advance. Guests under age 18 must have parent or guardian permission to call.

        1. You don’t get to skip the line but you get “expedited entry to FASTPASS attraction queues.” in other words you get to skip the line. 

        2. You can also just rent out the park for a party after hours.  If you have the cash Disney will do anything for you.  For example I’ve worked parties at Animal Kingdom where they actually took the Discovery Boat Ride out of mothballs for the party.  

          Anyone who has worked the parks knows this idea that the uber rich would hire disabled people to skip lines is laughable.  We actually see how they get treated.  Why would anyone rich hire a disabled person to skip lines, like why would they even look for it.  They just have someone call Disney for them and write a check.

      2. VIP Tour Services
        Those wishing to make their visit to the theme parks as seamless and easy as possible should consider Disney’s personalized theme park tours. For $315-355 per hour ($340-380 for non Disney resort guests) with a six-hour minimum, a Disney VIP guide will maximize your time by assisting you and up to nine others with a customized day at the parks and plenty of Disney trivia along the way. Don’t expect to move to the front of the line, but do expect private transportation to the parks with back-door entrance, more flexibility of start time, the ability to park hop, and VIP seating for parades, select shows, and nighttime fireworks. An,d what most think is the tour’s best benefit, expedited entry to FASTPASS attraction queues. Reservations must be made at least forty-eight hours in advance by calling (407) 560–4033.

      3.  So, the per-person VIP price quoted on Rider’s linked Disney page appears to be a lot cheaper than what the NYP was giving as the price of a third-party disabled escort for a day. If I were to book a trip with, say, my Disney-freak niece and my sister, I’d probably spring for it just to save a lot of grief and time, and I’m hardly wealthy.

        1. Do it the sensible way.  Go in the middle of the week, around the second or third week of January.  My family has done that for the last two years, and we practically had the park to ourselves until around 3:00 PM, after school let out for the day.  And both times, even though it was mid-January, Anaheim happened to enjoy 80-degree sunny weather.

          We’ll see you there next January, too.  Since the heavy summer season leads straight into the Halloween-through-New-Year’s holiday rush, nobody bothers to go to Disneyland after January 3 or so until things pick up a bit around the MLK and Presidents Day weekends.  There are usually a half-dozen rides that are closed for maintenance or renovation, but as far as I’m concerned it’s totally worth it.  You’re already paying $87 a head just to get inside.  With the money I save by not paying for any kind of VIP treatment I can totally afford to take a day off from work in the middle of the week.

          Try it once and you’ll never go to Disneyland on a weekend or during the summer ever again.

    1. I once accompanied a rich person on one of these VIP escort trips to Disneyland. Yes, we skipped every line in the place.
      When I first read this article, I wondered what kind of wealthy person would balk at paying for the legitimate VIP escort so they could turn to Disabled Shenanigans. It all sounds horribly misinformed.
      Ordinary mortals can enjoy an even better experience than a VIP escort by going during the off season and carefully planning their day, perhaps with the help of a Disney phone app.

  11. I took the TFA with a grain of salt, and so too the slightly strawman-ish rebuttal. The handicapped guide is probably not a sure-fire talisman for erasing waits in ALL situations — but it obviously pays some dividends. If you are dropping $10K on taking your clan to Disney, an extra $500 or $750 for the guide is not gonna matter. 

  12. I have been to Disneyland with my son, who uses a wheelchair, 5 or so times in the past 6 years.  There are definitely a number of rides that allow you to skip just about the whole line if you have the disabled pass.  For instance, Pirates of the Carribbean, Dumbo, and Small World allow you to go through the exit, totally skipping the line.  A few other rides are like that.  I recall that the submarine ride (Nemo?) only let you in at about halfway through the line – plus the ride itself turned out to be totally inaccessible – so we only went on that one once.  Most of the rides my son likes (slower, lots of visuals) allow us to skip the line.  Splash mountain lets you in the exit, but there has always been a line of people with disabled passes waiting inside the exit so it still takes a while, although not as long as the regular line. There is no advantage at all on the rocket ride at the entrance to FutureWorld (I can’t recall the name) – the whole line is accessible so you have to just wait in line.  We went to California Adventure once and I think most of the rides were like that: no advantage.  

    1. Now I’m wondering if we could make some bucks renting our son out for the weekend – he’d get a free trip to DL!  /kidding.

  13. The time of year and the hour of day make a huge difference in the length of the lines at these scheme parks; May and September are much better than June thru August.  I’m still kicking myself for turning down a VIP tour of Disneyland after helping film an episode of the Mouseketeers because I was in a hurry to get back home to my family. 

  14. I was actually in WDW recently with my 81-year-old-wheelchair-bound grandmother. Due to her back condition, she did not accompany us on any of the intense (and generally longer queued) rides, so I can’t speak to any of them.

    With regard to a lot of the slower dark rides, I can say that having a wheelchair-bound person in your party will occasionally get you a shorter wait time on certain rides, but it’s not a sure thing. And on small world, there is a separate wheelchair-accessible queue, but the ride operators take this into account and do not give the wheelchair guest parties any special consideration because there appear to only be one or two boats that are wheelchair accessible anyway. This is also the case on rides such as The Land (Epcot) and the new Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

    Having a wheelchair-bound party member will get you better seating in some of the shows, though, like Country Bear Jamboree, Captain Eo, Festival of the Lion King, et. al.

  15. Small World apparently had a posted wait of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) on January 3, 2013 from around 4:07 PM to around 4:30 PM.  It was posted both on the sign on the queue and on Disney’s official wait time app.

    The time was almost certainly incorrect, because the wait times immediately around these were 25 minutes.  Peak wait times on New Year’s Eve were around 60 minutes, so anything over 100 would need validation.

    1. I really have trouble believing that anyone with even a passing familiarity with Small World would step into its line if the posted wait exceeded 45 minutes.  If I need a restful boat ride in the shade that much, I’ll pick Pirates every time.

  16. My folks and their friends went to Disney World for two days in February.  All are in their late 70’s and are not disabled, although one woman can’t really walk around all day.

    On Day 1, the one woman rented a scooter from an off-campus rental place.  After a day of watching how they got shuttled to the front of every line, all four rented scooters for Day 2.  Part of the sales pitch for the rental is the line jumping itself.

    I think it costs more than the Fast Pass anyway, but with the scooters, they get to ride everywhere as well as jump the lines.

  17. The last time I went to Disney World (which was way back in ’91) my aunt had sprained her ankle so was in a wheelchair. 9 out of 10 rides let us all go to the front of the line. One ride in Epcot had her wait in a holding area near the entrance and the rest of us had to wait in line and then join up with her.

    We joked that the next time we went we would have someone fake an injury so we could get the same treatment but alas we lost interest in Disney and the four of us who were kids at the time never had kids of our own.

    1. Because a fair few rich people got that way by selling drugs, playing sports or singing horribly off-key and are not yet old enough to drink.

  18. Now Lesley, a Disney-obsessed local,

    Wait, what?

    Lesley Kinzel is a Disney-obsessed former South Floridian, but she’s also a researcher, journalist, and notable internet feminist and all-around-dynamo of politicised fatassery (and no, I don’t think she would take offence at my calling her that). That description strikes me as a little reductive and, while I’m going to try not to take it as dismissive, I totally could if I wanted to.

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