Are the rich cutting in line at Disney World?

One report says wealthy Manhattanites hire disabled guides to speed through the park. Really? More evidence would help.

By Jason Notte May 14, 2013 1:23PM
People stand in line to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on November 11, 2001 in Orlando, Florida (© Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Rich people using disabled guides to duck the lines at Walt Disney World? Kid-loving mega-corporation Disney (DIS) doing nothing about this play for privilege? Could anything make this story more evil?

Maybe a little more evidence.

The New York Post uncorked such a story Tuesday when it declared that wealthy Manhattan mothers were hiring a disabled tour guide for $130 an hour, or $1,040 per eight-hour day, to help their kids cut to the front of ride lines. The lead source on the matter is social anthropologist Wednesday Martin, who's writing a book called "Primates of Park Avenue" that she says goes into all of the sordid details of the Manhattanites' exploits.

None of the mothers are named. And the black-market tour group that's supposedly behind the whole thing -- Dream Tours Florida -- denies it uses a tour guide's disability to bypass lines. But the man who runs it notes that its guide has an autoimmune disorder and has to use a scooter on the job.

That basically makes it the word of an author quoting anonymous sources against that of a tour guide who fits a profile and offers the service and a ride pass that undercuts Disney's price of $310 to $380 per hour for its own VIP service.

Unfortunately for Disney, park policy favors Martin's story. The park allows each visitor using a wheelchair or motorized scooter to take up to six guests to a "more convenient entrance."

One of the sources Martin quoted claims she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a "handicapped" sign on it. Their group was then waved past the line at each ride to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.

Believable? Absolutely. All the elements are in place to allow such a scheme to unfold. Does it get increasingly believable, given one's disposition to think little of the Manhattan elite? Absolutely.

The problem is that the folks who grease co-op boards for residences with a view of the park, convert SoHo and TriBeCa lofts into family-friendly dream homes and shell out for prep schools that beat paths to Ivy League institutions aren't exactly bargain hunters. Even at roughly 66% off, taking the low road through Disney has too many downsides for the reputations of folks who have to face their peers over brunch at Bubby's every weekend.

Again, that's not saying they couldn't take advantage of a scheme like the one described above. Without hard evidence, however, it all just seems a little bit too tailored to an audience that's not only critical of the rich but thinks wealthy mothers speak in the made-for-TV dialogue excerpted from Martin's book:

"You can't go to Disney without a tour concierge," she sniffed. "This is how the 1 percent does Disney."


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May 14, 2013 2:38PM

I am totally disgusted! This system is meant to help people with disabilities try to enjoy a "normal" life.  To take advantage of this is beyond revolting.  As a father with a son with autism, we do take "advantage" of this policy.  Without it, we would never be able to have my boy enjoy the pleasure of going on rides like the other typical kids.  The funny thing is that me and my wife always feel "guilty" of going in front of all the other folks.  In fact, we feel down right embarrassed at times. The staff at Disney always treat us with respect and understanding.  We truly appreciate the effort they go through to accommodate our son.


To all those folks taking advantage of the system I tell you this; I would gladly stand in line for hours in the Orlando sun in August if that meant my son was ok. 

May 14, 2013 2:41PM
Figures - New York women.  The most obnoxious, self-entitled, self-centered people on the face of the earth - with their shrill crow-like voices and scrawny chicken bodies.  Did they have their yoga mats with them?   And I live in this horrible place!
May 14, 2013 2:34PM

Even the biggest jerk I know wouldn't stoop that low.  They're probably the same people who drive on the shoulder to get around traffic in a construction zone.  It's too bad we can't post their pictures on the internet.

May 14, 2013 3:43PM

This is horrible, but they have to answer to a higher Judge.  My son is in a wheelchair and it does bother us to go in front of the others in the long lines, but he also cannot regulate his body temperature and the heat causes seizures.  It is convenient to go to the front of the line and for people to misuse this necessity for real handicap children makes me sick.

May 14, 2013 3:51PM
I have seen people take advantage of the disabled in both Disney Land and Disney World. To our disbelief we watched young people with their parents take turns getting in the wheel chair just so they didn't have to wait in line. Our society has a problem with suing if they don't get their way or are questioned and workers are fired if someone complains. It's a no win.
May 14, 2013 2:07PM
This is terrible to take advantage of people with disabilites. I have visited Disney over twenty times and have seen this every time. I have seen more than six people go on line along with the disabled person. You also see this behavior at resorts when boarding a bus to the parks. This behavior is difficult to prove. The only thing Disney can do is not rent the motorized wheelchairs to anyone who is not handicapped. They should ask for proof of handicap, if this is acceptable with the Americans with DIsabilities Act. I see too many teenagers and young adults riding these motorized wheelchairs as if they are toys. Anyway, I am still a Disney fan. I wish they would lower the prices on park tickets and hotels.  But that is not happening.  
May 14, 2013 2:12PM

I know several people who have recently gone to Disney and all they had to say was they were just discharged from the hospital, they are ill, etc. and did not have to show any sort of "proof". Disney does not's super easy to get a "disability" pass.  Some people are going to abuse the system. Poor, middle class, rich - none are exempt.

May 15, 2013 7:39AM
Give a man a fish, and he will eat for one day.  Teach a man to fish, and he will never starve.  Give a man a free cell phone with free minutes, Section 8 Public Housing, a case of Colt .45 Malt Liquor, welfare, food stamps, 99 weeks of unemployment insurance, free cheese, a pair of Michael Jordan sneakers, a handicapped parking sticker, a pair of crutches, a free pass to Disney World, and he will vote democrat for the rest of his life.
May 14, 2013 4:37PM
Disney is not the only place this happens.  Just go to any Mall or for that matter just about any store & you see people parking in a "Handicapped" space that get out of the car with absolutely no physical handicap & are walking better than you & me.  Last year we took my handicapped parents to enjoy the Jersey boardwalk and we could not get a close "Handicap" space by the boardwalk and they have the plaque on the windshield.  Meanwhile as i was driving around i see other people with the Handicap plaque jumping out of their cars & carrying beach chairs & I guess what  am saying is they probably have a doctor friend get them the plaque because they think they are better than everyone else & don't want to walk.  What a shame.
May 14, 2013 3:02PM

I went to Disney World in March of 1972 (12 hour pass from the Naval TC in Orlando). I think it cost about $6 to get in. I guess things have changed since then.


They had a sign at the entrance. "No hippys, no hair below the collar" No kiddin'.

May 14, 2013 5:45PM
My dad was sprayed by Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.  It left him disabled and in a wheel chair.  When he went to Disney World with us, he was able to get to the front of the lines and Disney let us go with him so he would not have to ride alone.  My son and I also have a disability wherein we cannot regulate body temp well.  Universal allows us to stand inside to wait in line.  So, I am upset that people are abusing the system when people like my now dead father and my children need it. 
May 14, 2013 6:49PM
Karma works in funny ways, these women will get theirs someday.
May 14, 2013 4:03PM
I have seen large families use a two year old as an excuse for them all to CUT in line.
May 15, 2013 9:57AM
I am totally against disabled people getting ahead of the line, period!  They want to be treated like other people, ("normal" People), then why are the treated differently with special privileges?  They have special entrances that are more wheelchair friendly, that is fine.  But they should still have to wait their turn to get in.  Give out numbers like they do at the supermarket.  Take your number and then get into the regular or handicapped line.  You use the special entrance, but you still wait your turn.  This would also put an end to disputes about people cutting in line.  I don't care how much people speak and act polically correct, it still causes a lot of resentment toward handicapped people when you are waiting in the hot sun for over an hour and they come up and get on the ride immediately, also pushing your turn back further!  I also see numerous people rent a wheel chair just so they can use the handicapped express!
May 14, 2013 2:49PM
We booked a trip to WDW many years ago when my 13 yr old daughter sprained her ankle 3 weeks before going. We didn't use motorist wheelchairs but did rent a manual one. She wasn't permanently disabled but she had an air splint and her doctor didn't want her to walk as much on it as is required when you go there. So she would walk a bit and then be pushed quite a bit. We did get some perks from having the chair and I did feel bad about that but in the same sense, you spend a lot of money to go there. Proof we could have got but some instances, you just have to use those wheelchairs. I do think that using people for benefit like in this case is just plain wrong.

May 14, 2013 2:50PM
I have been to Disney many times and have never seen this. If this is really happening, I feel bad for the children. They are not getting the full Disney World experience. Not that standing in lines is exciting but, WALKING aroung the parks is a lot of fun.
May 14, 2013 4:10PM
Just treat the disabled as normal, I suppose. Oops, ADA will get you.
May 14, 2013 3:31PM
This is nothing new; the Birnbaum guide has noted this trick for decades.
May 15, 2013 9:58AM
We were just there last month and it drove me crazy to see 350 lbs+ folks in motorized chairs w/ 5 or 6 equally fat family members, move to the head of the line.  Talk about needing the exercise!
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