I know I’m posting this super late but it’s taken me a while to get the right words together to write this in full.
Anyone who has been on Twitter since the Marvel (or not so Marvel) Soirée at Disneyland Paris has probably seen the outcry relating to DLP’s treatment of disabled guests and the usage of the green cards which usually provide disabled guests with certain entitlements, mainly the skipping of queues, and being given return times for character meet and greets. From what I read on Disabled in Disney about this particular soirée, those cards were not honoured for the meet and greets, and it resulted in someone having an epileptic seizure whilst waiting to meet a character because she was forced to wait in a long queue, enhanced by triggering flashing lights.
I love DLP with all my heart. It’s my birthday twin. However I am not afraid to say when it fails expectations and reading all about this angered me. DLP’s refusal to comply to their own disability accessibility and awareness regulations in this case were reprehensible.
What I’ve now seen is the ignorance surrounding people who use these Green Cards around DLP. It’s the common, “well you don’t look disabled and can walk so why do you have this pass?”
Allow me to let you into a little secret – disability is invisible as well as physically visible. It is a vast spectrum that varies for every single person with a disability. Sometimes someone might be able to walk but might need a wheelchair afterwards. You can’t automatically judge disability on sight alone and how an experience like Disneyland Paris where you are overwhelmed by so much can affect that. I know there are cases when people have abused the system but from what I’ve seen and experienced, they’re minorities.
Deafness is classed as a disability. That can often be seen as an invisible disability, especially if someone doesn’t communicate with Sign Language.
Sarah used a Green Card for three of our five DLP trips and it was a godsend. However, if I was talking to someone afterwards about DLP and the use of this card, I got “well why did she have the card? She’s only Deaf. She can easily walk and wait in lines like everybody else.”
I don’t tell a lot of people this but Sarah had meningitis seven times as a child. Whilst she looks fine now, we’re almost certain it is the continuing reason behind her fluctuating energy levels already hindered by the deafness – it is well documented that Deaf and HoH children have lower energy levels compared to their Hearing peers – and the difficulty she can have in understanding certain things. Stimulating environments are overwhelming at the best of times but when you don’t have use of a sense like your hearing and everything is visual, trying to focus and take everything in is tiring. This even includes standing for a long time in queues and she needs her space, something that isn’t always guaranteed when you’ve got queue systems like those in Pirates of the Caribbean or Thunder Mountain. Add that to the multiple language barriers at DLP, and not being able to understand anything, it’s even more challenging.
Sarah had a right to that card and she used it because it helped her.
- It gave her plus me or my dad access to the special cornered area used for parades and shows. She didn’t have to deal with ignorant guests pushing children (often taller than her) in front of her, blocking her view.
- When it came to attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast, Crush’s Coaster etc, she could use the much shorter disability queue that sometimes had seating (I’m thinking of Pirates there) so she wasn’t getting exhausted with the long wait times.
- Shorter wait times for the characters. Although because we stayed onsite and often took advantage of the Extra Magic Hours in which there used to be lots of character meets, that wasn’t such a big deal for us.
We might have had a few niggles and contretemps with Cast Members on one of the trips (90% sure it was the 2012 trip) and although I wasn’t there to witness it, I heard enough about that particular situation – her inability to ride Thunder Mountain without one of us with her – to know Disneyland Paris were right in holding steadfast to their accessibility and safety protocols. My mother was unable to accompany her on BTM due to having eye surgery a few months prior, and my father and I were on a DLP day trip to Versailles, so she was alone. According to safety protocols, anyone using the Green Pass has to be accompanied by a carer so because Sarah wasn’t, she couldn’t go on. That’s understandable. The cast members were acknowledging her safety as well as the safety of other guests but due to the language barriers, she couldn’t understand this. To this day I still feel really guilty about it as I am the only one who can interpret between all the necessary languages and if I had been there, this wouldn’t have happened. However, the lack of Deaf Awareness and the inability to use a little sign by the cast members meant that the situation was made a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
The thing is, I can’t say that another deafness-related situation won’t happen again because from what we’ve experienced, there is no Sign Language accessibility to be had. Yes, Mickey and the Magician trialed a few shows in January with an integrated LSF interpreter that seemed to generate a good response, but apart from that, I see nothing. It is frustrating because they utilise other languages yet have nothing in the way of Sign Language. I accept France is a royal pain when it comes to accepting languages that are not French (curse the Académie Française) but in heavy tourist areas like Disneyland Paris where you get a wide variety of guests, more needs to be done to recognise Sign Language (LSF, BSL, ASL…) and be open to everyone who uses Sign Language or even simplified versions like Makaton to communicate. This is not just for the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing, but for people who have language delays, Down’s syndrome, Autism, Selective Mutism etc…
Of course, this is our personal experience.
This is not a generalisation and the voice or experience of any other Deaf or Hard of Hearing guest at Disneyland Paris.
I suppose what we can learn from this is that awareness needs to be improved. It’s all fine and dandy them saying on the website that they are accessible when circumstances like these happen and we see it for ourselves that changes need to be made.
When it comes to Sign Language, how do you think Disneyland Paris can improve and increase accessibility?
Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!