So after a magical few days in Paris the boys arrived in Disneyland Paris. It was Murray's 12th year to visit - he really does adore all things Disney! This year, no Clive as we felt that it would have been too much for even such a good service dog as Clive. He's getting old and three days around Disneyland Paris would have been too tiring for him.
However as in Paris, Kermit was there with Murray .....
After 12 years of visiting Disneyland Paris, Murray's Mom & Dad know the drill well and the first thing they do is go to City Hall to get a 'priority card' for Murray. This card is issued once you show written confirmation supporting the medical condition of the guest who requires the card. Murray's ID card from Irish Autism Action is invaluable and was all we needed to acquire one of the priority passes. This card gives Murray and "his helpers priority access to certain attractions in both Parks, although access is not instant and queuing times depend on visitor numbers"
Now, our problem with Disney this year was that yet again they have changed the rules slightly. Last year on Murray's favourite rides "It's a Small World" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" you were given a time to come back to do the ride when you approached a cast member and showed the 'priority card'. This was fine as the wait times were not too long. Also, as the main queues were not busy last year, we just used the 'main' queue and were able to do the rides several times in succession thus keeping Murray very happy until his allotted time came up.
This year however, the wait time to do "It's a Small World" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" was over two hours each time we asked (we were there three days and it was the same response each day). Now, as the main queues were minimal we went over and tried to enter the ride via the main queue (just like we had done last year!). However, we were pulled from the rides and refused entry. We had been seen to try and use the 'priority card' and poor Murray was easily spotted in the queue as he scripts non-stop with excitment before he's about to board a ride plus he's 15 years old and holding a green frog!
We were in the Park from a Monday to Wednesday (very quiet days with short queues) - we specifically took Murray out of school before end of school term as the Parks would be quieter and there would be less crowds and more chance of doing his favourite rides. Our major problem with Disneyland Paris this year was that Murray could not understand how when there was only a 5 minute queue to these attractions, we were being told come back in two hours! Try that with an autistic kid and see how well it works!!
Disney's new rule is that for 'health & safety" reasons under "French law" - only one guest with a learning disability, mental health disorder, behavioural disorder or autism is allowed on the ride at any one time. So for example, when a group of four French adults with intellectual disabilities arrived with their carers at "It's a Small World" as well, they were all told to come back separately at different times with their carers two hours hence!! Disney's Accessibility Guide states "the access restrictions based on health or safety cannot be considered as discriminatory" so they claim they are not being discriminatory towards 'intellectual disabilities' - we beg to differ!
Now, if you arrived at the ride in a wheelchair (and were able to transfer), on crutches, with a walking stick, or pregnant you got straight onto the ride. Any number of physically impaired guests were allowed access to the rides with no time wait but any guest with an intellectual disability was been given times in excess of two hours. It wasn't busy - none of the days were so what must it be like in peak season.
Murray is as well able to exit the ride in the case of an emergency as any of the other guests - in fact he's a lot more able than those who were in wheelchairs, using crutches, heavily pregnant or very young babies! But no exceptions to the rule - we were told "what's two hours to wait" - come back then!
On a wet morning at the" Pirates of the Caribbean" ride with only 20 people queuing - we had made the mistake of showing Murray's "priority pass" - we should never have produced the pass and just used the main queues. But we were trying to do things "properly". At 1.30pm we were told "we could give you a time slot at 4pm". We tried to access via the main queue as Murray was desperate to do the ride 'once' and we were leaving the Park that day to return home. We didn't have the time to wait until 4pm and Murray is autistic and doesn't do 'waiting' well but were stopped and refused entry. The cast member was particularly insulting towards 'special needs'.
Never again after 12 years at Disneyland Paris will we visit - we have had enough! Murray and us were made feel like criminals for trying to question the system. There was no understanding of autism and intellectual disability. Being told "what's two hours to wait" is unacceptable to a child with autism. Disney certainly has no understanding or empathy for people with autism. Why the system keeps changing every year with ill informed cast members who don't know or understand the rules or reasons and just keep saying "come back in two hours" is crazy. Different rules seem to apply every year and differ for every ride! The fact that "It's a Small World" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" are Murray's favourite but the two rides with the 'crazy' wait times meant he was constantly disappointed!
Kermit & Murray managed two rides on "It's a Small World" in three days!!
Next year, Murray & Kermit will be going elsewhere .....
- Clive & Co