Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

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Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby DorneyDiva » Fri May 30, 2008 7:38 pm

I really would like some input here. We've had season passes for several years. Our youngest daughter is autistic. Not the kind of autistic that looks all interesting like Rain Man or the other savants you see in movies...this is textbook autism, complete with no speech, temper tantrums, self injury, and the list goes on. The point of my post is that for all the years we have had our passes, Dorney has accommodated her in allowing her to access rides using the exit and being able to board quickly without waiting in the long lines (you see, waiting for autistic persons is next to impossible, they do not understand nor can many of them cope in crowds). For her, being able to have this kind of special access meant that she could enjoy the rides which she loves without being frustrated or upset...it was the only opportunity she had to be a "normal" kid...the only chance she had to be with her older sister and not have her disability hang like a dark shadow over their time together.

This year when we arrived on opening day I was informed that the access pass is now a pass similar to Disney's fast pass...you get a time to ride and come back. Now I understand that for people who have physical limitations this is no big deal, but for a child with autism, this is confusing and frustrating. Dorney has also changed the rule to state that only one person can access the ride with the disabled child. OK, so now not only do these children have to be upset about waiting, Dorney is forcing families to split up and be divided when disabled kids need as much support as possible, and they will not even consider making adjustments to the system.

After writing a letter to Dorney and getting a "form" response, I asked some of the park employees this past week what happened. Every single employee said they do not agree with the new system and that they rarely had complaints from other guests about having to wait an extra turn to accommodate a handicapped person and their family. So my question is, was the previous policy that awful that guests were complaining about waiting extra turns? Would it be more fair to all to require families to show a doctor's note stating the level of disability and for Dorney to make different levels of special access (i.e. immediate boarding, get a time and return to ride, etc.)? What do you think?

Honestly, I've been coming to Dorney for 32 years, and my children love it there. It breaks my heart that my daughters can't enjoy the park together anymore unless it is an empty day with no lines, which we know will end as soon as schools let out for the summer.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby Dude » Fri May 30, 2008 8:54 pm

I think Hershey has a policy that allows immediate access for kids with autism and their families, as do other parks around the country. That makes perfect sense to me.

Maybe Dorney was concerned that people would abuse the policy. But your idea that people provide a doctor's note to prove the disabilty is a good one.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby Yoshi » Fri May 30, 2008 10:07 pm

Hershey has a mixed policy, on all coasters except Sidewinder and Trailblazer you need to get a boarding time, some more popular flats are also like that and so are most water rides. On less popular rides, you get access right away.

Great Adventure also uses boarding times

I really disagree with the policy of only 1 person staying with the disabled person while the rest of the group goes through the line at Dorney. What happens if it's a group of 3 or a family with a disabled parent, 1 other parent and 2 small kids?

I rarely saw many people using the policy a season. I think I saw it 2 or 3 times in 20 visits which is hardly anything so I don't see how it's a problem to accomodate those with the disability.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby dptalon135 » Fri May 30, 2008 10:27 pm

There was out of control abuse of the old system. The new special access system is intended to go back to the main purpose of special access: to provide a means for guests with physical disabilities to board rides where they would typically be unable to maneuver queues or stairs. Special access is not and never was intended to be a means to avoid waiting in line, hence the new boarding passes. The one rider who may accompany the special access guest is supposed to be an individual to assist the special access guest in boarding, and anyone else in the group may wait in the line and meet up to ride together at the boarding time. Special access was never intended to be a way to "skip" the line, yet it was easily and heavily abused for that purpose. The new way takes you out of the line so you aren't waiting in the crowd and can go do other things, but is fair in that everybody waits to ride. This is a corporate wide program too, in place at all Cedar Fair parks, including parks like Cedar Point that actually have long lines. So far, it has worked really well from my point of view.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby Dude » Fri May 30, 2008 10:42 pm

dptalon135 wrote:The new special access system is intended to go back to the main purpose of special access: to provide a means for guests with physical disabilities to board rides where they would typically be unable to maneuver queues or stairs.


The new system may work for guests with physical disabilities, but it doesn't work for people with disabilities such as autism. People with autism do not understand the concept of getting a boarding time and returning to the ride later. That's why the new policy doesn't work.

I really can't imagine how there could be "out of control abuse" of a system that requires a doctor's verification of the disability before immediate access is granted. It just seems to be the right thing for a family-oriented entertainment company to do.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby Yoshi » Fri May 30, 2008 10:47 pm

They don't require a doctor's note (or at least in the past did not).
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby Dude » Fri May 30, 2008 10:52 pm

I know they don't require one now. My point is that they should go back to the old policy but require a doctor's note for those who ask for an immediate access pass for someone with a non-physical disability like autism. That will go a long way towards eliminating the potential for abuse.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby stealth220 » Fri May 30, 2008 11:21 pm

Dorney does not have the time to verify a doctor's note for every guest asking for an exception. As Dptalon135 stated, special access is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a means to skip the line. It provides guests with mobility issues access to the station (via an elevator or ramp) ONLY after they have waited the length of the line. This ensures that everyone has equal access to the ride and that special access is not being prioritized. It is solely a way for guests who cannot use stairs to access the ride platform. I am personally glad that CF has adopted this policy in all of its parks so that everyone has equal, fair access to all attractions. As for children with autism, I do understand how it may be difficult for them to wait in line, but special access is reserved for those who cannot get up to the station through the queue (and therefore need the elevator/ramp). Although it may seem unfair, we have to look at what special access was designed for: people with a need to use the elevator because of restricted mobility that prevents them from using the stairs or maneuvering through the line.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby DorneyDiva » Sat May 31, 2008 1:57 pm

This would be a valid excuse, however, in all of the years I have been going to Dorney, some of the time the elevators do not work. Last season Steel Force's was out of order most of the season (I watched a child who had been in a wheelchair being carried up all those exit stairs by her father...not safe at all), the elevator at Talon truly does not seem safe in that it starts and stops and jerks around...and just this week I witnessed the ThunderCreekCanyon ops totally ignore a family with a child in a wheelchair who had an access pass. The mother complained that they had waited 20 minutes and their other kids had gotten on and off the ride in about 10. So to say that the new system works is untrue. And not to say that persons with physical limitations should be excluded, but many of the ride rules do state that persons with particular disabilities are not permitted to ride, so the reasoning that they can't physically maneuver through the line/queue and should have access is not acceptable.

I DO understand that it is very easy to abuse this system, but really, does it hurt other guests THAT much to MAYBE wait an extra turn so that a child (and his/her family) can get one small break and be accommodated so that they can experience "normal" fun like anyone else?
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby stealth220 » Sat May 31, 2008 10:03 pm

In addition to a boarding pass, guests are given a ride sheet at guest services after being evaluated that tells the ride operator which rides the guest can ride and which ones they cant. In order for a guest to use the special access entrance (and therefore ride the attraction) the operator/attendant must verify that the guest is physically able to ride by looking at that sheet. Any guest who uses the special access entrance is physically able to ride, but otherwise cannot get through the regular queue line. At most rides the wait times are accurate as most employees are constantly aware of how long their lines are. In most cases the attendant will just ask several people waiting in the station how long they were in line and average the times together to get the boarding time. All in all, Cedar Fair is doing their best to make this policy fair to ALL guests who visit their parks, and employees are only doing what they are trained to do. No employee likes a disgruntled customer, in the amusement business or any other. Trust me, we want to make everyone's day at the park as enjoyable as possible.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby DorneyDiva » Sun Jun 01, 2008 7:50 am

All in all, Cedar Fair is doing their best to make this policy fair to ALL guests who visit their parks, and employees are only doing what they are trained to do. No employee likes a disgruntled customer, in the amusement business or any other. Trust me, we want to make everyone's day at the park as enjoyable as possible.


I can respect Cedar Fair's view and I do agree that the employees do an outstanding job. I have never had an issue with an op or a lifeguard or anything. I know that the ops are doing their job, and most days with the crowds and they way people act, I would not want their job for anything. I also realize that you and I are not going to come to an agreement on this issue, and my original post was to ask other guests if it is a real issue to wait a turn, not employees, however there is one point in this situation that I feel you are missing.

It is the law that disabled persons have the right to the same quality of life as anyone else and that they be included to the fullest extent possible. While CF is trying to be fully inclusive while being respectful to all of their guests, what this new policy does is not only make a difficult situation for some disabled guests and their families, but it also makes for unpleasant situations for the typical guests who have to bear witness to temper tantrums and screaming when the child is confused and frustrated. Typical guests do not want to be around a child (of any age) who is freaking out and screaming, hitting, biting and hurting themselves (or others) and they certainly do not want to have to witness the tears of the family who are trying their best to control the situation and save everyone, especially the child, from this horrible meltdown.

As I stated in my original post, Dorney's old policy was the only way my children can experience a normal family event together...and in our world, that made Dorney top notch and I gave the park accolades to anyone and everyone who asked me. The new policy has taken this away from my children and many others with neurological disabilities. CF really dropped the ball on this one because in trying so hard to be inclusive yet fair to all guests, they are discriminating against other disabilities that might not fall under the usual disability umbrella.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby dptalon135 » Sun Jun 01, 2008 9:00 am

I still fail to see why you need immediate access to the ride. I completely understand why you can't wait in the line, however, while you are waiting for your boarding pass time you are free to go do other things, like grab a snack. Everyone should have to wait to ride, I don't see any reason for exceptions, and I think the boarding pass is a perfect compromised. Besides, lines are rarely long anyway. In most cases, lines are only 10-20 mins long at Dorney. Cedar Fair is not discriminating, they are just being fair. They can't make just one exception to the system without being forced to make countless other exceptions.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby SteelVenomFan » Sun Jun 01, 2008 12:50 pm

I agree with Dorney's new policy 100%. It treats everyone fairly and makes everyone have to wait the same amount of time. As someone else said, there's also no need for more than 1 person to be with the special access person. If others want to ride with them, they can wait in line and meet up at the station. It's frustrating enough to have to wait an extra ride when someone with a special access pass takes your seat, but it's 100x more frustrating when they have 10 friends/family members with them.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby phillydude » Sun Jun 01, 2008 1:01 pm

DorneyDiva wrote:I also realize that you and I are not going to come to an agreement on this issue, and my original post was to ask other guests if it is a real issue to wait a turn.


Absolutely it is a real issue to wait a turn. Explain to MY children (who have waited in line for twenty minutes) why YOUR child (who, as you admitted, has no outward handicap like a wheelchair or crutches) should go right to the front of the line. They won't understand that any more than your child understands why she has to wait in line. I paid my money just the same as you did, and while I feel badly that your child has issues beyond the norm, it's your choice whether or not to attend the park. Frankly, I think it's pretty great that they are accomodating you at all.

DorneyDiva wrote:It is the law that disabled persons have the right to the same quality of life as anyone else and that they be included to the fullest extent possible.


You are missing a BIG point when it comes to the ADA law... that the ADA law does not apply if it would cause an unsafe or unreasonable burden on the REST of the population. For example, a company has a right to restrict a child who wears glasses from going onto a moonbounce... not because they cannot accomodate that child, but because if the child's glasses were to break and puncture the moonbounce, EVERYONE in the moonbounce would be at risk. By allowing your child to go directly to the front of the line (bypassing the queue) it puts an unreasonable burden on the rest of us, and perhaps puts us at risk should an incident start among the disgruntled guests who were forced to wait.

DorneyDiva wrote:It also makes for unpleasant situations for the typical guests who have to bear witness to temper tantrums and screaming when the child is confused and frustrated. Typical guests do not want to be around a child (of any age) who is freaking out and screaming, hitting, biting and hurting themselves (or others) and they certainly do not want to have to witness the tears of the family who are trying their best to control the situation and save everyone, especially the child, from this horrible meltdown.


So how do you deal with this at the grocery store, or a checkout line at the mall, or at a fast food place, or on those occasions where a line may unexpectedly form (like for a public restroom)?

You are right... typical people do not want to be around a child who is freaking out. But when it comes to seeing the tears of the family, they're really not feeling sorry for you... they're wondering why you would put your child into that situation in the first place.
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Re: Is Dorney discriminating against disabled kids?

Postby SteelForcer06 » Sun Jun 01, 2008 9:16 pm

All i have to say on this issue is that you should be lucky Cedar Fair even included Autism to the boarding pass. I also feel that if your child has severe Autism they shouldnt be going on the rides in the first place. Seriously, if the ride stops for a maintence issue for a long period of time in a place where you cant get off right away. What is your child gonna do then? Is the child gonna try and get out? How safe is that for your child? What are you gonna do when your child is stuck on the lift of a coaster and they get out and get severly hurt? I have sympathy for familes with an Autistic Child but i dont feel Amusement parks are a good place for them in the first place. In reality an Autistic Child is never really going to have a truely normal life.
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