This weekend was bittersweet. After almost 7 years with the Engineer’s sensory issues, we finally attempted an amusement park. We’ve been to carnivals and fairs plenty of times, but we’ve never tried an amusement park because it’s loud, it’s crowded, it’s hot, it’s fill-in-the-blank sensory issues.
We finally tried it, and we had fun. In fact, our entire family are officially rollercoaster nerds now. Even the Destroyer got to ride a coaster like the one in this picture – he loved it! It was fun, but it was only possible because of the park’s special access pass for those with disabilities.
What am I sorry about?
So why am I apologizing? Why do I feel so horrible about using a valid and authenticated resource from the park? It’s imposter syndrome all over again, but for disabilities this time, not giftedness.
A lot of amusement parks offer a special disability pass that allows those with disabilities to wait their turn without waiting in line. For mobility challenged individuals, it’s impossible to go up the stairs for most of the rides, and for individuals with autism, it’s impossible to wait with all of those people crowding around them. This is a good compromise in theory.
How does it work?
You apply for the pass (at guest services for this park) and verify disability. They check to see what you’re able to ride and give you a special access pass. You take that pass to the ride’s exit and show the operators. The operators evaluate the current wait time and give you a specific time to return. You’re free to go sit in the shade, ride something with a shorter line, or wait outside.
When your time arrives, you re-enter the exit and ride the ride.
What that really means
The people waiting in line have no idea that you’ve waited too. All they know is that you are jumping in line. They’re usually not familiar with the access program, and they have no idea why you’re getting “special” treatment. All they know is “HEY! Why is that kid taking MY spot while I have to wait?”
It’s a horrible feeling, knowing that they’re upset and you can’t explain why. I asked the Engineer to thank them for giving up their spot, but it really didn’t help much.
The first time we used the pass, the operators had just opened up the second half of the ride and no one was in line. The Engineer and his dad got to ride an empty rollercoaster car. No one was waiting, no one cared. The second time? The line was long, the kids were impatient, and they had no clue what disability means. Tempers were short. Eyes rolled. Sighs were heaved.
I hate this
Honestly, I would rather not use the pass at all. I would rather skip the ride. The Engineer doesn’t agree with me. The access pass was the only reason he was able to ride the big coasters because the lines were overwhelming and crowded. He was able to wait for the kid rides because they were much shorter, but the big ones were out of the question.
If you don’t look disabled, then other people assume you’re not disabled. I don’t look disabled right up until I’m limping because my hip hurts so much. The problem is if I let it get to that point of visible disability, it’s gone too far. It’s the same for the Engineer. If we let his issues go far enough to be visible and apparent to everyone, we’re at the point that we have to leave the park.
This park needs to do a better job at explaining the access pass to other riders. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to apologize or feel guilty about using the access pass. Those who need the pass shouldn’t have to add stress and guilt to an already difficult trip.
To those who had to wait
I’m sorry. I really am – you just wanted to have a good time, and we jumped in front of you and made you wait more. To be honest though, you will go home to a perfectly average life without a second’s thought. We go home to a lifetime of disabilities and issues that make a simple trip to an amusement park a minefield. We ruined your fun for a few minutes. This disability crap ruins our life.
I hope you can understand why the access pass is needed. I just wish it wasn’t my job to explain it. I’m sorry – but I’m not sorry we used it.
Note: some of my readers have objected to the phrasing of the last paragraph, and I want to point out that everyone is different. I can’t speak to what life is like for those who were irritated with us, but I do want to point out that in our experience people with no familiarity with disabilities are often less empathetic.
Yes, my disabilities ruined my life. Maybe yours or your child’s haven’t ruined life – and I hope not! I’m not directing this “perfectly average life” comment to everyone in line, just those who were frustrated with us. At this point, I would probably sell a kidney for a perfectly average life.