Ashleigh Johnston, Account Executive
The New York Post first reported there is a company in Florida that caters to New York’s wealthy elite (or insanely desperate) by offering the opportunity to ‘rent’ a physically disabled person, to gain advantage while touring Walt Disney World. The company Dream Tours Florida offers this service at $130 an hour or $1040 for an eight-hour day.
So what kind of advantage do you gain for this price? Disney offers a separate entrance for disabled people, with up to six people in their party. This greatly reduces wait time because as soon as the theater opens, or the ride vehicle is available, the party is permitted to enter ahead of other waiting guests. Rather than waiting with the rest of the crowd, this tour company offers a disabled person to pose as a member of your party in order to gain priority access.
Disney bloggers, enthusiasts and the general public stormed Twitter to condemn the complete lack of morality needed to actually solicit this company.
An anonymous mom claims, thanks to Dream Tours Florida, she only had to wait a minute for It’s a Small World, while others waited 2 ½ hours. As one Disney fan tweeted, “If you’re waiting 2 ½ hours for It’s a Small World, you’re doing it wrong.” Surely someone with that kind of disposable income could invest in some tour books that give step by step hints that are mathematically proven and field tested to reduce your wait time. And quite frankly, there are free sites that do an excellent job of telling you exactly where to be what day and time of the year – but clearly money or dignity is no object for these moms.
So, how should Disney react? They can’t start questioning every group that has a disabled person, nor can they ignore the thousands of other guests that are trying to earnestly enjoy their trip. Bryan Malenius, a spokesman for Disney, told CNN the company is, “thoroughly reviewing the situation and will take appropriate steps to deter this type of activity.”
These steps most likely involve taking action against Dream Tours Florida, but this is further complicated by the fact that the disabled person is a co-owner of the company. Her boyfriend, the other owner, did not respond to several publications’ request for comment other than to say that his girlfriend has an auto-immune disorder and occasionally uses a scooter. If she is a willing participant in this endeavor, then can Disney really do anything about it?
The language Disney uses must give a solution that satisfies guests, while making sure no one is offended. After all, isn’t Dream Tours Florida just a tour guide service, wherein the guide happens to be disabled?
Disney Parks hinge themselves on the guest experience. Their global presence requires them to always be on the mark, making sure everything associated with them is politically correct, family-friendly and otherwise lives up to the standards they created for themselves. Any slip up draws scrutiny on every level, in every corner of the world. Rest assured, now that this story is flooding the media, the world will be watching to see how Disney responds, and will examine each magical statement coming from the vacation kingdom.
***Shortly after this was written, Dream Tours Florida released a statement denying the allegations in the press. However, “VIP Tour” services have been discontinued.