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Taken for a Ride

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JESS WILSON
Jess Wilson

I have a confession.

Ready?

I'm not mad at Disney.

Yeah, that was it.

You see, I have a daughter on the autism spectrum and a LOT of my fellow autism community members are pretty seriously pissed off at the Disney corporation right now. And they want me to be angry too.

Because something recently came to light out of Disney that pretty much sucks for our families. Apparently, beginning October 9th, their parks will discontinue their Guest Assistance Cards, replacing them with a new, and reportedly much more cumbersome system.

You might remember me talking about our trips to Disney. That little red and white card made the parks possible for us. Hell, it made them wonderful for us. It made the magic of Walt Disney World accessible to my daughter. And I will be forever grateful for that.

So you might think, and, from the looks of my inbox, it seems that a whole lot of people do think, that I should be first in line to be pissed at them for yanking the rug out from under us and families like ours. But I'm not.

I'm sad.

You see, Disney was one of the first major hospitality corporations, at least of their magnitude, to help our families access their parks. They were among the first to recognize the fact that the needs of autism families are very, very different from those with physical disabilities and to understand that accommodating the latter did not make them accessible to the former. They went out of their way to welcome our kids into their parks and into their hearts.

But in doing so, they were taken for a ride. Yeah, I know, bad pun, And worse, I'm verging on echoing Mitt Romney's,"But corporations as people too!" here. Trust me, I'm not about to hold a pity party for Disney. But I just can't vilify them for this.

You see, THIS happened... "Rich Manhattan Moms Hire Handicapped Tour Guide so Kids Can Cut Lines at Disney World. "

Yeah, that's an actual headline.

Apparently, it had been happening for years. And the Post brought it to the fore by publishing this expose about a Florida company who made its living offering "black market handicapped guides to circumvent the lines altogether."

Directly related to that particular story or not, the Guest Assistance Cards are now going away.

So yeah, I'm angry.

But I'm not angry at Disney.

You want to know who I am angry at? I'm angry -- no, I'm seething -- at the pathetic mother%!@&ers who would sell this "service" to the even more pathetic mother%!@&ers who somehow still managed to sleep at night after taking their kids to the Magic Kingdom with a "Black Market Handicapped Guide."

For the love of God, what did they tell their kids they were doing? Appalled doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about this. Apoplectic comes close.

So, to all of you who have called and emailed and texted and Facebook messaged and sent me smoke signals to see if I've heard about this -- yes, yes I have. To those who want me to burn Mickey Mouse in effigy while chanting Down with Disney, I'm, sorry, but you've got the wrong girl.

But, to those who have asked me to do "do something to try to change it," I'd say this:

I am.

I'm telling our story every day. And I'm asking you, as I always do, to tell yours. Because I don't know any better way to create a society that collectively finds the idea of abusing a system designed to accommodate children with special needs so abhorrent that it simply can't happen.

I couldn't agree more that something needs to be done.

This is what I'm doing.

Jess can be found on her blog, A Diary of a Mom, where she writes about life with her husband, Luau, and their two daughters, 12-year-old Katie and 10-year-old Brooke, who is autistic. She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and welcoming community of autistic people, those who love them and some random folks who liked the page and seem to be sticking around just to see what's going to happen next.