Breaking up is never easy, but this one really hurts.
I could never imagine me not loving Disney, but, right now, all the happy memories are tainted by my new understanding of just how little my disabled son means to such a major organisation, and I feel bad for loving it so.
Of all the places in the world where love conquers all and magic is possible, I believed in Disney.
But, on Wednesday 9th August 2017, all that changed.
I first wrote to Disney World in 2016 to tell them that my wonderful little boy was a huge fan of Disney World and wanted to return but cannot, simply because he cannot use their restroom facilities. It was a heartfelt letter because I didn’t want to have to say Goodbye to our Disney Dreams.
I asked them to find a way to install toilet facilities with a hoist and changing table, after all, my son is not the only person who needs these facilities. When you can make elephants fly, bring Nemo to life and create the magical world of Pandora, THIS really doesn’t seem that hard to do.
Not all wheelchair users can get up from their chairs on their own. Many need a hoist to lift them from their wheelchair, and a full sized changing table to lay down on to sort clothing and switch to a toileting sling before hoisting to the toilet.
But every day in Disney World disabled people soil themselves because they cannot access such a toilet. Families and carers are laying their loved ones on the toilet floor to get clothes sorted before lifting to the toilet or to change soiled pads.
Disney will allow you to use a first aid room to change pads, but there are no hoists and no toilets in the same room as the changing bed.
The option of a place to clean up might help some but many disabled people, just as able-bodied people, actually prefer to use the toilet to prevent the need to change their underwear and clothes! And to prevent the stares and wrinkled noses of other guests!
When I first wrote to Disney they replied positively – they would look into it and wanted to do it. Time has moved on, but nothing has happened, so I sent an e-mail to Jay Cardinali, Worldwide Accessibility Manager for Disney, re-iterating the need for these facilities and explaining that many families no longer visit due to the restrooms not meeting the needs of those who cannot stand to self transfer.
On Wednesday 9th August a representative rang in response to that e-mail.
In a nutshell, toilet facilities with a hoist and changing table are not in their plans at the moment and IF they decide to do it in the future they will let me know.
Disney, the “happiest place on earth”, the place “where dreams come true” and “magic happens” are choosing NOT to install toilet facilities which would enable all disabled people to use the toilet safely and with dignity.
When you know something is needed, when you know that children and adults might soil themselves and be mortified, how can you not want to stop that from happening?
Only a harsh and uncaring theme park wouldn’t want to make sure all people could stay all day and remain safe, clean and dignified. And I cannot reconcile in my mind that Disney World, the place I have loved for so long and encouraged my son to love, is actually an uncaring organisation.
Now, every time a Walt Disney World commercial comes on my TV and I hear “a fairytale land where there’s magic round every corner” or “a world of endless magic” and it tells me that an “unforgettable Disney vacation is within my reach” I will know that they are lying. There is no magic in soiling yourself. There are no happy family memories in injuring myself lifting my son to a toilet. And for those who need to be laid somewhere to sort clothes before being lifted to the toilet, there is no magic on a Disney World toilet floor.
People are soiling themselves or being laid on the toilet floor in Disney World and the Walt Disney World Company is okay with that.
If not, tell them.
Send an e-mail to the Worldwide Accessibility Manager (Jay.Cardinali@disney.com) explaining that access is about much more than letting people come in.
It hurts me to know that my love affair with Disney World is over. But I cannot love a place which cares so little for my son. He is worth more than being told to soil himself and then find a first aid room to get cleaned up in.
I hope that, one day, they might realise just how much they are hurting people and maybe then they will change their minds?
It is clearly a bad relationship for me to be in, yet it hurts so much to let go.
And I have no idea how to tell my son that Disney is not magical after all.