Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Strange Tale of Corporate Generosity

A Strange Tale of Corporate Generosity

MacDonalds. Coca-Cola. Disney. 

At times, it seems they own the world. Perhaps they do. Perhaps there was a shadowy deal back in a smokey 50s backroom and they built an Elvis robot to soothe us all into accepting the inevitable. For evermore, our children would grow up speaking with saccharine US accents, swilling fizzy sugar water and furring their arteries with quasi-meat and cardboard 'chicken'.

I resent it. I try very hard to avoid it. But the tide is too strong. My children know every line of Toy Story. Winnie the Pooh got highjacked by Walt and stuffed himself to a familiar, soothing, honey obesity MacDonalds could only sit in awe of. Peter Pan somehow transferred to London, Illinois. Grimm tales lost all the Grim. My children believe Happy Meals to be the Holy Grail of haute cuisine. I believe that they have a secret Coke fountain under their bunk-beds, preparing them for the slightly less addictive crack habit that must surely follow in their teenage years?

So, it was with a mixed sense of triumph and misery that I was able to present them with 4 day passes to Disneyland (Paris - surely no greater cultural oxymoron has ever been created?) with which to sprinkle our current holiday with Tinkerbell-style fairy dust.

I saved like a demon. I REFUSED to allow the surely inevitable corporate-rape of four days captive in a theme park make me miserable. If I must pay £17 for a burger and watch the boys plead me to poverty over every "dream" and "magical experience" I would be ready. Corporate HQ would NOT take me by surprise and strip away my last Euro, leaving us feeling faintly ashamed, beaten and unworthy.

"Take picnics" came the advice at every mention of my impending fiscal  hell. So we did. 

As a very poorly renegade patient, I would have to succumb to a wheelchair. My Drs were extremely dubious that I should leave the drizzly confines of a UK peppered with A&Es that understand "My bowels are screwed" at all, but I assured them I was fluent in Italian and passably able to woo the French into accepting I can do Gallic. My GP wrote letters, my pharmacist handed me bags of hardcore just-about-everything. I crossed borders with enough syringes and man made heroin to make Colombia blush. 

Booking the Disney part of the holiday in the UK, I'd been pleasantly surprised to hear I didn't have to pay for Dave's tickets. As my "carer" he would allegedly go free. I assumed this meant "corporate free" and some kind of catch or proviso would negate this perk, so saved for his tickets anyway. 

I didn't think for a second that I would get to participate in the 'Disney Magic'. I imagined happy days, watching the boys squeal and giggle and oooh in wonder from the comfortable prison of my newly-wheeled transport mode. 

But I couldn't have been more wrong. About all of it. Oh, the burgers *were*  the price of a small country and Mr Cola was indeed charging several months wages for a penny or two's worth of sugar syrup carbonated to ensure true hyperactivity. BUT. Disney itself was quite astonishingly crip-centric. Not "a-nod-to-the-crips-in-order-that-we-may-fleece-them-like-all-the-ablies" but proper crip-friendly, we love you long-time, we will make your holiday super special, crip centric. 

I know, I know, suspend your disbelief, I'd never have believed it either. 

Dave DID indeed go free. But in a moment of this-can't-be-happening incredibleness, we were ushered on our first rainy morning to the Annual Passport Office. My £143 4 day pass (already £30 or so reduced due to my bowel-inertia) was converted to a free year's pass!!! Yeah, i know, i thought there must have been some mistake too. Not only that, but Dave's tickets really were free and would remain so for an entire year for as many days as I chose to take advantage of it! I checked and double-checked, but it seems I really can go back almost any day I like, for a whole year, with Dave for free! 

But there was more - parking would be free ( saving 15 Euros a day) and as close to the entrance as it was possible to be. I would get 10% off in all the shops and restaurants and 20% off if I chose to stay in any of their hotels. 

But here's the best bit. This truly-magic ticket entitled me and my whole family to the most VIP-ness of VIP treatment from start to finish. No really, it did. 

Quite accustomed to being the crip-also-ran, the one who sits on the sidelines, the one who can't get into the ice-cream parlour or the cinema or the event, I hadn't even imagined I would go on any rides. Just the thought is making me chuckle now as I write it. "Here you in-valid person, you handicapped thing you, come on our Ferris wheel/Rollercoaster/Simulator" I mean, it just doesn't happen does it?? 

Well, it does at Disney AND they let you on everything first and immediately, sailing with ease up perfect ramps, through short-cut disabled gates, past hour-long queues of damp, bedraggled ablies. 

One flash of my magic crip card and they opened barriers, revealed secret entrances, whistled to Joe on the main gate that there was a disabled lass wanting a go and we just wheeled straight on!! Every time!! My ghast was truly flabbered. 

Not only were we treated like minor rock-stars, it was DEPENDANT on me, usually the minor irritant, going on whatever thrill laden clump of seats and metal the boys chose next. Far from sitting on the sidelines watching their fun, as I usually do, I did everything. I can't remember the last time I went on a ride, but Disney flung me about with A1 star treatment. I was absolutely shattered, but I can't remember when I had more fun!!

Can't see the parade from your chair? Fear not, a nice man with a torch will open a cordon just for you with all the space in the world and the best view in the place. Can't see the hologram/firework show? Ditto. Can't go on a ride because one of the kids is too small? Fear not, you can do a "parent swap" and go on TWICE like VIPs, again without waiting or queuing. 

I'm proper, non-cynically, non-taking the mickey (no pun intended), no provisos or caveats impressed. 

They hadn't just thought about access, it seemed they'd genuinely left no stone unturned to flip the normal disability rules on their head. "Thou shalt be treated as better than all others" appeared to be the Disney maxim. 

I know, I know, they make billions. A misery might say they jolly well should give a little back to those "less fortunate" (shudder at yucky phrase) But they don't have to. they could apply the same profit-as-God rules to us wheelies as they do to everything else. But they don't. What a pleasant surprise :)) 


  1. That almost makes me want to go there! :)

  2. Other great place for wheelchair users is the National Rail Museum in York, of course, you have to be a saddo train nut like me but it really is access all areas including the train cabs. Its also free.

    The London eye also treat wheelchair users well. I had experience of that and it was right to the front. They also let me plug my chair into the eye to charge it up.

  3. Fab Peter!! Wld other disabled ppl share great places?

  4. Lovely to see you posting again. I'm so glad for you that you had such a lovely holiday. You most certainly deserved it.

  5. The horrible old cynic in me says corporate have looked at the free advertising of small dying child whos one wish is to charge round a land of castles and giant mice. And have realised if one has a bad experience, billions of dollars could be blown away.

    Then the old softie in me thinks Yay for the results

  6. So great to hear you had a fantastic time x

  7. Can't think of anyone who deserves such a lovely holiday as much as you well done Disney!

  8. I have heard about this; my ex's mum used to take the disabled children to Disney and they went first on EVERYTHING, got to do all the rides, and it was a jolly good time. Disney makes me cringe and want to gag myself with my own spleen most the time, but they one thing they do well is access.

    Glad you enjoyed!

  9. So glad you had such a wonderful time. My husband refuses to go to disneyland on the basis I would be miserable but I wonder if they would extend such courtesy to someone restricted to using crutches too ? Mind you, Im not a fan of rides so perhaps it would be a little like going to alton towers... a bit pointless for me.
    Its wonderful to see you writing again, I have missed your blogs but I am so very happy that you have had such a wonderful holiday xxxx YOU deserved every second of pleasure sweetie

  10. You know that in the US rich Disney visitors are hiring disabled tour guides to pretend to be family members precisely to get the benefits you enumerate?


    So if this is true (it is in the New York Post whose record is not exactly a strong one) and catches on this side of the pond that annual pass you have there could become a nice little earner.

    The wonders of the free market.

  11. Just like a proper fairytale. Glad you're having such a wonderful time, you deserve it. x

  12. It's all about double-standards from greedy corporations. They call us the underdogs of life. Why should I contact underdog. I refuse to be treated as a piece of crap, by those upstairs. They all need to be brought back down to earth. Sod capitalism. Fuck greedy corporate corruption.

  13. So great to hear you had a fantastic time sue' you and your family deserved it.
    i was one of the original shareholders and am please to see that my money was well spent
    however owing to my ongoing illnesses since it's opening i have been unable to attend

    I did however manage to visit the Disney's world resort 3 times back in the late seventies and early eighties when the epcot park was built

    In those days it was good value cost wise but euro Disney was always going to be expensive

  14. So happy that you are being treated well, maybe you could use your influence to get Disney to stop discrimination in their children s programmes - not just discrimination against the physically or mentally disabled but also the overweight kids, the 'geeky' kids, those with learning disabilities and the overweight child.

  15. I'm glad you enjoyed your holiday and received such royal treatment. Other tourist attractions could learn a lot from the Disney model. I'm sure you feel your money was well spent. I'd love to see some photos :-)

  16. I'm so glad you had a decent time! This info is really worth knowing, too, thanks for writing it up.

  17. I'm happy you had a great time.
    Unfortunately, there IS a down side to this. The rich and valuable in our society [sic] have cottoned on to this and are now "hiring" disabled people to take to Disney parks across the world, in order to get their own, perfectly abled children, and themselves, special [again, sic] treatment.
    I'm in two minds. While annoyed and rather disgusted at the actions of those already privileged beyond belief, I do think, "Disabled people enjoying park ride? Yay for that!"
    Hope you manage to get back and use your year-long free pass.

  18. MRadclyffe
    I'm sure your mistaken no normal person would hire a disabled person for gain and no normal disabled person would exploit their vulnerability in this way

    all sick and disabled people have to ask permission to leave the uk for a break especially everyone who is on ESA and all carers have to and with border checks you will get caught out if you have not asked

    all normal people dare not even ask for a break in the first place and stay at home but as always their are those with a criminal intent to take advantage

    as for getting preferential treatment in parks etc that is strictly down to the individuals concerned it is not a park policy to let disabled people come and go as they please and you can be sure that when special treatment is given it is for family's only and not just for anyone who happens to accompany them

    1. You're joking, right? Being sarky? Nobody ever stops me leaving the UK whenever I want to go wherever I want (visas etc being ok) - most recently 2.5 weeks in Australia for an urgent visit to my seriously ill father - not all disabled people are claiming ESA (though I do get max rate DLA). I can certainly believe that there have been a few instances of disabled people being hired by rich people to pose as family members, at least in the US, for such purposes, though I doubt it is at all widespread.

  19. This makes me really happy to hear. I have no desire to go to Disney, but if I ever did, it will make me really happy to see people in chairs being given beautiful customer care.

  20. Fabulous to hear that you and family had lovely time. In this world of uncaring corporate hum-drum, the privilege given to yourself at Disney is a fine example and a good starting place to get everyone the world over to provide this special treatment for people who need and deserve it.

  21. Whilst on a night shift I thought of you when you were here with us and decided to see how things were going. I am so happy to see that you were able to go to Disney and get involved in everything. Your post made me giggle (out loud - I know on a night shift!) and actually shed a couple of tears. I will be back for more posts on a more regular basis.


  22. Wow, what a pleasant surprise!

  23. I wonder if this preferential treatment is only for wheelchair users or would it extend to anyone who is disabled but not so obviously? My cynical side is nagging me that they will do it for wheelchair users because everyone can clearly see they have a disability.

    1. You'll probably never come back and read this Tom, but yes, all disabilities were listed on my card. Visual, learning difficulties, hearing, missing limbs - everything. Then, you had to show your card so they knew which disability and could act accordingly. Ie ALL were trained in sign language!!! This is seriously impressive and not just about the PR

  24. How lovely! Most of all, I'm glad you had a great time with your family, You can't put a price on that.

  25. Ooooo*
    that bought tear's to my eyes! Babes!
    reminded me of a trip to French hypermarche',
    with my wife*
    the way the French attitude to disability,
    is so very different,
    to the UK*
    they even insisted,
    that she must not push the wheelchair though the check-out!
    we were ushered to the front of que
    glad you enjoyed*
    these moment's are special?

  26. Had a look at the Alton Towers access statement. It was quite depressing. To get to it, you have to download a PDF with tiny, wiggly font in white on a dark background. No alternative ways of viewing as far as I could see. Some positive arrangements have clearly been made for people with disabilities, but the tone of the thing was awful - big emphasis that you might not be allowed on rides if the staff think you're too vulnerable, big emphasis that only x, y and z proofs of disability will be accepted, and you can't even hire a wheelchair if you can't prove to their satisfaction that you have a disability. I think in the midst of all that there may have been a reasonable access policy trying to get out (it said something about a Ride Access Pass being issued, but without explaining what that was). Just from the tone I got the impression that if I turned up I would be seen as a hassle, a fraudster or an idiot.

  27. George Rolph Interview

    Sorry to be off topic sue but this is very important the
    George Rolph Interview on his hunger strike

  28. Sue it reminds me of the Disney film Cinderella - the fairy with her magic wand going "Bibbity - Bobbity - Boo" around a ragtag collection of rats and mice to turn them into a glittering coach with horses and footmen! I'm so pleased for you. And as for the party poopers who are saying how awful corporatism is - looks like it's only awful if it chooses to be. We need to celebrate the times when corporations get it so right to encourage the others to follow suit.

  29. I am not disabled. Well, I don't count myself as disabled anyway. But my father has so many things going wrong with him due to his paralasis that we honestly believe it would just be better to take him out the back and shoot him sometimes. I've always believed that we have to speak up for those that can't. And he can't. What can I do for this cause?

  30. " "all sick and disabled people have to ask permission to leave the uk for a break especially everyone who is on ESA and all carers have to and with border checks you will get caught out if you have not asked"

    Oh really? Because I've been disabled my entire life and this has never happened to me. Nonsense and stop scaremongering on what was supposed to be a positive post.

    1. Well Dalekette you are one of the lucky ones and has happened to me many times
      i would keep the good fortune to yourself if i were you
      spare a thought for these people if you can ?

      BBC London News: George Rolph 29/5/13 on hunger strike

    2. @Dalekette..

      Really? So you are well enough to jet around the world for a "break" and well off enough to afford to do so, and see nothing wrong with this?

      I am dyslexic, partially blind (certified), have worked for the last 26 years until Janurary 2013 putting in 40+ hours a week and the last time I could afford a "break" abroad was 1994!

      I had claimed ESA, however did not score 15points as the criteria have changed , due to people ripping off the system.. so have had to apply for JSA this was 11 weeks ago! ive not had a penny yet.

      The jobcentre told me last week to apply for a crisis loan, and i spent £5 ( that i dont have) trying to get through, before learning that that Crisis Loans are closed due to people ripping off the system and there is no other help in my area.

      So think yourself lucky, that you have managed to scam the system however many times as you have- but please remember, much like insurance- someone has to pay for the scammers, and its usually those who need it most!

  31. Nick, I'm sorry you've had difficulty travelling, but this is not the norm. Perhaps there are other issues at work other than your disability, but provided you have a passport and do not pose a risk to others, you will be able to leave the country, you do not require permission. If someone at border control has told you otherwise, I suggest you contact a human rights lawyer. I do not doubt that the DWP might attempt to remove ESA on the basis of ability to travel, but they have no legal right to prevent you doing so. It is irresponsible to suggest that thus is normal practice.

  32. Hi Jane
    i have all the booklets and for carers and those on incapacity and ESA benefit you have to ask permission first for leaving the uk with loss of benefit while away if permission is given in the first place

    you have to remember that your to sick or disabled to work so how can you be fit for a holiday this is the thinking of the DWP don't forget

    You do not have to report a holiday with DLA providing it's under a month

    I agree with you it may not be the norm but i have been ill for a very long time 33 years and when someone from the DWP is in your house with your nhs carer laying down the rules of what you can and cant do you tend to play safe and stay in doors and keep to the rules which in my case are very ridged

    As i look like a skeleton some say Burma would be better for me and i would agree as i like the Burmese and the weather is much better for me as i stay permanently cold in the uk

    if i wont to go on holiday i have to arrange this with my mp first to avoid any backlash on my return so as you can guess i stay at home regretfully as it would be to stressful in going away under such a cloud of being classed as a scrounger

  33. but i do take your point Jane and yes you can leave the country no problem but as for retaining your benefits on your return that's another story and you can be sure that if caught you can say good buy to your benefits on your return if you haven't had permission to travel in the first place

    As i said above it's very risky and until my mp gives me the go ahead in writing that he has done all the checks it would be very foolish in the present benefit climate to go abroad under the incapacity benefit in which i get

    i am just in the process of trying to get into the support group for ESA but it's early days as my form from ATOS has only just been sent back to them this week so wont know on if i have to for a medical or whatever at this time

    i cant go on hunger strike as i would be dead in a week so the pressure is on me at this time but i have 33 years of experiences to fall back on but with my mind blank most days it's difficult to be able to think of anything useful of the procedures you need to follow

    I'm at the mercy of others my tory mp being one he's ok but very slow like treacle in asking me how things are so not much good but better then nothing as they say

  34. Access at the Eden Project is absolutely awesome. Carers go free and those out of work get a discount. You can also register your ticket whilst you are there and this means it will be valid for a year so you can go back as many times as you like.

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