By: J Lewis-Jones
On Saturday 7 July 2018 Disneyland Paris hosted the Soirée Marvel at it’s Walt Disney Studios theme park. The Marvel Soirée was an exclusive ticketed event for the resorts Annual Pass holders with a theme centred on Marvel Super Heroes. The event proved very popular with tickets selling out within a few days of release.
For many Disney fans it would be a chance to met their favourite Marvel Super Heroes, but for one guest attending the party that evening it would lead to dramatic consequences.
The Marvel Soirée saw Disneyland Pairs once again withdraw their normal Disability access rules for character Meet ‘n’ Greets, like they did for the controversial Disney FanDaze event held the previous month.
The shock announcement of the withdrawal of Disability Access passes at Disney FanDaze caused condemnation on social media, as prior to the event guests were reassured by the resort that Disability passes would be accepted as normal at the event. The withdrawal (announced just 24 hours before the event) resulted in a number of serious problems for guests with disabilities and special needs, without the access passes guests were required to wait in line for up to four hours to meet the special Disney characters that were in attendance at Disney FanDaze. Many of the disabled attendees eventually abandoned the character queues altogether that evening as they were unable to wait in line for such long periods due to the constraints of their medical conditions.
The disabled fan community had hoped that the complaints the resort received following the withdrawal of Disability Access for character Meet ‘n’ Greets at Disney FanDaze would ensure that it would never happen again. To the dismay of Disability Access pass holders attending the Marvel Soirée, Disneyland Paris Management once again took the decision to withdraw Disability access for character Meet ‘n’ Greets.
What is a Disability Access card?
There are two types of Disability Access cards issued by Disneyland Paris. A Green pass for those visitors with permanent disabilities and an Orange pass for those with temporarily access needs. Full details of the assistance the resort offers to visitors with disabilities and special needs can found on the Disneyland Paris website.
For Guests with either a Green and Orange pass wishing to meet a Disney character they are given a return time, which is normally the time of the length of the queue would take. So they can go for a sit down or do something else during the waiting period. They then return at the appointed time to the exit of the Meet ‘n’ Greet location to keep waiting times to a minimum for pass holders.
For Lisa Graham a 30 year old freelance educator from the United Kingdom who was diagnosed with epilepsy eight years ago this decision by Disneyland Paris lead to near tragic consequences.
Lisa booked her ticket to the Marvel Soirée especially to meet Black Widow. When she booked her ticket and three night stay at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe she was told that Disability Access passes would be accepted as normal at the event.
“Meeting Black Widow is the one thing I wanted to do and the reason I had booked that weekend and not a quieter time” Lisa told Salon Mickey.
She continued “When I went over [to the Black Widow Meet ‘n’ Greet] there was a huge queue which wasn’t unexpected but they had set it up so that the [camera] flash was coming through the glass windows of the Blockbuster Café and then you queued for about 20 minutes inside the cafe facing the [camera] flash”.
“After a few minutes I could feel my brain starting to react to the flash so I approached a Cast Member, the first cast member was French and went to get someone who understood English better so we stood for a while waiting for that”.
“When I finally spoke to someone they were very rude and dismissive. I requested a time to come back and explained that standing in that queue would end up with me having a seizure. “
“I was told things like the wheelchair users are in the same queue. I admit at that point of waiting around just to be told no, everyone has to queue despite it making me ill, it wound me up”.
“A second even ruder Cast Member came over and they just kept saying that my carer could queue. I explained that my carer has to be with me at all times. They then said I could sit down. I explained again that I could not face a [camera] flash for 30 minutes and that it would make me seize”.
“I was just met with well tough then you can’t do the meet. By this point sadly I had been in front of the flash too long and got an aura which tells me I’m going to seize”
“My exact words were ‘thanks Disney you’ve caused a seizure’, before I went to try and minimise injury”. “The entire area there is concrete and gravel and so I protected my head but got a lot of cuts and bruises”.
Lisa who wears a Medical Alert necklace and an electronic Medical Alert tag continued “The last thing I remember is me losing control of my speech and muscles and then I lost consciousness”. “Despite me loudly saying I was going to seize no one seemed to care”.
Eye witnesses have told Salon Mickey that Lisa was on the ground for well over 15 minutes before Cast Members radioed for assistance.
Several eye witnesses we spoke to also commented that they believe the Cast Members called for Security first because other Guests were shouting at them to call for urgent medical assistance and were pleading with them to fetch water and they appeared to have felt threatened.
“I came around and it takes a while for my brain fog to lift, I know my carer was near me and friends around but I distinctly remember looking up and two Cast Members just staring”.
“At one point people were asking and shouting for water.” “People then got angry because they were told they would radio for water”. “I was on the ground outside a cafe…. “
“After a while people in red turned up and attempted to block the view but I was achey and cranky. By that point and water was given from a friend”.
Benn an eye witness to the incident told Salon Mickey “Guest Flow [Cast Members] were just standing around looking shocked, everybody was woefully untrained for this kind of situation.”
“Fire and Rescue turned up and asked the normal questions. They wanted to take me to a Doctor but I knew by that point there was little they could do. I needed the medical care ten minutes before. I sat with them for a while before moving to Studio One to get sugary drink and sit still”.
One of Lisa’s friends who witnessed her collapse went with her to Studio Services to report the incident and they were there for two hours.
“Despite having all the details no one from Disney has apologised”. “I made it very clear to them if I had been in status I would have needed drugs 10 minutes before they reached me and would have brain damage right now.”
“Its scary and had robbed me of my confidence in Disney. Unless they acknowledge to me that something went terribly wrong that night I’m not sure I can return”. “Honestly I just want Disney to just acknowledge a screw up happened, ensure training is given and review why green passes aren’t being honoured during special events”.
“They [Disneyland Paris] have called an it exceptional incident but I laughed. So many people had a terrible night”.
“I have so many things I wish I could say to Disney. The thing that sticks out is that on the Sunday daytime they were rushing fainting people off like a top emergencies, but for some reason on the Saturday night they didn’t seem to care at all.”
“Disney really need to acknowledge how serious it was because if I had been in epileptic status I could have had brain damage by the point that they [Fire and Rescue] showed up.” “I was in the park two days afterwards and honestly it has killed my love of Disney a bit that despite having all the details no one thought an apology was appropriate”.
“I know they often don’t want to accept liability but this is so clear cut. They screwed up and there are dozens of witnesses. Random strangers were tweeting about it and all the official Disney handles are silent.”
“I am an Infinity annual pass holder but I’m unsure if I will return because Disney do not seem to think that there behaviour was wrong despite endangering my life. Their complete disregard to mine and others safety is disgusting.”
Salon Mickey reached out to Disneyland Paris for a comment regarding the withdrawal of Disability Access passes at Disney FanDaze and the Marvel Soirée and in telephone conversation we were told by a spokesperson: “That there appears to have been a mix up in the past about Special Access Passes, but we confirm that the policy is to accept these passes”. “We are working with the Operational Teams to ensure this is made clear for future hard ticket events, so there should be no similar problems like we had at the Marvel event.” He continued “We are in contact with the Guest regarding the incident”.
Disneyland Paris has also supplied us with this written statement:
“Disney Special Access Passes for guests with disabilities are valid at all times. We recently learned of incidents where they may not have been fully honoured for some aspects of the events and we apologise for this error. Meeting the needs of our guests with disabilities is extremely important to us, and we continue to build on our efforts.”
We also received the following information from Disneyland Paris on how they are improving disability access at the resort.
Disneyland Paris remains committed to accessibility, and we have received a number of awards and certifications – most recently for the sign language version of “Mickey and the Magician” (award from Tourisme & Handicaps).
Over the last year we’ve gone even further by:
Partnering with a renowned Doctor specialising in autism; Paralympic champion Michael Jeremiaz and the state-recognised association “Destination pour tous”.
Re-enforcing leader-specific training on accessibility (more than 300 Leaders have been trained, and sessions are planned to continue in the year to come).
Increasing the number of guests with disabilities who can ride attractions together (from 1 to 5).
Cancelling the compulsory companion on 5 different attractions.
Reducing the age of the required companions from 18 – to 15-years old to help families and groups with young teenagers.
Investing significantly in structural buildings.
Increasing the number of parade and show viewing zones reserved specifically for guests with disabilities.
The majority of boutiques, restaurants and theatres are now equipped with induction loop for guests with hearing impairment.
Last year Disneyland Paris welcomed 110,000 guests who required special assistance passes.