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Friday, August 25, 2023

Theme Park and Travel Accommodations

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families -- as well as efforts to mitigate them  One challenge is that autism is an "invisible disability," which does not have obvious physical markers.  

Jacob Passy at WSJ:

Theme parks, airlines and other businesses are stepping up efforts to weed out abuse by opportunists pretending to be disabled to save money or cut long lines.

Companies looking to stem the abuse increasingly are turning to nonprofits or credentialing agencies to determine who qualifies for exemptions. In July, Universal theme parks in California and Florida began requiring guests with disabilities to register ahead of their visits with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. IBCCES, a for-profit company, also works with Six Flags theme parks across the U.S. and the Sesame Place park near Philadelphia.

Accommodations include front-of-line access or traveling with a service animal. This assistance is critical for disabled people for whom traveling already can be a Herculean task.


Amy Schinner, a theme-park researcher for travel-planning company Touring Plans, relies on accommodations at theme parks for her 25-year-old son, Ben, who is autistic. Her son has difficulty waiting in long lines for rides. Now, Universal visitors like her must fill out an online application through IBCCES that requires documentation of their condition and contact information for a healthcare, education or government professional.

Schinner says the documentation requirement could present challenges. The family provided a school document from 2006 in Benjamin’s application, but Schinner says she had easy access to the document mainly because the family recently moved and her son needed to apply for Social Security benefits.

“To get his records took a lot,” says Schinner, who lives in Winter Garden, Fla.