Thursday, June 20, 2013
Did a disabled staffer really get treated this way? Really?
I heard Abbey Curran, 25, talk last night after the premiere of Miss You Can Do It. The HBO documentary is named after the nonprofit beauty pageant she started for girls and young women with disabilities, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. I'll share more about the movie, which is all sorts of wonderful, on Monday (it airs that evening).
Abbey, a former Miss Iowa 2008 who has cerebral palsy, did a Q&A with journalist/disability advocate John Hockenberry. She shared everything from wanting to be the "Martin Luther King" for people with disability to her desire to create a line of sexy shoes for women with cerebral palsy. And then, John asked her to name an instance when she'd faced intolerance. Abbey paused. From the back of the room a few people who seemingly knew her shouted "Disney! Disney!" And then she told.
Abbey had landed an internship at Disney World, at the Magic Kingdom. It was a dream job, she told us, and she was assigned to work at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Abbey wanted to wear black Crocs, the only shoes she could comfortably wear all day (her feet splay out from the CP, and she walks with a pronounced swagger-limp). Abbey said she was informed she couldn't, because the rubber could catch on the floor. Then she said she had to park her car, which she had brought in from Illinois, in an area where she needed to board a shuttle bus to get to the gates of the Magic Kingdom, then walk to work. She joked about it feeling like miles, and John sympathetically said he'd had to do it with two kids.
At some point, according to Abbey, a supervisor had a talk with her about how she was arriving to work "all sweaty," Abbey told us. "She said she didn't know what to do with me." And so, Abbey said, the supervisor asked Abbey to stay in her apartment for the next three weeks of her internship. "I got seven dollars an hour to sit in an apartment," Abbey remarked. Abbey said her "final straw" was the night she decided she wanted to eat dinner at one of the parks. She drove there and tried to valet park. Except, she recounted, she was told that she couldn't use it because she was an employee.
After that, Abbey packed up her stuff and went home.
We are longtime fans of Disney World in our family. We all love it there, and the resort has been incredibly accommodating to Max the two times we've been there; I've heard the same from other parents of kids with special needs. So listening to this was particularly disappointing.
Given the fact that I did not contact Disney for a comment (no investigative journalist am I), take this for what it's worth. As can be the case with these sorts of matters, that supervisor may have been one bad Bibbidi Bobbidi apple sticking too closely to Disney dress code. And parking challenges for people with disabilities happens; Abbey also told of another job where she was informed she had to park in an area four blocks away from her building.
But when a go-getter like Abbey Curran tells a story like this to a roomful of people, ending on "Disney is not magic!", it's a shocker.
Image: Flickr/Loren Javier
Posted by Ellen Seidman at 6:40 AM