great america blues

Last weekend was my birthday. This year I picked an outing for the day to Six Flags Great America. I haven’t been there in a good seven years and always loved the thrill of a roller coaster. Soaring through the wind. Up and down, flipping around through the air. Everyone unified by the thrill of the ride. Good stuff.

Great America had always impressed me with the accommodations they had for us with disabilities. You could go up the exit and they would get you on as fast as possible. If it was not really busy they would let you stay on twice.

When we got to the park we stood in a huge Guest Relations line for 20 minutes to get the pass to go up the exits. Then we headed off to the wheelchair rental booth. My wonderful husband pushed me around the park to save my poor armpits. {that alone is the best birthday gift ever}

The wheelchair cost $25 and then they wanted another $50 as a deposit {gulp}. After dropping a wad of cash in a matter of seconds we headed off to start our day. The Superman ride was first and my husband pushed me up the exit ramps, navigating past swarms of teenage girls and families making their way down. We noticed that as they came in contact with the wheelchair they became almost paralyzed and stopped. This just added to the congestion and the awkwardness of it all.

Up at the top we handed the ride operator our slip and they informed us that we could come back in 45 minutes. WHAT? You want us to go up and down that long and winding ramp again??

I was sad to find out the procedures changed this year.

New Rules:
You go up the exits and get your time assigned – this is based on the average wait time for the normal line. Then you either stand there and wait {and be in the way of all the people exiting the ride} or you make your loved one wheel you back down and then back up when it’s your turn to go on the ride. There is no staying on twice and some rides don’t let you come back for a certain amount of hours.

In the past there were times when I felt guilty being able to skip line but my husband would always remind me the obvious. The people in line have strong bodies. They don’t use crutches to walk. They are not getting sores on their armpits from standing in line. I need reminders like that to help me swallow my pride.

While waiting our 30 minutes to go on the Viper we got to know a lady there with her son and husband. Her son was in a wheelchair and had a condition where he does not sweat. So waiting for 45 minutes to get on a ride just doesn’t work. He needs to get inside after an hour or two to regulate his body temps. In addition to tending to her son, her husband was a quadriplegic. Going up and down the exits, standing around waiting, lifting her son in and out of rides and worrying about how long he’s been outside just seems like a lot of weight for her shoulders. No worries, this lady was blowing down any walls that tried to stop her from giving her family a few hours of fun. She ended up raising a scene and getting a special pass where she got on the rides instantly.

I’m disappointed that it takes just that for a person with special needs to hold their own at Great America. I was also disappointed that once you come back up for your turn you have to hunt down a ride operator, explain yourself again and then wait another 15 minutes until they get you on.

The person who changed this policy needs to try it out for a day. They might start to think it was their worst idea yet.

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