July is Disability Pride Month, and The Walt Disney Company has been celebrating its Cast Members in a big way!
Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort pride themselves on accessibility for Cast Members and Guests. The Disney Parks offer Disability Access Service (DAS) – allowing Guests to virtually wait for rides instead of queueing on standby- and almost every line at the Parks is wheelchair accessible.
There’s always room to improve, however. Some Cast Members are calling on Disney to increase disability parking spaces and better police improper use of those spaces.
To highlight its efforts toward inclusion, the Disney Parks Blog published an article by Rob Burger. Burger has been with Disney for 22 years and works as an Engineering Services Area Manager at Disneyland Resort.
In 2011, Burger was diagnosed with a form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) called Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). Burger describes his experience with the disease:
RRMS is when you experience MS symptoms in incidental attacks where, upon treatment, you can return to normal function or 95% of your previous condition. After my first two episodes, I had no lingering effects, but since my third episode, I still have numbness and tingling in my hands and fingers. This requires me to adjust simple everyday things. I experience fatigue and some balance issues, and my symptoms heighten in the heat.
Burger was worried his disability would impact his career at The Walt Disney Company. But thanks to Disney’s accessibility policies, he was able to work on the opening of Shanghai Disneyland Resort, the retheming of Pixar Pier and Incredicoaster, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – all after his diagnosis.
Despite the support, Burger still struggled with his hidden disability:
While I did have struggles dealing with my “hidden disability,” I pushed through. Although The Walt Disney Company has many ways of supporting cast with disabilities, my inner voice told me to keep it inside. I considered the impacts to my career or how I might be treated or excluded, and I wanted to ensure I would always be held accountable, so I hid my disability. I didn’t even use my car’s handicap placard for years because I felt that I looked “normal” and didn’t truly understand that word.
Now, Burger is sharing his story so that others with hidden disabilities don’t feel alone. He also wants to encourage allies to look for others that may be “struggling in silence.”
At Disneyland, Burger joined the Disneyland Resort ENABLED BERG (Business Employee Resource Group), “which promotes respect, equality and appreciation of people with disabilities through community, awareness, education and inclusion.”
Burger has found ways to cope with his hidden disability over the years – managing his day before fatigue sets in and participating in low-impact activities like e-biking and scuba diving. With the help of assistant coaches, he’s even coached an ice hockey team to state and national championships!
“I found that with the right mindset and adjustments to your life, anything is possible. I am proud to share my story this Disability Pride Month to give a voice to the many people who have “hidden disabilities” like me,” Burger writes. “Because at the end of the day, we all want to be our best self, walk with our heads held high and feel supported in our professional careers.”
Do you feel that the Disney Parks are accessible?