In my opinion it is a loosely used term. I didn't think that way until we had Dylan. Of course after we had Dylan, that was an entirely different story. We would naively go to places that were "accessible" only to get there and find out that accessible meant having an accessible bathroom and seeing about 20 steps that we would have to get up with a 250 lb wheelchair. Not so accessible for us, but accessible for some.
My husband and I have lived almost 10 years trying to adapt things to make them accessible to suit our son's needs. I feel we have been relatively successful in our quest but it is not without a struggle and also without some disappointment.
One thing that we have not had to struggle much with are our trips to Walt Disney World in Florida. We have been visiting Disney with Dylan since he was six months old. We have always been able to obtain a Guest Assistance Card for our visits, which grants our party an alternative access to rides and attractions in the parks if they are available. Most of the Disney Cast Members have always gone above and beyond for our family although once in a while we may encounter Grumpy out of his costume. I mean, COME ON, I shouldn't need a pass for you to see that my son is severely disabled. His wheelchair, ventilator, suction machine, and feeding pump should make that obvious, but still we always try to follow the rules wherever we go because Dylan doesn't like to be singled out even if it means an inconvenience to him. The Guest Assistance Card is something my family needs in order for our son to properly enjoy his Disney experience. He can't wait on long lines in crowded areas with no emergency exits, he sometimes may need a breathing treatment which can take 30 minutes, and lets not talk about going to the bathroom because that alone could take up to 40 minutes on a good day at a theme park. Not to mention the fact that there is usually only one accessible car or boat for him to ride on that we normally have to wait about 15-20 minutes for anyway as he cannot transfer out of his wheelchair.
We took a trip to Disney in February and noticed abuse of the Guest Services Card by some other people. I mean I get the fact that older people need assistance, but when I arrive into the "accessible parade viewing area" with my 9 year old son who is on a ventilator and in a wheelchair I expect you to move your seven able bodied grandchildren out of his way. Also it is really not appropriate to later have your grandchildren ride and race in your rented scooter or wheelchair. I don't care how tired they are, rent a stroller. Better yet, be happy that the child is able to walk.
What does abuse of the Guest Services mean for those who truly need it? Well, for those who are not as visibly disabled as my son is, these people getting glaring looks and eye rolls as if to say you really don't need this pass. These could be cardiac patients, kids with autism, kids recovering from cancer, or even a war veteran with PTSD - you just never know so you should not judge. Even people who are overweight, I get that too, but the service should be for them and someone to assist them, not for the twenty other people in their party. A few months ago I read an article stating that people were hiring the disabled to act as tour guides so that they did not have to wait in line. Shame on those people and shame on those people who would exploit their disability for monetary gain. Due to this, Disney will be implementing a new system for the Disabled over the next few weeks. I will not bash this new system until I personally experience it which will be sometime over the next few months. What Disney should have done instead of making this change was to have been monitoring and controlling the issuance of guest assistance cards from the beginning. But because that wasn't done and of course people took advantage a change had to take place. While I put the blame on the abusers I have to put the majority of the blame on Disney who in changing this process is not looking out for the interests or safety of the disabled but just looking to clear the Disney name after some very bad press.
Disney, here is my message to you. It is wrong to be selectively accessible. Being accessible for some does not mean you are accessible for all. Think about it, really think about it.