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September 19, 2007
Six Flags Inc. has stopped allowing disabled patrons to skip to the front of ride lines and is now requiring them to get a boarding time from an attendant and return then, as any patron can do with the amusement park company's "Flash Pass."
The new policy took effect Sept. 7 and applies to all 21 Six Flags theme and water parks, including Hurricane Harbor, also in Arlington, said Kendell Kelton, a Six Flags Over Texas spokeswoman.
The policy was prompted by abuses, including patrons who feigned disability and others with disabilities who gave wrist bands allowing them to move to the front of lines to others who are not disabled, she said.
"We would get complaints from people in line or our employees," Kelton said.
The change made for a rocky visit to the park Saturday for Joey Miller of Burleson, mother of Noah, 7, and Mallorie, 9. Miller said that her children are autistic and that Mallorie also has epilepsy. She said she bought season passes this year and took her children to the park eight or nine times this summer.
"It is the only thing we found that they could do out in the community that brought some joy into their lives," Miller said.
Miller said she learned of the new policy when she arrived at Six Flags with her two children, two therapists and a niece. She said they had misgivings but decided to give the system a try.
She said they went to a ride, booked a time to return and then left.
But that didn't make sense to her daughter, Miller said. The girl threw herself on the ground and bit her therapist, Miller said.
"My children don't understand time," she said. "The things that are reasonable to us make no sense to them. Anything more than five or 10 minutes can be a screaming meltdown for my kids."
"I knew we couldn't go through this on every ride. The stress could bring on a seizure for my daughter," Miller said.
Park officials, however, said they hope the extra step -- having to make an appointment -- will cut down on cheaters and be fairer for everyone.
The Flash Pass option is essentially a reservation. Guests wait as long as everyone else is waiting, but not in line. Guests can leave and then come back and get directly on the ride.
Similarly, Disney theme parks offer a "FastPass." Most rides and attractions have handicapped access, but in most cases guests with disabilities have to wait in line like everybody else, said Andrea Finger, a Disney theme parks spokeswoman.
Disney parks, however, may provide different accommodations depending on the disability of their guests, she said.
Policy for disabled park patrons
Six Flags Inc. no longer allows park patrons with disabilities to move to the front of ride lines.
Under the revised policy, guests with disabilities should seek a Flash Pass reservation and return to the ride at that time to avoid waiting in line.
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