I won’t lie: Even as a grownass woman, the Disney parks are some of my favorite places in the world. And I’m obviously far from the only person in this proverbial boat; they really do feel magical to just about every guest who walks through their gates. Everyone deserves to have that experience — which is why this video of a little kid signing with Disney characters at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. is going viral right now. It sharply underlines how much accessibility matters, and how important it is that kids in particular grow up in a world that is open to them, rather than shutoff.
The video has actually been around for a few weeks. The moment it captured occurred during a trip to Disneyland organized by the nonprofit organization Olive Crest, which is dedicated to preventing child abuse and helping at-risk kids and teens; Olive Crest originally posted the video to their YouTube channel on June 5 and their Facebook page on May 23. It recently began to pick up steam, however, because… well, it’s just so darn cute. But it's more than just cute. It makes a really important point.
An Olive Crest representative told ABC 7 in Los Angeles that it had been arranged for an ASL translator to be present during the trip to Disney; the characters, however, “were not briefed on the visit before the child got there,” said the representative. During a meet-and-greet, though, a handful of characters, including Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto, adapted to the situation beautifully. According to the little boy’s case worker, who described the moment in greater detail in a comment on Olive Crest’s Facebook page, “The ASL translator is behind [the boy], signing to the characters so they can copy her and communicate with the little guy.” According to a commenter on YouTube, Minnie signed, “I am pleased to meet you.”
The case worker added, “Guys, this is the most incredible child I’ve ever met. … He is not a big hugger, so that hug for Minnie is something special.”
This isn’t the first time guests at Disney parks have been surprised and delighted to be able to converse with character actors in sign language. In October of 2016, for example, an Ariel character actor at Disneyland Paris communicated with a little girl named Summer in British Sign Language (BSL) during a meet-and-greet; additionally, just a few month prior in July of 2016, an actor playing Captain America at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, Cali. spoke with a guest in ASL in a video captured at the park. According to Inquisitr, folks on the internet translated the conversation as follows:
Guest: “I’m from Boston.”
Captain America: “Good. You can me teach me to sign?”
Captain America: “I’m a slow learner.”
Guest: “Thank you!”
And in 2013, a little girl named Shaylee discovered that she could talk to Tinkerbell in ASL at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
What all of these stories — and so very many more — highlight is how important accessibility is. “When I was growing up, I never expected anyone to sign,” Shaylee’s mother said in a video about their family’s experience being able to sign with characters at Disney. “That was the world I grew up in.” And although there’s still a long way to go — accessibility is still too often the exception, rather than the rule — Shaylee’s experience a generation onward has been very different from her mother’s. What’s more, Shaylee’s father added, “It made her proud of her own language. She made that connection.” That’s huge — the same way it’s huge for a little boy who isn’t generally big on hugs to initiate a hug with someone who took the time to sign with him.
Accessibility matters. It’s why we need to keep sending emails and faxes and making calls to our representatives. It’s why we need to be allies and show support for marginalized communities. It matters. And it will never stop mattering.