Summer is a deaf girl from Wales who visited Disneyland Paris with her Mom this last August. As she and her mom arrived, real life princes and princesses – Ariel, from ‘The Little Mermaid,’ along with Belle and the Beast, from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – came out to greet her. Though, once the park royalty began speaking to her, it quickly became clear that she didn’t understand them. Fortunately, Ariel spoke sign language so she began communicating in British Sign Language (BSL) with Summer, who was delighted. Ariel even involved Beauty and the Beast in the conversation by teaching them how to spell their own names in sign language.
Welcoming Children of All Kinds
Disneyland Paris welcomed 14.9 million people in 2013. Its sister parks in Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida, were even more busy, welcoming 16.2 million and 19.3 million visitors respectively. Of those, more than 100,000 were deaf. The parks have made a concerted effort in recent decades to ensure that every child is welcomed and given special treatment.
Most of the parks have dedicated sections of their sites to help deaf and hard-of-hearing people be aware of accommodations that are available, where to find them and how best to plan your trip. Disneyland Paris offers deaf and hard-of-hearing children ‘priority passes’ and induction loops, which are available at all park information points and several of the major attractions and stage shows. TripAdvisor hosts a special forum on visiting Disneyland Paris with a child. The Disney World site has an especially detailed guide, describing initial orientation you can find at Guest Relations, and providing the availability of various aids, including hearing assistance devices, relective captioning, handheld captioning units, video captioning and closed captioning, and even ASL interpreters, who are available for live shows on a rotating basis.
Strengthened Brand Value
The payoff for Disney has not only been in the joy it’s brought children, but in an increased strength, trust and brand value. The Disney brand has for decades ranked among the most valuable brands in the world. Last year, Forbes placed Disney at #8 on its list of the Top 100 Brands list, behind other leaders such as Apple, Google, Coca-Cola and IBM.
In April of this year, Adweek, a news and analysis publication that tracks advertising, media, brands and culture, recounted a story similar to Summer’s that happened here in the U.S.
Three years ago, a young deaf girl named Shaylee Mansfield met her idol, Tinkerbell, and discovered that Tink could sign. The Mansfield family must have shared that magical moment with Disney because the park flew them back to Disneyland to meet with a Minnie Mouse who had just started learning American Sign Language — and made the family the subject of one of its “Unforgettable Stories” videos.
Disney Parks has released a number of online videos about family stories in the “Unforgettable Happens Here” campaign, but this one has gone viral. (It has more than 11 million views across Facebook and YouTube—a solid No. 2 among Disney Parks’ recent ads, behind its famous mall stunt, which has 27 million views and counting.)
Oscar winning Deaf actress, Marlee Matlin, has often said, “The only thing Deaf people can’t do is hear,” and she proves it every day. Disney has put real effort into ensuring that its sights and sounds aren’t only for hearing people, and that the deaf and hard-of-hearing can experience all that Disney has to offer.