Monday, May 13, 2013

Doing Disney With Disabilities - Part 1

Hakuna Matata!        If you are planning a trip to any Disney location and stressing because of a disability, you can put your worries away.  
Disney caters so well to people with disabilities and this blog will outline a few ways we've witnessed Walt Disney World accommodating...often with a little pixie dust along the way.
When we were planning our 2011 family trip to Walt Disney World, I was almost in tears when I called to explain that we needed to change reservations so that we could accommodate my husband's wheelchair.  The cast member on the line was so understanding and compassionate.  I will always remember what she said, "There are a quite a few things that Disney does really well and helping those with disabilities is something they do very well!"  She modified our reservation so that we had a roll in shower.  When we checked in we had a little extra pixie sprinkled.  We found out that they gave us an extra room to adjoin so the kids could still have a bath tub! I think I shed a tear or two.  Now, I'm not saying Disney will give you an extra room and it is something we've never requested but it happened twice in 2011 for us. Whatever your needs are, explain them and Disney will let you know how they can help.  For example, if you need a room for the hearing impaired, ask.  If you need a shower chair or handheld shower in your resort room, simply ask and see if Disney can accommodate. 

If you have ever been to Disney, you recall seeing a host of motorized scooters or ECVs.  Disney buses, monorails, boats, and other vehicles accommodate wheelchairs and ECVs.  These people needing special accommodation typically board the bus first and can take up to 5 additional people with them.  Larger parties need to split up and wait in the regular line.  We have found the bus drivers to be very kind and helpful.  At times, John has transferred from his chair into a regular bus seat and other times they go to great care to buckle him securely with his wheelchair secured.  During our 2011 trip, he had multiple seizures when he was very crowded on the bus and it was over packed.  We have learned since then that if a bus is crowded or there is a long line, we may choose to wait for the next bus.   

With rides and attractions, there is often a handicapped entrance also.  This entrance usually accommodates wheelchairs and scooters when the normal line may be too narrow or have stairs.  While this has often seemed to cut down on our wait time, Disney's policy is that axillary entrances "are not intended to bypass waiting lines."  It may be possible to wait longer in an alternate entrance line (i.e. waiting on a boat to accommodate a wheelchair or scooter at It's a Small World or the Jungle Cruise).  Sometimes a guest must transfer from an ECV or wheelchair and some attractions or shows allow the guest to remain in their chair.  

Check the park map for details.  Additionally, know that each Disney Park has a special guide/map for guests with disabilities.  Check with guest services or the park's wheelchair rental location for these special guides.  

These special Guides for Guests with Disabilities outline things like:
  • Where to find companion restrooms (I love these as a mom with boys)
  • Where to find service dog relief areas (Since we are on the waiting list to get a service dog, this caught my eye.)
  • Service dog restrictions
  • Special parade viewing areas
  • Accommodations for guests with visual disabilities (Braille guides, audio descriptions)
  • Accommodations for guests with hearing disabilities (handheld or video captioning, assistive listening devices
  • Courtesy Wheelchair locations/use
  • AED locations 
There are a few other Disability Accessibility things to mention.  At most restrooms on Disney properties you can find sharps containers.  So if you are a diabetic and have to take injections, you won't have to worry about where to put your used needles.   You can also stop by Guest Services  to get a Guest Assistance Card if you have disabilities.  This can help if you have a mobility disability but don't use a chair or if you have an invisible injury (see Part 2 of this post).  At the Magic Kingdom's Columbia Harbor House restaurant, we were greeted by a cast member before we got in line and she escorted us to a special section for accessibility.  We didn't have to suffer through tight lines.  They were even willing to take our order and bring it to us.  If you rent an ECV from a Disney park, you have to return it before you exit, however you can show your ticket if you park hop or return later and be issued another ECV.  One last tip is don't forget that you can get a free ice water at counter service locations or snack carts/locations that have tap water available. 
2012 Birthday Trip with Extended Family
So until my next Part 2 Post (when you have an invisible injury like Panic Disorder, Seizures, PTSD, etc) know that Disney is a great option for catering to your needs, whatever they may be.  If you need something, let Guest Services or a cast member know.  You may be suprised at what they can do.  For us, Disney is therapeutic, magical, and provides that escape from the day to day realities of life.  Disney bends over backwards to make sure every vacation is a magical one.

(Friends and readers: I am now a Travel Agent complete with graduating from the Disney College of Knowledge and I'd love to help you plan a magical vacation.  Email me at and Find the agency on Facebook - Our services are FREE from quotes to park plans and dining with qualifying vacation packages)

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to mention that Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts offer complimentary valet parking for disabled guests. This has been a godsend for us on numerous occasions. Make sure your disabled tag is hanging or on your vehicle. Of course we like to tip for service even though we don't have the expense of the valet charge.