Access advocates are taking on Disney in a new arena the ability of those with access issues to enter Walt Disney World theme parks on board Segway personal tranporters. An organization called Disability Rights Advocates for Technology (or DRAFT) has taken up the fight on behalf of those who use Segways to get around due to injuries or other disabilities that make it difficult to walk to allow them to ride their Segways in the parks. The organization is making the same push at SeaWorld Orlando.
While Disney conducts guided tours inside Epcot and around Fort Wilderness aboard Segways and uses them for cast members on duty, they do not allow guests to bring their own Segways into the parks. Walt Disney World spokeswoman Kim Prunty told the Orlando Sentinel that, "We're not turning people away. We're turning away a particular form of transportation."
Some of Disney's concerns include the fact that there is no way to ensure how well-trained each Segway operator may be, how well they can handle their scooter in the crowded, unpredictable environment of a theme park, and the fact that privately owned Segways can travel 12.5 miles per hour, as opposed to the roughly 5 miles per hour that Disney has throttled their editions down to.
Construction on the Yak & Yeti Restaurant & Market butts up against the edge of Flights of Wonder's Caravan Stage (those blankets to the left). Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Construction continues with the tallest facade facing the approach over the bridge from Discovery Island. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Construction on the restaurant continues along with walkway across from the shops at the entrance to Asia. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
It continues along around the turn toward Kali River Rapids and Anandapur. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
and goes all the way back to the public restrooms in Anandapur, near the exit from Kali River Rapids. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
With much less furor, discussion or publicity than that surrounding full-time contract negotiations this spring, Walt Disney World and the Service Trades Council Union (STCU) have agreed to terms on a part-time contract that was ratified by the union's members prior to the expiration of the previous contract.
While this spring's contract negotiation was contentious and ratification took two votes and was completed nearly six weeks after the expiration of the previous deal, the same union umbrella organization wrapped up the part-timers' agreement quickly and quietly, winning ratification on September 14, just over two weeks before the September 29 expiration of the old contract.
The new deal took effect on September 30, and included a number of gains for cast members. Pay scales and benefits were increased to match the rate of full-timers, and part-timers will now receive time-and-a-half for working on holidays. The new deal runs through September 2, 2010.
All six member unions of the STCU endorsed the contract, and it was approved by a whopping 96 percent of those voting, as opposed to the 53.3 pecent that approved the full-timers' contract. The STCU represents six member unions, which in turn represent 21,000 full-time and 8,000 part-time employees with responsibilities as varied as attractions hosts, custodial staff, vacation planners, character actors, bus drivers, florists, food & beverage servers, hotel staff, lifeguards, monorail drivers and stage technicians.
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On Friday, the 2008 Walt Disney World Ambassador Team was announced during ceremonies at the Theater in the Wild at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Cast Members Kerri MacPherson and Tameka Chianti Newman will be the 37th team to represent the resort, following the 2007 team of Lowell Doringo and Michael Kelley.
MacPherson began her Disney career in the Walt Disney World College Program in 1994, and continued as a World Showcase Fellowship Ambassador at the American Adventure pavilion, then at Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Parks & Resorts Sales and Services and the Disney Institute teams.
Newman's career began in the entertainment department at Disneyland in 1996. She then interned in New York for ABC Television on the daytime talk show, "The View" before moving to Florida to join the Walt Disney World College Program. Since then, she has had experience in many areas at Walt Disney World including stage management, labor operations and production coordination. She currently acts as a recruiter for the Disney College and CareerStart programs.
Mickey Mouse joins (from left) 2007 Ambassador Lowell Doringo, 2008 Ambassadors Tameka Chianti Newman and Kerri MacPherson, 2007 Ambassador Michael Kelley , and Walt Disney World Resort President Meg Crofton during their recent announcement of the 2008 ambassadors. Photo © Disney.
As Ambassadors, they will now appear at and/or help officiate at over 1,000 events during the second Year of a Million Dreams at Walt Disney World and around the globe.
Best wishes to each of them as they start their new roles.
The list of celebrities attending this year's Super Soap Weekend at the Disney-MGM Studios has been set. The event, which runs from November 10-11 this year, will for the first time include actors from the SOAPnet series General Hospital: Night Shift.
Here's the rundown of who's who, including an indication (*) of which stars are attending their first event.
All My Children:
General Hospital: Night Shift:
One Life to Live:
Want to help MousePlanet upgrade our park guides? We're looking to add menu information for all restaurants to our Walt Disney World Park Guide (link). Send photos or scans of menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to email@example.com (link). Please note that there is a 5MB limit on total attachments in a single email.
Last Friday at dawn, five pairs of federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers were released into the wilds of the Disney Wilderness Preserve. The release by Nature Conservancy scientists was part of an effort to help the birds return and create a new colony in Central Florida. The longleaf pine trees in the Preserve is an ideal home for the birds. The release was the culmination of 15 years of work by the scientists.
The 12,000-acre preserve now houses 17 endangered and threatened species.
Artwork on the construction walls show a ground-level view of the new shop being constructed in the middle of the north end of the Grand Canyon Concourse. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Artwork on the other end shows the aerial view of the shop. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Work on the shop is proceeding fairly well. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
A closer view shows the cabinetry and some supports. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last couple of weeks:
Popular dates for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party are nearing sellout status, and the first date to traditionally sell out Halloween night has done so.
You can once again have a sit-down meal at Epcot's Japan pavilion. Both Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining opened last week. Reservations at Teppan Edo are going fast, while Tokyo Dining is a walk-up location, as were its two predecessors.
The quick-service portion of the reportedly-soon-to-open 250-seat Yak & Yeti Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom will apparently have a different but complementary name. The 350-seat location will be called Yak & Yeti Market.
With the heavy-machinery work at Yak & Yeti finishing up, ground has been broken on the T-Rex Restaurant location at Downtown Disney. The site, built at the border of the Marketplace and Pleasure Island, is expected to open next year.
We now know who is following Anette Grecchi Gray as executive chef at Jiko - The Cooking Place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Brian Piasecki, most recently executive chef at Le Cellier, started his Disney career in 1991 at the Coral Reef Restaurant.
With the impending renaming of the Disney-MGM Studios to Disney's Hollywood Studios, many of us have been wondering what fan site MGMStudios.org would do to keep up. I've just been informed by site owner Matt Hochberg that the site has been renamed to StudiosCentral.com. So now you know.
The next meeting of the World Chapter of the NFFC will be this Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at the Quality Inn and Suites on Orange Blossom Trail. Featured speaker will be Bill "Sully" Sullivan. For more information on the meeting, see the official announcement.
While Tusker House and the Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery are closed during the former's conversion to a buffet restaurant . Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Pizzafari is helping to pick up the slack in breakfast offerings. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
This week's question: This week's question was submitted by MousePlanet reader Nick Murphy. What land in the Magic Kingdom does not have direct bathroom access? Why? Stay tuned to next week's park update for the answer.
The answer to last week's question: "The attraction Soarin' opened in Epcot's The Land pavilion in Future World in 2005. What World Showcase pavilion has featured a "sorin" since the day Epcot opened on October 1, 1982?", which was submitted by MousePlanet reader Jeff Peterson, is:
The 83-foot pagoda at the entrance to the Japan pavilion is topped by a bronze, nine-ringed spire known as a sorin. (Editor's Note: I have not independently verified this answer.)
Do you have a trivia question that you'd like to share? If we choose to use your question, we'll give you credit in the Update. Email us here.
MousePlanet sponsor Hotel Royal Plaza, in the Downtown Disney resort area, has enhanced its deal for MousePlanet readers. From now through the end of the year, anyone booking their stay through the MousePlanet Web site has been able to receive discounted rates up to 20 percent off on all room types. Now, for a limited time, you can get even more! The discounted rates now include free breakfast for two in the Giraffe Caf!. Plus children 10 and under always eat breakfast for free! (Two children 10 and under eat free from the kids menu when accompanied by an adult dining from the regular menu.)
The completely-remodeled 394-room resort is located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, just a few minutes' walk from Downtown Disney. Bus service to all Walt Disney World theme parks is included with your stay. Their Giraffe Caf restaurant, Giraffe Tavern sports bar, Marketessen deli-style caf and Sips Pool Bar are ready to serve you.
We'd like to invite you to try their hospitality!
Disney has released discounted room rates for passholders and Florida residents for the end of September through md-December. Discounts are available for select resorts for most nights from September 30 through December 23. (The nights of November 21-24 and November 30-December 7 are excluded at non-DVC resorts, most likely due to Thanksgiving weekend and the Pop Warner Super Bowl invasion, while only the Thanksgiving dates are blocked at the DVC resorts.) There are two effective rate periods for this discount, with September 30-October 3, November 25-29, and December 8-19 carrying passholder rates of $59 per night in value resorts and $164 per night in a DVC studio. The remaining dates in the promotion period (except for the nights of November 21-24, which have no discounts due to Thanksgiving weekend) have nightly passholder rates starting at $79 for values and $194 for DVC studios. Florida resident rates are $5 higher than passholder rates.
Minimum stay requirements apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. All rates can be booked up until the date of arrival. Passholders and Florida residents can book via your respective Web sites, by calling your travel agent (Small World Vacations is MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel provider) or by calling 407-560-7277 for passholders or 407-560-7722 for Florida residents.
An interesting twist on this deal is that, for certain check-in dates, you can get a Disney Dining Card with $20-$100 per room with your minimum 2-night reservation. This perk is available for stays with check-in dates between October 21-November 3, November 11-17 and December 9-15. The card can be used toward food & beverage only, and not toward merchandise.
Rooms available at these rates are very limited, and they're going quickly!
(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)
Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.