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Brian Bennett

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Touring the Parks with Disabled Guests

Dotti Saroufim, who has written several excellent trip reports that appear in the WDW Trip Reports section of the "Disney Trip Planning Resource Net", gave me permission to include this post that Dotti wrote to rec.arts.disney.parks back in June, 1996.

Date: 3 Jun 1996 13:10:46 -0400

Lynn M. Slattery (slattery@omnifest.uwm.edu) writes:

We are taking our first family trip to WDW in Aug. Our 9 yr. old uses a motorized wheelchair. I have the official Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities, so I know about procedures for rides, accessibility of restaurants, etc. I would like first-hand information from someone who uses a wheelchair or someone who has accompanied some one who uses a wheelchair.

Is the guidebook accurate? How's the transportation? (We're staying at the Poly) Any tips or insight will be much appreciated.

Hi Lynn,

I was at WDW in December with my family (husband, 3 kids) and my mom and aunt. My mother has chronic bronchitis so used a wheelchair for most of the trip. We found the guidebook very accurate and handy. Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • If you are planning on seeing parades or fireworks, grab your spot early. Although there is a good size area set aside for wheelchairs (ask any CM where they are), they do fill up early.

  • Most attractions will accommodate the wheelchair on the ride but some do not. For example, on The Jungle Cruise you need to be able to walk a few steps and then take another step into the boat. (The few steps were ok for my mom, but the step down into the boat was impossible.).

  • If your son can take a few steps, they will encourage it because they will not have to stop the attraction to get the wheelchair on. On some of these (I remember the World of Motion in particular), the few steps that you must take are on a moving platform which they slow down to almost stationary but not quite. That "not quite" was again too much for mom. (But, of course, I'm dealing with a dizzy old woman here, not a 9 year old boy!).

  • Although most rides have a separate entrance for wheelchairs (usually the exit), some, such as Alien Encounter, just have you wait in the regular queue. This is no hardship by any means, but don't expect to be able to walk on to everything without a wait. The Voyage of the Little Mermaid had a separate waiting area for wheelchairs but plan to get there early as they only allow so many per show.

  • All the restaurants were wonderful and very accommodating.

  • Bus transportation was easy but not all buses are handicapped accessible so you may have to wait for one to arrive. On the monorail, they have a portable ramp which they will put down for access on and off.

Please e-mail me if you have any specific questions - I'd be happy to help!

Don't forget to check out Dotti's trip report. It provides a specific description of her trip which provides a great deal of insight for travelling to WDW with disabled guests.

Another user of this site, Beth Floro, provided some additional insight that might be helpful:

"I returned last night from a wonderful trip, the ninth, to Disney World. We were there for nine days and thoroughly enjoyed the experience as usual.

However, I did learn one bit of information that I think people need to know. There has been a very obvious abuse of wheelchair lines by people who don't need them and Disney is responding to the problem by eliminating them over the next few months. I learned this was happening as I waited for my husband to get another wheelchair for me as the one I had been using was taken while I was on one of the rides.

I have MS and while there are tremendous differences in individual experiences with the disease the one constant source of decreased mobility and increased symptoms is heat. Something as simple as a hot bath or shower can increase muscle weakness, so the heat of Florida is formidable.

Disney has always been a favorite summer vacation spot because the shorter lines for wheelchair visitors has allowed me to be out of the sun and has helped to conserve my energy, another problem for MSers. For example, we stay at the Yacht Club where a wheelchair is made available for the length of our stay. The wheelchair gets me to both Epcot and MGM where I then rent an electric vehicle for use in the park. The hotel chair is held for me until I am ready to leave the park. If I walked from the Yacht Club to Epcot I would not be able to do anything else for the day.

I don't want to run on about this but I am certain that there are many other people out there, such as heart patients, whose symptoms are invisible but are not less debilitating for not being obvious. I realize that Disney is in a bind with this one, and the only suggestions I can think to offer would be politically incorrect in the current environment. Disney has always been an innovator and I feel that if enough people expressed their concern about this, WDW would find a way to continue to serve all the people who come to share the magic.

Thanks for being a recipient of this diatribe."

I share Beth's concern, and if anyone has thoughts about how to address this issue, I'd be most happy to post those suggestions.


Marlene Bellisle (marb@telusplanet.com) wrote to ask me this:

Hi Brian I have a couple of questions for you that I have been unable to find answers to.

Can you rent motorized wheelchairs to be picked up at ypur hotel and used for the duration of your stay.  This would of course be at a hotel in thw WDW resort.

Some attractions say you must transfer from your motorized wheelchair to a regular wheelchair for the attraction.  Do they have these manual wheelchairs at each of these attractions? Hope you can help me out.

To which I responded,

I don't have a lot of information on rental of electric scooters. The three I've found by surfing the net are:

  • Care Medical, 1-800-741-2282, www.caremedicalequipment.com
  • Walker Mobility 1-888-726-6837, www.walkermobility.com
  • Randy's Mobility 407-855-6562

I can only suggest that you call those folks and see what arrangements you can make.

Generally, the attractions do NOT have wheelchairs available.  However, depending on the attraction, you may be able to get quite close to the loading area in your cart.  For example, on It's a Small World, you can ride your cart right down to the boat load area without a problem.  On most of the dark rides, though, you'll not find it convenient or easy to load if the disabled guest is not able to walk to at least some degree.
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