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Accessing theme parks for those with disabilities
|Tony Phoenix and Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editors|
Mary Poppins Sing-Along
When I read the press release for the Mary Poppins Sing Along Movie, I thought "What's the big deal?"
After all, going to a movie in costume, singing along and talking at the screen is hardly new. It's called the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it's celebrating its 25th Anniversary pretty soon! However, the thought of adapting a Disney Movie to this format has its appeal, and what better movie to start with than Mary Poppins?
The MousePlanet team had the opportunity to attend the Premier on August 3, and the TAG authors went along to evaluate the access for disabled guests. Our overall impression: It's Practically Perfect, but you'll have an easier time if you know what you're in for before you go.
First, parking for the El Capitan Theater is either on side streets, or in parking structures throughout the district. We prefer the structure behind the theater, accessible from Orange Street. This is a 3-story structure with limited disabled parking spaces, but we have never had a problem parking on the ground level. From the structure, there's about a 2-block hike to the theater, half of it up a hill. Another good option is to park across the street, next to Mann's Chinese Theater. We tend to avoid this since it involves crossing a MAJOR street.
Make sure you call in advance to get tickets. During previous outings to the El Capitan, we have found that same-day tickets are often hard to come by. We have also noticed that people tend to line up early to get in, up to an hour before the show.
If you can't stand in line for that length of time, there are some options available to you. Take advantage of the VIP ticket package, which will allow you to avoid some of the line. Guests with VIP tickets are allowed into the theater before the rest of the audience. Also, make a cast member aware of your needs. In many cases, they can allow the disabled member of your party to enter the theater first, and have the remainder of the party join them later. We have also had them offer to make certain that there would be a wheelchair space available to us.
When it's time to enter the theater, you'll be able to use any of the entrances, which a cast member will hold open for you.
The theater has two seating levels the Orchestra Level (main floor) and the Balcony. There is no elevator access to the balcony. On the Orchestra Level, there are two boxes designed for guests in wheelchairs. They are usually accessed through Theater Doors Two and Three. However, for this production, one of the boxes is entirely taken up with the sound mixing board. This leaves the Door Three box as the primary seating area for guests with wheelchairs.
If you are confined to your wheelchair, and cannot transfer to a theater seat, the above is your only seating option. There are limited seats for the other members of your party in this box. We counted 4, but that may have been due to the television cameras set up in the box for the premier evening
If you can transfer from your wheelchair into a theater seat, or are ambulatory, there ARE other options. Every door except Door Four has steps leading down to the seating area. By entering the main theater from Door Four, you can wheel to any aisle seat in the theater. If your party wants to take advantage of the VIP package, this is the best way to do it. The Theater cast members will take your chair to a safe location until after the movie, but you'll probably have to ask a member of your party to go retrieve it.
The movie is partially subtitled, as the lyrics are projected on the screen during the songs. There is also an Assistive Listening Device system available in the theater. We have found that there really isn't a bad view in the theater.
Other access issues
The restroom situation at the El Capitan reminds you that this building is OLD. The main restroom is in the basement, accessed via two flights of stairs. If you can't navigate this, look for the two Disabled Access restrooms in the Orchestra Level (Main) Lobby.
Before you go, decide where you want to sit. If you know what you're doing, you'll be less likely to be given conflicting directions from the cast members.
Go in costume, if you feel so inclined you'll definitely get into it more. And watch out for flying paper plates. Some people took the Rocky Horror aspect a little too seriously.
Also read these related columns:
Sue Kruse - also writes about the event
Parenting in the Parks - Adrienne Krock discusses the family aspects of this event
Walt Disney World coming
Knott's Berry Farm coming
Six Flag's Magic Mountain coming
Click here to contact Tony.
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