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Accessing theme parks for those with disabilities
|Tony Phoenix and Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editors|
Beating the Summer Heat
by Tony Phoenix, staff writer
The forecasts are predicting 90-degree weather in Anaheim and Orlando this weekend, so it seems like a perfect time to talk about beating the heat! The Lovely and Talented Lani Teshima wrote a great article about it last month, and I highly recommend that you take a refresher course in her suggestions.
However, while they can be a bother to most of us, High temperatures and humidity are a particular problem for many disabled guests. Due to the nature of your disability, and the medications you may be taking, staying cool is critical to your health.
These tips are geared specifically for anyone who really needs to beat the heat.
Dress for Success!
You've heard it - you know you have. "Wear long sleeves, wear layers, and wear a hat". All good advice, but, what if that's not enough for you? Help is available!
Exhibit A: The Ice Vest
Several companies manufacture these items, which are designed to cool the core body temperature through the use of cooling liquids, gels, or even actual ice. Recent studies have demonstrated that lowering the core body temperature even 1 degree can have a marked impact on a person's health. I've included so many links, because there are so many types of products available for specific needs.
Ice Vests, and related items, can be very expensive - $200 plus, but they are worth every penny! If cost is an issue, you may be able to borrow vests from disability groups. For example, The National MS Society offers equipment loans to eligible members. Check with your local support group to see what programs they have to offer you.
Exhibit A: The Misty Mate
Welcome to Mistymate.
This adorable critter saved us at Walt Disney World last summer. (Yes, we went in August. No, I'm not explaining why again!)
The system is simple - fill the container with water (and ice, if it's humid where you are), pressurize it (pump it about 20 times to charge it initially), and it's set. You need to re-pressurize it once it's about 1/2 full.
The pump has a fanny-pack like belt, which you can wear around your waist or over an arm. The hose has a clip on the end, which makes it a breeze to clip anywhere.
There are only two drawbacks that I can see. First, someone has to have the dexterity and strength to fill the container, pump it up, and re-zip the case. Second, you also need to be able to manipulate a fairly small turn-key to turn the flow of mist on and off. We have seen a version of this device with a squeeze control. I'm not sure who makes that one - shop around and see what works best for you.
Exhibit C: The Personal Cooling System from Sharper Image
Yes, even the Sharper Image got into the action with a device. You fill the unit with water, place it around your neck, and turn it on. Think of it as a high - tech towel around the neck.
It lasts about 4 hours on one fill, and claims to make you feel about 20 degrees cooler. I've tried one on in the store - it weighs about 14 ounces filled, which may be an issue for some people with neck problems. It did seem to be fairly effective, but I have not field-tested it yet.
Exhibit D: The towel trick
Yep, it's a low-tech fashion-don't, but it feels so good. Grab a towel, soak it in the sink, and wrap it around your neck. Ahh..... If you're really lucky, you might even be able to find one of the super large, super thick Baby Changing Table towels.
These are the towels that are made to lie under the baby when you change them. They make GREAT cooling accessories, though! (I promised Adrienne Krock that I wouldn't mention this in this column, so don't tell her, k?) Sadly, the Florida resorts did not seem to offer these when we were there.
Location! Location! Location!
When it's so hot outside, take some time to plan your day. You'll find that a little planning will go along way toward making the day more pleasant. Here are some of my favorite tips:
At Disneyland, ToonTown is the least shaded land of the park. Plan to visit it in the early morning or evening, to avoid this problem. (Be aware that ToonTown closes early for fireworks, and may not always reopen. Check the schedule for the day you want to visit)
In Florida, we've found the same issues to be true of Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is also extremely humid, due to the lush vegetation. This is one day where you'll want to be at the park the second it opens, and plan for a half day. If you want to see more of the park, you can always plan another half day later in your trip. However, once the sun really comes up and the park heats up, you'll want to be safely on your way to a shadier venue...
There are lots of great places to take shady rest breaks in all of the parks. Our Disneyland Favorite is Coke Corner, which offers a few tables in air-conditioned bliss. Other great Disneyland spots include Tom Sawyer's Island, Fantasia Gardens and The Disney Gallery.
If you're in Florida, we liked the indoor Mexico Pavilion at Epcot, the Coke Exhibit at Epcot Future World (which may or may not still be there - anyone want to clarify for me?), and Tom Sawyer's Island at WDW.
There's a group at Disneyland, which will occasionally take the Air Conditioned Tour. Amazingly enough, you can spend the hottest hours of the day is pure air-conditioned comfort - with a little planning!
Start your tour on Main Street, and spend a few Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Stop off in the Main Street Cinemas, and take in some classic animated features. From there, we suggest a trip to see the Tiki Birds. Both Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion are indoors, so take a ride on each.
From there, you can head to Critter Country, and visit those Country Bears. Walk back to New Orleans Square, and take the train over to the Toon Town Station.
Once off the train, head for it's a small world, and spend some quality time with the children of the world. Afterwards, you can check out the Animazement show, or proceed on to Tomorrowland, again on the train.
Once in Tomorrowland, you can see the awards ceremony at "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience". You can then spend some time playing with Regis. Innoventions is fully air-conditioned, it's best feature, IMHO. Finally, check out the line for Space Mountain. If it's inside the building, hop in line!
Finally, if you really need to lay down and get a break from the heat, there's the First Aid Center at each park. A limited number of beds are available for guests to rest in. The Centers are usually quiet, and staffed with trained nurses.
Kick the Tires!
Here's a hard question: You know that you get easily overheated. You know that walking all day in the hot sun isn't the best idea you've come up with recently. But, you really, really, REALLY want to spend the day with your family. What are you going to do?
My suggestion - rent a wheelchair. Or, if you already use a manual wheelchair, consider getting an electric version for the trip. I can hear the protests now: "But I don't WANT to use a(n) (electric) wheelchair!" Like I said - it's a hard question. I think you need to weigh the benefits against the loss of pride you may be feeling.
Using a chair means you get to save your energy for the important things - enjoying your family. You'll probably feel much less fatigue, and be able to enjoy a full day in the park. Compare that to needing to take rest breaks every few attractions... or needing to leave early due to exhaustion.
Using a power chair, even if you're used to a manual chair, can prevent you from overheating. Disneyland is about 86 acres. Walt Disney World is about the size of Maine. (Just kidding) Your muscles may be well conditioned to handle your daily activities, but traipsing from one side of a park to the other all day, or park-hopping, is a lot for ANYONE to handle. Even if your muscles can handle it, think of how hot you'll get just doing it.
The Disney Parks all rent both manual wheelchairs and electric convenience vehicles. There are some drawbacks to renting from the parks, though. If you are planning a long stay, or are planning to visit non-Disney properties, consider using an outside company.
Electric Scooter Rentals - Scootaround offers rentals of manual and electric wheelchairs, as well as scooters and ECV's. They also offer delivery and pick up from you home / hotel room / theme park, so it's a great option when you're traveling.
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