Today please welcome our good friend Melissa from Rolling with the Magic as she shares her experience of visiting Disney parks and resorts in a wheelchair!
This month we’re talking about “Doing Disney,” or experiencing a Disney vacation when you or your travel mate(s) have a chronic illness or other disability. Our special Guest, Melissa, is a Disney enthusiast who loves to write about her experiences at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort from the perspective of a wheelchair user. She started her blog, Rolling with the Magic (formerly Disney on Wheels) not only to share her love for Disney but also to give tips and advice to others who visit Walt Disney World or other Disney resorts with physical limitations. You can also find Melissa at The Blogorail, where she and fellow Disney enthusiasts share their love of Disney and family adventures. Thank you for being our very special Guest today, Melissa!
My first two trips to Walt Disney World were just like those of any typical kids. I ran around everywhere, jacked up on sugar and sheer excitement. My third trip was a little different. After having a tumor removed from my spinal cord, I had to use forearm crutches and wore braces on my legs. I used a wheelchair at the parks because walking would have been a huge undertaking. Not too much changed though. I could still ride most everything. The same was true of my fourth and fifth visits.
But number six is where my touring really changed. After many years I was now completely reliant on my wheelchair. No more walking. This meant that there were now limitations to what I could and could not do at Walt Disney World. Some attractions were now off limits. Getting into some of the ride vehicles was just too hard. The good news though, I was having just as much fun.
I didn’t focus on what I could no longer do but decided to experience what I could to the fullest. I made sure that I caught every parade and went to more shows. I took time to actually taste my food rather than hurrying through every meal to run to the next attraction. I did things I thought were silly before like the shooting arcade in Frontierland. And I made sure to enjoy the attractions I could ride.
Thanks to accessible vehicles I can still ride Big Thunder Mountain and Expedition Everest. Some rides allow me to stay in my wheelchair like Toy Story Mania!, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and “it’s a small world”. If you are traveling to Walt Disney World in a wheelchair, these are some tips to help you make the most of your visit.
Disney Disability Access Card
If the only accommodation you need is wheelchair or scooter access you do not need to stop by guest services to get a Disability Access Card (DAS). If you are using a wheelchair or scooter and you need additional accommodations make sure to stop by and talk to a Cast Member to see if you do. You can also look over the official FAQ from Walt Disney World for more information.
There are special guide maps for guests with disabilities at each park. Make sure to pick one up not only to see which attractions have an alternate entrance but also which attractions require you to transfer and to see where companion restrooms are located. You can find them at the entrance of each park.
Please welcome special Guest Melissa @rollingwmagic as she talks about “Doing Disney” in a wheelchair!
Since there are attractions with an alternate entrance that are also FastPass+ attractions, you can take that into account when you are planning a trip. I wouldn’t use a FastPass+ selection on Big Thunder Mountain because they are going to send me to the alternate entrance anyway. If the wait time is low a Cast Member will send you straight through to the loading area. If not you’ll get a return time that is basically the same as a FastPass. But for something like Toy Story Mania or Kilimanjaro Safaris where you enter the standard queue but load in a separate area, a FastPass+ return time is useful.
Attraction Access Categories
Each attraction is put into a category to help you understand the physical requirements.
- Must Be Ambulatory – Basically walking is necessary. This usually means it’s older and/or stairs are required. There are a few attractions like the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through that offer an alternative experience.
- May Remain in Wheelchair/ECV – My favorite. It means no transfer is required.
- Transfer from ECV to Wheelchair – If you are using a manual wheelchair you are not required to do anything. Electric wheelchairs are usually okay too depending on size. But if you are in an ECV you must transfer to an available wheelchair since it will not fit on the attraction’s ride vehicle. There are also a few attractions that require a transfer from the ECV to get through the queue.
- Must Transfer from Wheelchair/ECV – Once you get to the attraction you’ll have to transfer to the ride vehicle. Many attractions have special transfer access vehicles that make getting in and out a lot easier.
Our wheelchair accessibility page also has some attraction reviews and photos of some of the attraction ride vehicles.
Things are never perfect but I think Disney does a great job of making almost everything wheelchair accessible. There really is much more than I can do than I can’t. Not many places that make me feel that way.
I shared a bit of my own story recently, and we have some amazing Guest posts coming up as well. PLEASE NOTE that neither I nor my Guests are trying to garner sympathy in any way, but on the contrary, we hope to help people understand what we and others in similar situations experience, to bring compassion to those who have these limitations, and of course, to let you all know that having a magical Disney vacation with or without chronic illness or disability IS possible!
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