Jun 14, 2012
In my dreams this would be a trip to circumvent the globe but in reality I am talking about Disney World - You know that place in the sun and heat, where people from all over the world come to entertain themselves with cartoon characters, French fries served with every meal, and a day that is too long for even the most fit and conditioned tourist.
Recently I went around the World with my family, including the young grandchildren. My husband and I had been at Disney’s Hollywood park last July for one day, using a final day on a multi-day ticket from many years ago. I have never been so miserable in my life – my MS was really protesting being subjected to the heat and humidity. I swore if I ever went to the World again, I would find a way to be smarter about navigating the obstacles and heat.
How could I resist going to the Kingdom with the not quite 2, 4 and 7 year olds and experience all the Magic through their eyes? I did my research and came up with a few tips that made our five days in the various parks of the Disney dynasty bearable, and I offer them to you for your use.
If you are taking an airplane to Orlando and don’t have a first class ticket (I didn’t win the lottery and was flying coach with the family), be sure to call the airline and request bulkhead seating because of your disability. Unless someone with a fused leg (one that can’t bend) comes along and bumps you, you will have a seat with great leg room and able to stretch so any spasms or cramps can hopefully be controlled. There is no extra charge for this seat and is simple to ask for; the same goes with aisle seats. It seems all the airlines are charging extra for aisle and window seats, but don’t pay that extra amount until you talk to the airline representative and ask for accommodations. Even for a short flight, having this room makes a difference for my legs.
Take along your handicapped parking placard if you have one; the accessible parking at all of the Disney parks eliminates the need to ride the trams from the parking lot, cutting the amount of time you stand in line in the heat. That is especially important with the summer heat and standing in line on scorching hot asphalt parking lots.
The first thing you should do at the park once you are inside the turnstiles is arrange your wheelchair or scooter rental. In true Disney fantasy form, they don’t call these scooters, but Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECV). I rented a manual wheelchair and it was $12 a day, but they are discounted for additional days, so please be sure to ask and rent for the total number of days you will need and not by the daily rate. This is a manual wheelchair, so be sure you have a strong person in your party who can push you for the day(s) and maneuver through the crowds. Our adult daughter took on this task, but if she weren’t there I would have perhaps rented a scooter, which is significantly more costly. There are also private companies in Orlando who will deliver a scooter to you, for a fee of course. A quick look on Google will give you all the details. Note: there is only a limited number of chairs and ECVs available through the Mouse’s concessions and on busy days they can run out of rentals.
After you have rented your wheels for the day, the next stop should be the Guest Relations Office. Just because you have a wheelchair, it doesn’t automatically grant you additional services, special consideration, or assistance in the World. A Guest Relations representative will talk to you about your limitations and create a special Guest Assistance Card particular to your needs. My card for this trip had different waivers that the Disney cast members were very helpful with; the most important one to me was “provide a shaded wait area if available,” since the temperatures were unseasonably warm and in the low 90’s. Too bad it didn’t also include “immediate access to any restroom in the park,” but those lines weren’t too long to negotiate.
The next stamps were ‘guests can use an alternate attraction entrance where available” and “guests may enter attractions through the standard wheelchair entrance.” Both of those entrances were at the Fastpass entrances and bypassed all the lines, the heat and the excessive wait times. Several made entrance into the ride or show easier to navigate as well.
At each stop I was able to show the Guest Assistance Card to the Cast Member, which is Disney’s name for all of their park workers, and my entire group was granted almost immediate access. This card cut down on the time I spent in the heat and allowed us to have a wonderful time traveling around the World. There were a few rides such as Space Mountain - roller coaster types have always made me ill – that I did not want to ride and my youngest granddaughter was too small to tag along. The ride attendants allowed the others in my group to use my pass while the youngest and I waited for them to be finished.
Early on our son told me that is was about time something good came of my MS and that this was my own little rainbow. He also told his girls that I had the golden ticket, like Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Rainbow or golden ticket, it was one powerful piece of paper that made five days in the world manageable.
There is no way I can say enough good things about how the Walt Disney World staff facilitates the traveler who needs a little extra magic to have a great time. I cannot suggest strongly enough if you are going to travel the World, to plan ahead for your travel, rentals and special accommodations. I suspect that many of the other parks across this country have similar programs, but I don’t have personal experience to relay. Spend a little time with Google and you should be able to find the answers online. Regardless of your destination and with some forethought, it can be a great adventure. Don’t let your MS stop you from seeing the World.