You’ve heard Disney is Accessible, but Just How Accessible is Disney World?
Much of the stress of having a child with a physical disability is the fear that they will miss out. What will they not be able to do? How is that going to affect them emotionally? How is that going to affect all of us?
As the parent of a paraplegic, day in and day out, I am faced with things he can’t do. I wanted to make sure that our vacation wasn’t like that.
After doing much research, we finally decided to go to Disney World because it would be the most inclusive destination for our first trip after the accident.
The accessibility for my son in Disney World was amazing. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else that he would be able to do as much as he was able to do at Disney. It was the perfect choice. The issues were minimal, and everywhere we went we were met with smiling, helpful faces.
Disney Resort Hotels
Hotels are always something that is very difficult for us. Even when you order a accessible room, it is a gamble. Disney wasn’t really much different on this frot.
We stayed at Port Orleans, a moderate resort instead of the value Pop Century that we had originally planned hoping that the room would be big enough for the chair. Sadly, it did not. His chair spent most of the time parked at the front door, and he climbed from bed to bed.
This worked out well for us, because my son is really great on the floor. Also, I can easily carry him. I can see how, for an adult or larger child the floor space could be an issue. There is no way a larger, or an electric chair could have maneuvered in that room.Also, the ramp to get to the room was a good way from our room itself. After walking all day in the parks, we didn’t want to walk that much extra. However, because Cason and his chair are light, we usually just carried both up the steps to get into the room. Again, I could see this being an inconvenience for someone larger or with a heavier style of chair.
We requested a handicapped potty with our reservation. It wasn’t there the first day. However, when I called and requested it, it was there within a few hours. To my surprise, they were actually able to supply me with a pediatric potty seat! Two points for Disney Resorts!
That being said, I can only speak for Port Orleans Riverside the other resorts might be much more wheelchair friendly. To be honest, Disney did better than any other hotel we’ve stayed at. I think hotels are just a struggle in general.
If you stay at a Disney resort they provide transportation to and from the parks, by way of either bus, or Monorail depending on your resort. Disney World does a great job on making this accessible.
The bus works a lot like a school bus, they tilt the bus down, put out a ramp, you roll on and you are fastened by hooks and ratchet straps, never getting out of the chair. This process takes about 3 minutes each way, and you are the first one on the bus at your stop, and the last one off the bus.
If you have a wheelchair, and you can afford it get a room on the monorail. We didn’t, because it is quite a bit more expensive. If you have a wheelchair, however, the monorail is the way to go. There are no ramps no straps or extra loading time.
The monorail stops, you roll on, put on your brakes and ride. Then at your stop, you roll right off. It was super quick, and super easy, and we weren’t different than anybody else. It was definitely our favorite way to travel.
DAS PASS- Waiting in Lines
DAS Pass is Disney’s Disability Access Pass. You can go to guest services at any time and apply to get one but are not guaranteed one. At first the cast member did not want to grant Cason a pass, because they do not grant passes for, “mobility issues, since the park completely is accessible.” I’ll give him that, the park is very accessible.
However, after discussing some of Cason’s other issues with him. he realized that paraplegia was more than mobility issue, and he granted us a pass for this year only. This seems like a pain, but in reality, it only took about 30 minutes. You just have to find the Disability Services building or booth.
The DAS pass is a separate pass from your fast passes, and it does not affect your regular Fast Passes at all.
You pick one ride, and instead of waiting in line, you can go sign up for a return time. If the line is 45 minutes long, they will tell you to come back in 45 minutes. You still have to wait the same amount of time, you just don’t have to stand in the line. You can be out taking care of other needs. This pass saved the trip. We would not have been able to ride nearly as many rides without this because of Cason’s inflexible schedule and special needs. It is awesome that Disney came up with a fair way for everyone to be able to enjoy the attractions.
Cason is 48 inches so he was able to ride everything. I was afraid that people would give us a hard time about height since he can’t stand up to be measured, but no one did. I thought about getting a doctors note with his height, but didn’t need it.
How Rides Work with the Chair
Each time we got to the front of the line, some one would ask, “Are you comfortable transferring from the wheelchair and taking a few steps?” Our answer always was, “No, but we will carry him.” Some rides we carried him through the end of the regular line. While others, we went to the exit room to load where there was more room and privacy.
One ride asked if we were comfortable carrying him up a flight of stairs in case of an emergency. The Peter Pan Ride asked if we were comfortable carrying him up a 12-foot ladder in case of an emergency. My husband said yes to that one. I don’t know what would happen if I had answered, because my answer would have been, “NO!” Luckily Emergencies weren’t an issue.
Cason only weighs about 50 pounds and has a lot of core strength. So, it was relatively easy to transfer him. Some of the rides you actually have to get down into. On Space Mountain Chris had to actually bend over and set him down into the ride, and on several rides he needed to be lifted over things. I am not sure how easy of a transfer these would be with an adolescent or an adult (especially one with less control.) I do know that some rides have special devices to help transfer from a wheelchair.
That being said, many of the rides have a feature where the wheelchair just rolls right in, and gets strapped down. You get to enjoy the ride from their own chair. Cason really enjoyed the rides like this, and it certainly was easier on Dad’s back.
Accessibility At Shows
The shows were phenomenal and fully accessible as well. You have to try to make it to at least some of the shows. Try to get there early if you have a wheelchair, because they seat the wheelchairs first. For some of the shows, wheelchair seating was in the back, and others it was in the front.
In all, I loved how well Disney World took care of Cason’s needs. The sidewalks were all very well maintained and easy to roll over. There was not one thing that he was left out of because of his disability. He left feeling super-confident and having had the time of his life.