Last week when my grandmother, Charlotte, dad, and I went to Disney and we experienced something none of us have ever had to work with before: Disability.
You see my grandmother is in a wheel chair and its hard for her to walk, but she can transfer from a wheelchair to a ride. It was one of her wishes to go to Disney before she started Chemo for Stage4 Lymphoma and we wanted to def go and let her have that time. There were four generations of my family there!
While I knew we were going to have fun, I never realized what people go through when either in a wheelchair or with a wheelchair group, but I can promise you that most people are rude, unhelpful, or plan ignorant around you. I am the type of person that gets out of the way for strollers or wheelchairs and always acknowledges people. I can tell you that most people are not.
All that said, the Disney park and its employees went above and beyond what customer service usually is.
Getting into the Park:
While we took the boat over to Disney World with a wheelchair they had available at the ticket areas they also have ramps at the monorail. If your party can transfer, you can do that from a wheelchair and they take it away and have one waiting on the other monorail when you get off, regardless of the park. Once you are there you can rent a wheelchair or a powered chair for the day.
Entering the park:
From the get go one of my friends told me to head over to the customer service portion of Disney World as soon as we got there. Of course I totally spaced regarding that (excitement, you know?!) and while we were visiting Fantastyland I remembered the advice. After getting all the way out into the park and through the crowds, it was so much easier to just run back by myself. So I trekked back to see what kind of options they had for families with a party with them that could not walk/had to stay out of the sun.
The general rule is that the person with the disability has to be with you (and understandably so) so I do not advise going by yourself, but in this case with her ID and port card, they did write me up an assistance card. The card was red and had her information it and it was sorta a “green light” in getting help with park employees should we have a specific need or request.
All that said and done, we really didn’t need the card. The park was fully equipped to handle wheelchairs and disability requests. In cases where the main lines were not big enough to push through, they brought us on the back ends or up wheelchair accessible lines. They slowed down the auto walk ways for her to step onto them and offered complete assistance. There was a park attendee at every line that QUICKLY helped when we approached and the entire logistics of the process was 2nd nature. The parades have spots specifically for wheelchair bound people, which was helpful at Epcot.
On the jungle cruise, because it has a very difficult step down, they had a specific boat for visitors that are in a wheelchair.
Disney thought of everything!
If I had one any amount of feedback it would be on the Mickeys Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios. When that show let out, thousands and THOUSANDS of people release at one time and it’s very very difficult to get out of there when you are wheelchair bound. People were shoving and pushing and then look at you like you are in their way.
I actually had to speak up to someone that shot us a nasty look and then continued to talk to her spouse about how “there really should be somewhere else wheelchairs can go.” After a full day of hearing people be rude, I caught up with her and said “YOU’RE RIGHT. I wish there was a wheel chair lane too cause its VERY DIFFICULT to push through crowds of people.”
She got flustered and took off.
I commend Disney World for REALLY being together and our experience was like that at all the parks. We visited Hollywood Studios (Star Wars Weekend!), Magic Kingdom and Epcot and they were flawless and we never felt scattered or unsure where to go.
I also want to thank Disney for helping make this a trip that my grandmother will never forget. She is going through Chemo now and while we feel very positive about that (cause that’s all you can be) we, at the very least, have some amazing memories.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart~
*media passes provided courtesy via Disney