Impaired mobility should not deter anyone away from a Walt Disney World vacation. The staff at all the parks and resorts will go out of their way to make things very easy and fun for those using ECV’s (scooters) or wheelchairs. Every ride, restaurant, transportation centers and even the restrooms are handicapped accessible.
I have just returned from a wonderful 9 day stay (over the 4th of July) at Walt Disney World. My husband had to use a scooter (ECV) while we were there due to back and leg pain. We were confronted with many pros and just a few cons while thoroughly enjoying our stay in the parks.
To begin with, I had requested a first floor room at Port Orleans Riverside where we stayed the first two nights. Following that we stayed at Saratoga Springs for a week. Since I was concerned about the scooter, I spoke with the front desk manager. He not only put us in a first floor room, but at the first bus stop (of 5) at Saratoga Springs. He said that way we would most likely get on whatever bus we were taking. Following are some thoughts regarding going to Walt Disney World if you are mobility impaired. Not all the resorts have multiple bus stops, but most of the value and moderate resorts and a few of the villas do! So if staying at one of these, you need to let the front desk know you are in a scooter or wheelchair.
There are pros and cons to using an ECV (scooter) or wheelchair. People walking in the park may not see you as they are looking straight ahead, not down. So, as someone riding in these vehicles, one must be very careful to move slowly and watch for those suddenly in your path because they do not see you—especially children. It is often difficult to maneuver in the parks when they are unusually crowded, as we found out during the July 4th fireworks spectacular in the Magic Kingdom. But with patience we got out of the crowds in short order. The smaller the ECV, the easier it is to maneuver, so get the smallest one you can.
Access to WDW transportation. Every bus in the WDW parks are equipped for up to 2 scooters or wheelchairs. The drivers are expert in handling those in these vehicles. Those in these vehicles get on first, their chairs or scooters firmly locked in place. Anyone in his or her group gets on with the person in the scooter. Then and only then do those waiting for the bus get on, and no one gets injured.
If you are staying in the park, ask to have a room nearest the first bus stop , that will almost always get you and your ecv or wheelchair on the bus. But give yourself extra time just in case!
Most rental scooters come with a basket to store your accumulating stuff!
If you qualify for one, you may be able to get a Disability Access Pass (DAS): this is available at guest services, and gives you same day fast pass access to rides. You go to the ride, show your DAS pass (linked to your magic band) and they give you a time to come back. You can go on your way rather than waiting in a long line. Everyone in your party gets the same time to come back so you are always together. When you return you go to the fast past line to get on the ride.
AND FINALLY THE RIDES!
Most rides have queues that are wide enough for wheel chairs and scooters. The few that do not, have handicapped access entries that are clearly marked. We had no problems getting on any rides. The staff asks if you can transfer yourself, or if you need assistance. They also facilitate which line you should be in so as not to encounter stairs on exiting. With the DAS pass you go to the fast pass line and avoid the major stand by lines. The staff moves the scooters and wheelchairs to the exit point and they are there when you exit the ride. We did note that in Tomorrowland in the magic kingdom we had to park the scooter outside the ride and walk to the point where you get on the ride.
Cons: there are a few, including the following:
Difficulty maneuvering in crowded areas. People walking and children who are running often do not notice those in scooters or wheelchairs. So one has to be very careful and move slowly while in the parks. Even when the parks aren’t too crowded children can suddenly dart in your way, and you have to stop short. Fortunately the scooters stop if you release the lever making them go. And you can control the speed.
Lots of scooters can be parked outside a ride or show when it is crowded. Be sure to take your key and any valuables.
Sometimes the busses are full. They are only equipped to have 2 scooters or wheelchairs on each bus. If you are leaving your resort and it has multiple stops, this is the reason you should request a room near the first bus stop. If you are waiting to go back to your resort you may have to wait for a bus which isn’t full.
All in all, being mobility impaired should NOT stop someone from enjoying a trip to a Disney Park. The staff is wonderful and the rides are all accessible to those in wheelchairs or scooters. Go and enjoy yourself!!!!!
Bonnie Polan is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel. She has personal experience at the parks using a scooter and accompanying someone in a scooter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.