Disney World with Mobility Disabilities

Epcot

 

If you have a mobility disability, Disney World can still be fun. It takes a little pre-planning, and maintaining realistic expectations, but it’s still worth the effort.

 

I’ve gone to WDW many times over the last 20 years or so, and have had a disability since the first time. For several years, I was able to push myself and walk the parks, wait in line, etc, but I always went to the room early and left my family in the parks.

As my illnesses progressed, I got to the point of either needing a wheelchair or an ECV. Since I can’t use my hands to push the wheelchair myself, I chose the ECV. I chose the scooter for two reasons. One, I didn’t want my husband to have to push me all of the parks, and two, when I get tired I usually go back to the room early and leave the guys to enjoy the parks. If I used a wheelchair, I would be unable to go to the room by myself.

The first few years I rented an ECV. It makes a huge difference. Without the scooter, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the parks at all. In fact, I wouldn’t make it from the bus drop off to the gate. More recently, my disability has progressed to the point that I need a scooter much more often than just in in Disney, so we purchased one.

Disney works very hard to accommodate those of us with disabilities, but they are also striving to make it equitable. In the past, if the regular queue did not accommodate a wheelchair or an ECV, they would send the user in the exit line or through the fast pass line. Now, you are given a return time that equals the wait in the regular line unless you have a fast pass for the attraction. However, most of the newer attractions have queues that a wheelchair or an ECV will easily fit through.

Those with disabilities that prevent them from waiting in lines must get a DAS or Disability Access Services card. For more information on the DAS card, click here.

If you have a mobility disorder and choose to use a scooter, there are a few things you should know. You may rent a scooter in the park as long as they have them in stock. However, you may also rent from an off-site vendor and have the scooter delivered to your room so you will have it for places other than the WDW parks. A list of several vendors is at the end of this article.

For those using Disney transportation, most of the rented scooters will work with the bus systems. If you’re staying offsite and driving to the parks, you can rent one that break sdown into multiple pieces. The one I own breaks into four pieces and easily managed. When using Magical Express, my husband breaks it down, and it’s stored beneath the bus.

If you plan to use an ECV, it’s a good idea to decide before you go whether you want to rent in the parks or from one of the vendors. The vendors will deliver the scooter to your bell desk and have it waiting for you when you arrive, but you do need to make reservations ahead of time.

Whether you rent offsite or in the parks, take some time to drive it around in a less-populated area to familiarize yourself with the scooter. They aren’t quite as simple to operate as they look and not all handle the same way. The ECV I had the first year felt like I was driving a tank. I had to make wide turns, and it was impossible to manuever in tight places. The following years, I found a brand that I felt was easier to manage and stuck with it. In fact, when I purchased my own, I bought that same brand.

Until you are very comfortable with the vehicle, it’s a good idea to keep it in the lowest setting. Mine usually stays in turtle mode or slightly above that. Even in turtle mode, I find it goes too fast for the traffic oftentimes. I find most of the time I have it set on the slowest speed and don’t fully depress the accelerator.

It’s also very important to watch for those who make sudden stops or step out in front of you. When driving an ECV you tend to become a little invisible. Possibly because you are lower than most people’s line of sight. I’m often lagging behind my family quite a bit because people step in front of me or I get caught up in traffic. It takes patience to navigate a crowded park in a motorized vehicle without running over anyone.

Realistically, even if you go during a slower time of year, you won’t be able to do everything and ride every ride if you’re using a mobility device. Everything takes more time and is a little more work when you’re using a wheelchair, walker, or ECV. When you’re planning your trip, decide which attractions are the most important and make sure you do those. Then if you have time, add in the ones that aren’t on the top of your list.

You may also need to watch for other ECV users. On a recent trip to Disney World, I had to stop suddenly (causing those behind me to run into me) because two women were on ECVs they’d rented at the park going full-speed and heading right for me. If I hadn’t stopped, the first one would’ve slammed head-0n into me and the woman behind her would’ve hit her.

Which brings me to another point. If you read some of the Disney blogs you will find many people who make very hateful comments about ECV users. Some are justified because the commenter has had someone run over him,b ut many are just grumbling. When you are first contemplating renting an ECV these comments can be quite daunting.

In reality, I’ve encountered very few people who are rude to me when I’m using a scooter. In fact, I can probably count them on one hand. One woman dragged her child across me because she didn’t see me (remember the invisibility I warned you about?) and became angry because she thought I had run into her child, and I’ve had a few people give me dirty looks and sigh.

However, the majority of those visiting the parks are very nice and have treated me quite well. On our last visit, I pulled up to the ECV boarding area to leave the park when the line was very long in the regular queue. The attendant told me he could get me on the bus that was pulling up, but I declined since I hadn’t been waiting but a few minutes and many people in line had been waiting quite a while. As they boarded, a man came up and apologized that the bus driver didn’t see me. He was chaperoning a large group of teens and even offered to make them all disembark the bus so the driver could load me on it.

If you are contemplating visiting Disney using a scooter, don’t allow some of the hateful comments you read online to deter you. Rent the scooter and enjoy your trip. It’s definately worth it to see the look on your child or grandchild’s face when you walk into the park and see the castle for the first time.

Scooter and Wheelchair Rentals:

Apple

Buena Vista

Yellow

Scooterbug

Walker Mobility

Disney

 

 

Disabilities in Disney World

Disney World

There has been much discussion on the DisDining Blog on her Top 10 Bad Behaviors on a Disney World Vacation. Her number 6 urges park goers to watch out for strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters and not cut them off because none of these can stop quickly.

Many of the people have made some remarks about those who use scooter and/or wheelchairs. These comments show a lack of understanding about invisible diseases like Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Heart Disease, severe Peripheral Neuropathy, and many, many more.

The comments ranged from frustrated to cruel. Here are a few examples:

there are privileges for people in wheel chairs at Disney also. One year we had to use it for our daughter when she had rods put in her back. BUT the number of rude people in wheel chairs and parents pushing strollers is huge. I could bet that 80% of the people who use them don’t really need them at all. Most are overweight and that is their excuse for using one.

One pet peeve of mine is scooters going to the front of the line. I am fine with it obviously if you are handicapped and you truly cant stand in line but a person who has a scooter because they are overweight or have a sore ankle and brings 5 or 6 people with them to the front of the line and then get off the scooter and walk onto the ride. Its fine to have a scooter to get around the park to cut down on the amount of time you are on your feet but if you can walk on your own then wait in line like everybody else.

#6 – this is a two way street! I won’t cut them off, but most of these people upset me every day on my trip because they are using wheelchairs when they don’t need to or they are constantly cutting me off!

The fat ppl who rent the motor scooters ans practically hit and run ur children. Also obesity is not a handicap and an excuse to cut the line. A bunch of excited four year olds should get first crack at pirates or the mansion over someone who ate too many fries to walk

I have to agree with most, however im not a 100% in agreement with #6 as I read on a lot of people also feel the same way. If I see a family walking with a stroller I will stop and stop my children so the rest of the family with the stroller can stay together that’s not a problem for me. My problem is the scooters and the wheel chairs . If some one is in a wheelchair or scooter for a medical reason fine its the over weight people and the lazy people that don’t feel like walking all day that drive me crazy . So stay back at the pool. I don’t mean to sound mean but some people use the wheelchairs and scooters to hold bags and to cart young tired children around or they are too heavy to walk . Now, aunt gertie lets little Bobby drive the scooter in circles while waiting for his family to come off space mountain and running everyone in sight over. And instead of saying oh im sorry they think its cute lil Bobby is driving a scooter. like I said before stay back at the hotel lil Bobby im sure will tell you all about his trip to magic kingdom in the morning.

The over-reaching think I see, is many of these people believe those who rent scooters and don’t look ill, are just fat and lazy.

I do realize some of the people making these comments do not want to understand chronic, invisible illness and nothing anyone says will make a difference, but there are some people who honestly don’t understand invisible illnesses and think if someone looks healthy, they are. After all, most of us with chronic illnesses strive to look our best when we go out in public. We actually put on make-up, dress decent, and try to appear normal.

In this post, I’m going to focus on autoimmune diseases in general. Future posts I will delve into the individual diseases and the symptoms caused be each one. Hopefully some of my friends who suffer from various diseases will allow me to share their photos.

Below, I’ve shared some of my photos. This is something I rarely do, but I thought it was important. I don’t look ill, in spite of having more than one autoimmune disease.

The first photo is before I developed the autoimmune diseases. Second is several years after a very bad flare necessitating prednisone for many years. The third photo is more current. I’ve been off prednisone except in short bursts for several years.

In the middle photo, it’s obvious that I’m quite heavy, and in the last photo, I’m still heavy. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s difficult when mobility is limited. The point of the photos is, while I look obese in the last ones, I don’t look ill.

Most people with autoimmune diseases look just fine. We don’t have missing limbs, limbs in casts (unless we’ve had recent surgery or a flare causing problems in a specific joint). In fact, to look us most people would never know we had a chronic illness.

I’ve shared these photos to show how chronic illness has changed me. Before I developed RA, I was very active: went to the gym three days a week, took Tae Kwon Do three nights a week, and played football, volleyball, went bowling, dancing, etc on the weekends – in addition to practicing Tae Kwon Do. I was young, energetic, and healthy.

Fast forward a few years. The middle picture shows what immobility and prednisone can do to the body. This photo was taken after I’d been on prednisone for many years. I didn’t like the changes in my body, but there was little I could do. 

Finally, my physician found the right combination of medications and I’m no longer on prednisone except in short bursts. I am still overweight. It’s a long road to return to a healthy weight.

My diseases have progressed to the point that I now must use a scooter to go any distance. I haven’t been able to go to Disney World or Disneyland for several years without the use of a scooter. If I’m going to a large store, I have to use one also.

People look at me like I’m “fat and lazy” and use the scooter because I don’t want to walk. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. I would love to be that energetic girl who went non-stop once again, but unfortunately I cannot. For many years when we went to theme parks, I pushed myself and refused to use a wheelchair or scooter, but these diseases don’t stand still – even with medications the disease progresses. Not like it would without the medications, however. 

Most autoimmune diseases cause the following symptoms:

Fatigue – unlike normal fatigue, the deep, bone-aching, intense fatigue isn’t relieved by rest. Many times those with autoimmune diseases wake up feeling even more tired than when they went to bed. Many times we cannot do the things we really want to do. It’s frustrating for us, then when others get angry or upset with us over it, it multiplies the symptoms.

Muscle and Joint Pain – This can range from burning and aching to feeling like someone has a jackhammer destroying the joints – which in the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriatic Arthritis – is kind of true since the body’s immune system is destroying the joint. The pain may also move. One day it may be the feet, the next the hand. It can also move hour to hour. Many times it’s a generalized achiness. 

Fever – at times people with autoimmune disorders will have an elevated temperature. With some AIs (autoimmune) it can be a low-grade, but in others, the fever may go quite high.

Hair loss – The hair loss can be caused by the disease or by the medications to treat the illness.

Flu-like symptoms – All AIs cause generalized malaise, or ill-feeling. Think about how you felt the last time you had the flu. People with an autoimmune disease feel like this most of the time. 

Brain-fog – This symptoms comes and goes, but it causes the person with the autoimmune to feel a little disoriented. It can be caused by the disease or the medications.

Depression – Finding out you have a debilitating, chronic illness that you will deal with for the rest of your life is depressing. Then you add medications that can cause depression to the mix and most with autoimmune diseases suffer some degree of depression. 

Isolation – while this is not a direct symptom of the disease or medications, it is a result of not being able to fully participate in life. We do go on vacations, to family get-togethers, etc as much as possible, but for the most part, we spend a great deal of time alone.

The next time you see someone using a wheelchair or scooter, even if they can “obviously” walk, keep in mind, while they may walk a little ways, walking the entire park, store, mall, etc may be overwhelming due to the fatigue and pain.

Try to imagine living your life with a bad case of the flu. Every. Single. Day. You ache all over, feel exhausted, and have fever, dizziness, and nausea at times.

Most people who get the flu go to bed, take medication, and put life on hold until they recover. Those with chronic illnesses don’t get that luxury. We must push on for our families, and because we want to be a part of life. Being absent from life adds to the feelings of depression and isolation.

Before you make the harsh comments, stop a minute and think about those who have invisible diseases. The comments about us just being “fat and lazy” do hurt. We would trade places and walk the parks, stores, etc at any time. However, we would never wish this illness on you or anyone else.