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: