If you’re heading to Disney with a Special Diet, the last thing you want to do is worry about other disabilities that might be present with you or your group. Though there are plenty of types of disabilities (often a Special Diet or food allergy being a “hidden” one), we’ll tackle some tips for those with physical disabilities first.
One of us here at FACCWDW headquarters travels to Disney each time with someone in a wheelchair, so the benefits and barriers of the parks is well known. We live it every time we go!
See that? “Where Dreams Come True”? You’re always taken care of at Walt Disney World.
Here are some of the first-hand basics to note before you go and while you’re there. For general Disney disability FAQ, find them on their website here.
If you don’t have your own, wheelchairs and Electric Conveyance Vehicles (ECV) are available for rental at Disney theme parks and the Downtown Disney Area; the water parks have wheelchairs free of charge at Guest Relations locations. Unfortunately, you can’t leave the parks with the wheelchair, so if you need one at the hotel and getting from A to B, it might be in your best interest to rent from an external company, instead.
When renting them in the parks, it costs $12 per rental. Alternatively, guests can pre-pay the number of days of their stay and purchase a Length of Stay rental ticket for $10 per day when rented for multiple days. ECV are $50 per day.
The buses and monorail system accommodates for wheelchairs and ECVs, too, so if you do have your own or rent externally, transportation is a breeze.
The Disability Access Service Card
A couple years ago, Walt Disney World had a Guest Assistance Card that allowed for folks with disabilities to have an easier time with attractions at the parks. They’ve modified it into something new, called the Disability Access Service (DAS) Card, which (in my opinion!) works even better. It isn’t as “easy” with this card to skip lines or get special accommodations, but instead, guests needing the card are treated more like “equals”. At Disney, they found that many people were taking advantage of the old “rules”, and needed to make a system that worked well for everyone. So far, it seems to.
How the new card works is that guests with disabilities receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time–just like a Fast Pass+. Guests are eligible for the card who can’t wait in the queue for the attraction. However, not all guests in wheelchairs and ECVs are able to get a card–it depends why they are in the chair and why they might need the card. In our case, we get the card due to the sunlight and the inability to walk (even a step), so a special type of seating is often required. You can check with Guest Relations (where you get the card) to ensure it can help you out.
There are three types of accessible washrooms through the Parks. One is a Companion Washroom, set apart from the general Men/Women washrooms that is a small “mini washroom” in itself. They allow for (you guessed it!) a companion to be in the room as well, making them the most convenient for someone who needs assistance using the toilet.
Within the actual Men/Women washrooms, there is usually one (sometimes two) large stalls that include enough room for a companion and a sink. These are often found in the older parks and resorts where solo Companion Washrooms aren’t available.
As a last resort, there are also smaller stalls (but larger than regular stalls) that include bars only, making them convenient for those who need a bar for support, but do not need full access or someone in there with them. There’s no room for a wheelchair in these ones.
Unfortunately, we’ve come across many people over the years who use all three types–mostly the second type–for personal use and don’t need it. Though we’re well aware of hidden disabilities, this isn’t the case. Both Disney cast members and guests have exited the stalls and immediately apologized, flustered and (frequently) making up an excuse. In some cases, we’ve left the washrooms and had to seek out others because of the wait–so I recommend having a back up plan if nature’s calling and a toilet is an immediate need.
Getting Through the Parks
You can search the Attractions on the Disney site to see what rides require in terms of disability. While on some rides you can remain in the wheelchair or ECV, others require you to move from an ECV to the wheelchair, or others require you to transfer from the wheelchair and be able to walk. In a later post, I’ll expand on each park, the pros, the cons, the attractions, the walking distances, and more.
Accessible Resort Hotel Rooms
The Resort hotels include wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, wheelchair-accessible ramps and elevators. You do have to request it while you’re booking, and be specific. Though many of the rooms have bars beside the toilet, the accessible rooms have a few extra perks. The bathrooms themselves are completely different with a wheel-in shower (and a seat), much larger space, and raised toilet. The rooms are wider, too, so getting around is easy. Some of the rooms are on the second floor of resort hotels, but there are always elevators. There are only a specific number of these types of rooms available, so be sure to request it as soon as you know you might need it.
There’s so much more to cover when it comes to physical disabilities and getting around Walt Disney World, so a part II is in the works. In the meantime, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us or comment below. We’re familiar with the situation and more than happy to help!