Disney World accessibility

Our family vacation in Disney World was filled with all kinds of accessibility drama.

Our room

Prior to the vacation — which requires much planning — we requested a wheelchair-accessible room. My parents had done the same, when they took Namine on vacation to Disney World a few years ago. We expected a walk-in shower and wide enough space between the walls and beds, but we were disappointed on both accounts. (To be perfectly fair, we did request an accessible room, but we didn’t specify what kind of accessibility would be preferred. Lesson learned for next time.)

There was a bathtub with hand rails (which, technically, is accessible, just not for Namine), requiring me to help her into the tub. She would have been perfectly capable of climbing in and out on her own, if not for the slippery tub floor. As for the space in the room, there was only just enough space for Namine to get by in her wheelchair. Bonking into a bed, dresser, or the entertainment center was nigh unavoidable.

At least there was a second bed, which was not immediately apparent on entering the room. It folded into the wall. There was a table in its place, but it did not need to be moved before folding the bed down. It folded along with the bed.

Namine also pointed out to me (literally) that there was a second peephole at just the right height for people in wheelchairs.

In transit

Since we stayed at a resort — and left our cars in Wisconsin — we had to rely on Disney’s own transportation for getting to and from the parks. For the most part, this meant taking the bus. Unfortunately, not all busses were equipped to handle wheelchairs, which resulted in us waiting for transportation more than we would have liked.

Our other means of transportation was the skyline. There wasn’t a line to every park, but we took advantage of this whenever we could. As far as we could tell, every tram was capable of transporting a wheelchair, which meant our wait in line was never as long as for the busses.

The rides

I have saved for last the thing with which I was the most impressed. Many rides — although not all — were equipped with what the staff called ADA cars. Rather than having a small doorway, as most did, the entire car opened up in some fashion to allow a wheelchair to roll inside. In most cases, the back of the car collapsed and unfolded to double as a ramp.

The rides’ cars were not all the same size, so while in most cases I was able to sit next to Namine, this was not always true. In both a flying triceratops ride and the Winnie the Pooh ride, I had to sit behind Namine rather than by her side. This was of little concern; I was still close by, and never let her out of my sight.

There were, of course, plenty of rides that offered little or no equipment accessibility. In those cases, I did what I’ve always done: I picked Namine up and transferred her myself. Sometimes, the doorways in the ride cars were pretty narrow. It required the occasional maneuvering and help from Jessica in lifting Namine’s legs a little higher than I can do alone, but we made it work. Together, we were able to let Namine ride almost every ride she wanted to (and one she regretted, but that’s a story for another day).