Perhaps more than any other place on earth, Disney World provides a very friendly environment for those who need to travel in wheelchairs or ECVs (Electric Convenience Vehicles). From careful placement of ramps and elevators to Cast Members who know how to help, Disney makes it possible for folks in ECVs and wheelchairs to have a great time on vacation without feeling like they don’t belong.
Let’s look at five tips for making the most of a Disney vacation when you use a wheelchair or an ECV.
1 – Request A Handicapped Accessible Room
Disney can guarantee that you will get a handicapped accessible room, but only if you request it at the time you make a reservation. Note that you need to confirm the handicapped room when you book – not by calling back later. These rooms have some unique features that will make things easier for you. For example, the doors will often have a button inside the room that will automatically open the door, and the doors will stay open for a time to allow the rider to get into or out of the room more easily. The bed may be lower to the ground, making it easier for someone in a chair to transfer, and many rooms have zero-entry showers, making it possible to wheel or walk into the shower without a step.
2 – Consider Your Rental Options
Many people who are permanently in a wheelchair or ECV will obviously bring their own equipment, so they don’t need to worry about renting something. However, other folks just want to use a chair while they are at Disney World since they will be covering much more territory than usual. There are at least three options:
A – Rent at the park
You can rent both wheelchairs and ECVs at any of the Disney parks. However, please note that you can’t make a reservation, and the quantities are limited. That means there is a chance you may not be able to get a chair when you need one. Also note that you can’t remove the chair from the park – you can only use it inside the park. This may be an option if you need the chair mostly to cut down on walking, but if you are depending on the chair, you might want to consider the next two options.
B – Rent at a Disney Resort Hotel
You can rent a wheelchair directly from Disney at a Disney Resort hotel, but you can’t rent an ECV there: Disney doesn’t offer ECVs for rent from the resorts. If a wheelchair will work for you, the advantage of renting it from a Disney hotel is that you can take it with you between the various resorts and parks.
C – Rent from a third party
Many third parties provide both wheelchair and ECV rentals by delivering the chair to your resort – either on or off Disney property. Be sure to check references, prices, and policies to make sure you get a good deal and get what you need.
3 – Ask for Assistance at the Airports
Most airports have arrangements to help people with transportation, which normally include temporary-use wheelchairs but sometimes involve electric carts that provide transportation through the long terminals. Be sure to ask what options are available, and allow extra time for getting through the airport since you will need to wait for the transportation to come for you.
4 – Use Disney Transportation
The monorails and buses are all handicapped accessible. Some boats are as well – especially the larger ones. Disney’s Magical Express bus service from the Orlando International Airport to Disney property has a wheelchair lift tucked away near the back of the bus. Disney Transportation buses, for getting from place to place once on Disney property, also have lifts. The bus drivers typically have lots of experience in helping people in ECVs and wheelchairs. They are normally very patient and understanding. Again, allow a little extra time for loading and unloading, but your overall transportation time using Disney Transportation will be about the same as everyone else – after all, you travel in big groups of both wheelchair and non-wheelchair folks on the buses and monorails.
5 – Ask For Directions
In this case, I’m not necessarily talking about directions on how to get from point A to point B, but rather directions on how to most easily accomplish your goals. For example, some bathrooms around the theme parks are more handicapped accessible than others. In some shows and attractions you will follow the typical queue in your wheelchair or ECV, while in others you will use completely separate entrances, or only use the normal queue up until a certain point at which you will take a different path. Once again, you will almost always find Disney Cast Members to be patient, courteous, and helpful. Ask for guidance, and they will provide it.
Enjoy Disney On Wheels
If you need to use a wheelchair or ECV, Disney is a great place to do it. Perhaps that is why you will see so many other folks around the parks and resorts who are also using wheelchairs and ECVs too. Be patient, ask for a little direction, and enjoy!
Do you think Disney does a good job of accommodating wheelchairs and ECVs?