Howdy, all! Welcome back to Disabled Travelers. As I rev up to continue our pan-Asian access guides, I thought I’d take a brief detour here to dip into the mailbag and see what comes up. Today, I’m going to cover disability access at Disney World in Florida, plus the sights you can see around it. We might just do a mini-excursion to all the Disney properties in the future, but this is the one most folks have been waiting to see.
As a long-time resident of Florida, I can really appreciate the excitement of all the people, including many, many handicapped travelers, who journey down south every year to visit our amazing theme parks, not to mention the beaches, resort hotels, and all the other great perks that come from living in “forever summer.” Though, admittedly, it’s about 70 degrees out right now! It’s been a wild winter, but Disney is fun all year long.
Before we start, I’d just like to mention one thing. Frommer’s, the maker of excellent travel guides, has a travel photography contest going on right now. I just found out about it and I’m planning to enter – you should, too! You can send in photos from any destination and submit as many as you want from now until March 31st. It would be just fantastic if a Disabled Travelers reader won the $5,000 prize, so get those photos in!
Now, moving right along …
Our first stop is the Disney Disability Information page at The DIS, which describes itself as the Internet’s largest unofficial guide to Walt Disney World. Information here is fairly comprehensive, with attraction-by-attraction facts on mobility impaired access, wheelchair rental, and accommodations for the hard-of-hearing, visually impaired, and those who require service animals. Some points to note: most attractions are wheelchair accessible through the guest line, and wheelchair rentals are available for a low fee ($10-$12 at the time of this writing) from a range of locations throughout the parks. However, other equipment tends to be pricey.
Disney produces its own access guide, “The Guidebook for Guests With Disabilities.” An online version is available here. No date is provided on this version of the text, so take care of details that might have changed. For a more personal perspective, try out Disabled World’s article on all the Disney parks, including Disney Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris. Concerned about long waits in line? It may be useful to learn about the Fast Pass Option. This allows you to bypass lines at certain attractions, but requires some planning ahead and is not intended specifically for handicapped travelers. For thatoption, you need a Guest Assistance Card, which offers similar functionality and does not require any complicated scheduling; you can use it when you need it at any time.
(Note, you do not need any “evidence”, doctor’s notes, sworn statements, etc. to get a Guest Assistance Card … most visitors receive one with a simple explanation, and it is good through to the end of your vacation. Total time getting one: five to ten minutes.)
For a basic overview of planning a Disney trip, which includes tips for disabled travelers of many kinds, this page at Allears.net is a great resource that doesn’t take too long to absorb. They also have lots of articles and news on general interest topics for Disney guests. If you have a little more time to read and get involved with lots of well-organized, useful information, then the single best access guide that I’ve seen for Disney online is Teri’s Disney Travelers’ Disability FAQ. Teri has really gone above and beyond, organizing information from all of the big-time “unofficial” Disney guides and providing insight for accessibility no matter what your needs are. There are lots of valuable facts, and the site cuts through the clutter of finding the official info as well.
There are a number of companies that offer scooter rental for Disney World, and many are a much better deal than rental from within the park. TryApple Scooter, ScootOrlando, and Randy’s Mobility. Though I don’t have personal experience with any of these companies, many of them offer drop-off and pick-up when you need them, a wide variety of equipment, and a lot more flexibility (at lower cost!) than renting equipment from within the theme parks.
It can be difficult finding all the resources you need to plan a great trip to Disney World, but hopefully this has shed a little light on the subject for all our friends here at Disabled Travelers. I’m out of time for today, but I just might explore the Orlando area next time to give you the bigger picture of the world outside Disney’s. ‘til then, adventure on!