Touring Plan Tips For Walt Disney World Visitors With Mobility Impairments

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By Larry Heidenberg

Walt Disney World is one of Earth’s most mobility-impaired “friendly” places – still, there are challenges that must be planned for and tips when creating touring plans to maximize enjoyment and minimize wait times.  This article provides some general tips for enjoying Walt Disney World as well as theme park specific tips to keep you rolling or limping along with the best of them.  These tips may not apply to everyone and should be reviewed in light of your own situation and needs along with basic touring plan recommendations available on this site.

General Tips for Mobility Impaired Visitors
The best tip possible for anyone with mobility impairments is simple: unless you are in regular training for a marathon, Walt Disney World involves more miles than most people would normally cover in a day.  Be honest about your abilities and don’t be “afraid” or “ashamed” to admit that you might need help at Walt Disney World that you don’t regularly need on a daily basis.  Visitors typically able to manage daily activities with a cane, crutch, walker, or other mobility device should consider managing between six to 13 miles each day while down at Walt Disney World.  If these distances seem daunting, consider renting a wheelchair or Electric Convenience Vehicle (ECV).  Walt Disney World receives thousands of visitors daily (check the Crowd Calendar to get an idea how busy the World will be during your visit) and there are very few places to sit while waiting in line.  If unable to stand for prolonged periods, consider a wheelchair (and someone to push it) or an ECV to help get around.  Those under 18 years of age should note that neither Disney nor most outside vendors will rent ECVs to minors.

Next, if a wheelchair or ECV is required, consider renting one from an off-site vendor.  They tend to cost the same or slightly less than ones rented from Disney and are available 24×7.  Wheelchairs and EVCs rented from inside Disney theme parks cannot leave the park – even to go to the parking lot.  If staying on-site at Disney, many of the resorts are huge and rooms may be located fairly far away from both food and Disney transportation.  Offsite rental companies will deliver wheelchairs or ECVs to resorts (some will leave them with the resort for pick up, while others require renters be present at the time of delivery) to immediately get rolling!

Guests using an ECV or wheelchair will need to transfer into ride vehicles for many, but not all, attractions.  When touring the parks, keep in mind that some attractions require guests using an ECV transfer either to a regular wheelchair.  This adds time between attractions for touring plans.  As a rule of thumb, guests using an ECV should anticipate the time between attractions to be about 25% longer than average. Guests using wheelchairs and are not having to transfer out of their wheelchair to ride should add an estimated 10-15% longer than average touring time between attractions.  Guests required to transfer out of a wheelchair and into the attraction vehicle should add 25-35% more time than average between attractions. Some attractions limit the number of mobility impaired guests permitted on at one time due to safety concerns.  Although there may be no wait for the attraction, guests using wheelchairs or EVCs may have to wait anyway; Spaceship Earth and Peter Pan are notorious for this.

Finally, both the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios have curbs, along Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and along all of the streets in the Studios.  Curb cuts are provided, just as in virtually every city in America.  When very crowded, curbs are sometime hard to see, creating the risk of being forced off the curb by the crowds.   Exercise caution and be prepared to stop suddenly. Better some bruised feelings than some broken bones!

Tips for Touring the Magic Kingdom with Mobility Impairments
The Magic Kingdom is the oldest of the theme parks at Walt Disney World.  While many things have changed over the years as new rides are built and older rides are renovated, this park still has several impediments that can make touring in a wheelchair or ECV a challenge.   Still, some special tips and tricks can make touring safe and easier.

The first thing to know about the Magic Kingdom is that the parking lot is a distance from the park at the Transportation and Ticket Center. D rivers and monorail resort guests reach the Magic Kingdom by monorail or ferry.  In either case visibility to Cast Members who are guiding the boarding procedure is crucial.  Monorails have specific cars to accommodate wheelchairs and ECVs.  Cast Members manually place a ramp between the car and the station to let a wheelchair or ECV wheel on or off.  Upon arrival at a park or resort, there may be a short wait while a Cast Member positions the ramp.  Keep watch for the Cast Member and get their attention if needed to avoid making an unplanned round trip!
Main Street USA has horse-drawn trolley tracks running down the middle of the street.  These tracks pose a special hazard to wheelchairs and ECVs as the tracks are nearly perfectly sized to catch one of the wheels, which can result in the wheel getting stuck or even the vehicle overturning.  Try to use the sidewalks to travel up and down Main Street.  Consider cutting through the shops located on the left side of the street (as you face the castle) in the morning and using the right side of the street (again, as you face the castle) when leaving in the evening.  Also consider staying a little later to let much of the crowd exit first.  Late-goers might even get to see the famous Kiss Goodnight – an experience not to be missed!
Be sure to check park maps both for accessibility of attractions and for character meet and greet locations.  In some cases, such as Tony’s Town Square, the same access ramp to get up to Tony’s is also used as a meet and greet location. Cast members will make sure that mobility devices can get by, but leave extra time.

Some ride-on attractions have very limited seating for ECVs or wheelchairs.   Most notable among these are the Jungle Cruise, it’s a small world , Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Each attraction has only one ride vehicle capable of accepting ECVs or wheelchairs.  Be prepared to wait for at least the duration of the ride before being loaded whether or not there is any wait for people who can walk on the ride.

Some attractions are very difficult or impossible to experience for people who using mobility aids.  The Swiss Family Tree House must be done by walking and has various stairs and swaying walkways to be crossed.  At Pirates of the Caribbean, guests must transfer to an attraction wheelchair. Cast Members are not normally allowed to take an ECV from where the guest gets on the ride to where they get off and the load and unload areas are far apart. If unable to push a wheelchair or do not have a companion to do the pushing, Pirates may need to be skipped completely.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority requires going up and down a steep ramp and does not allow any wheelchairs or ECVs at all. On option is to be “sandwiched” between two friends or family members to get up and down those ramps. While it may or may not be difficult to get into the ride vehicle at Space Mountain, many full grown adults without mobility impairments have been heard asking for a crane to help get them out! The guest’s legs stick out straight in front of them during the ride, making it very difficult to push up to get out again.

Finally, there are two very important tips about restrooms. First, there are no accessible restrooms in Liberty Tree Tavern.  Guests who cannot climb stairs will need to exit the restaurant and proceed to restrooms near Columbia Harbor House.  Additionally, Magic Carpets of Aladdin are positioned in such a way that, if there’s a crowd, it may be very difficult to get to the restrooms located on the walkway between Adventureland and Frontierland.  Consider approaching the restrooms from the Frontierland side instead.

Tips for Touring Epcot with Mobility Impairments
When Epcot was built and opened in 1982, it had the advantage of size over the Magic Kingdom.  At a bit over twice the size of the Magic Kingdom, it hosts wider walkways and fewer twists and turns.  However, while in many ways it is more mobility impairment friendly, there are still some important things to know to maximize the experience and minimize hassles and waits.

The most popular ride in Epcot, and in all of Walt Disney World, is Soarin’. This ride virtually guarantees the need to use a Fast Pass with mobility impairments, as few mobility impaired people can keep up with the mad dash down to the lowest level of The Land pavilion, where the entrance to Soarin’ is located.  If using a wheelchair or ECV, use the elevator located on the middle level of the pavilion to access the lower level.  This elevator is slow only holds two wheelchairs or ECVs.  A good strategy, if possible, is to send a non-impaired person ahead to collect Fastpasses for the entire party, since they can brave the mad dash and take the escalator down to Soarin’s entrance.  Touring The Land pavilion’s attractions should be done either before or after the Soarin’ Fastpass return time.  Consider doing the entire pavilion near lunch time and combine the attractions with a stop at Sunshine Seasons for a snack or meal. There is a designated wheelchair ramp toward the left side of the hill The Land stands on; however, most people don’t notice the signs, making it very difficult to get up or down the ramp.  There are good handholds on either side, but this hill is very steep.  Take is slowly and be careful, as runaway wheelchairs tend to come to very sudden and unpleasant stops!

Spaceship Earth is a very popular attraction with a huge capacity to absorb crowds.  What is not obvious, however, is that while most people may be able to walk right onto the ride and immediately begin their journey, mobility impaired individuals may need to wait a considerable period of time before being allowed to board.  They are boarded through the exit of the ride and must be accompanied by a Cast Member to the appropriate boarding area.  Since the ride vehicle in Spaceship Earth goes up 163 feet inside the sphere and the steepest angle of descent is just shy of 40 degrees, Walt Disney World limits the number of mobility impaired individuals permitted on the ride at one time in case of a ride emergency requiring an evacuation.  Mobility impaired individuals will be assisted by rescue personnel and/or Cast Members in the event of an emergency evacuation.  Posted wait times are not reliable – boarding could be immediate or a wait of 15 minutes could occur, even if there are very few others on the attraction.

Epcot is a very spread out park. If considering renting an ECV, this is definitely one of the parks where it may be most beneficial.  Even with the long range that most modern ECVs are capable of doing per day (averaging about 15 miles on a single charge), be aware that a mobility impaired person’s stamina may run out long before their ECV’s charge.  Plan accordingly, take breaks and don’t push beyond individual capabilities.

Whether in Future World or in World Showcase, there are several gentle, yet deceptive, slopes and inclines to navigate.  These are gentle enough to be able to walk without problems, but more noticeable if pushing a wheelchair, requiring greater expenditure of energy.  While ECVs can handle these slopes as easily as someone on foot can, keep in mind that riders are significantly shorter – similar to the height of a seven- to nine-year old child.  People on foot tend to look up and straight ahead. B eing so immersed in the magic of Walt Disney World, they may walk into, stop or cross in front of mobility devices without warning.  Some guests hold lit cigarettes down to avoid them being noticed, while accidentally putting it at the perfect height to burn guests using EVCs or wheelchairs.  The most important tip in any park, but especially in Epcot is practice defensive driving or walking to prevent a nasty crash or burn.

Tips for Touring Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Mobility Impairments
Opened in 1989, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or as it was then known Disney-MGM Studios, is newer than Epcot, but only slightly larger than the Magic Kingdom.  However, a large part of the Studio’s acres are closed off as various attractions have changed and closed over the years.  This makes the Studios one of the smallest to navigate, while not diminishing its crowd size.

The Studios, unlike the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and even the Animal Kingdom, are not laid out to permit a visitor to travel in one direction all the time, making a large loop. Instead, guests are required to backtrack from time to time at the Studios, creating a lot of two-way traffic.

While the curbs throughout the park are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant (i.e., curb cuts are provided), in a crowd it is sometimes difficult to locate a convenient curb cut.  As with other parks, the risk of being forced off the curb by other guests who aren’t paying attention also exists.  At the Studios, it is best to stay off the sidewalks entirely.  Unlike the Magic Kingdom, the streets are relatively free of major hazards to wheelchairs and ECVs, so if possible, ride down Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, and the other streets in style.  Be part of the magic of Hollywood and enjoy it!

For many of the rides, it is necessary to transfer out of a wheelchair or ECV into the ride vehicle.  Included in this category are Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, and Star Tours. This also means missing part of the preshow for these attractions, if brought in via the exit.  When crowds are low and lines are short, consider walking through the queue line, if able, to capture all that the attraction has to offer.  Tower of Terror is especially worth it, if you’re up to it!

Toy Story Mania is a ride that can accommodate manual and power wheelchairs, but cannot handle ECVs at this time.  There are two special ride vehicles that can be converted for wheelchair use, but they are also used for non-wheelchair guests, which can increase the amount of wait time for mobility device users.  Additionally, access for the wheelchair loading area is the only non-stairs access to the ride.  Riders who do not need a wheelchair but cannot handle stairs are sent this way also, which further increases the wait times for mobility impaired individuals.  If that’s not enough, the time needed to convert the two special ride vehicles for wheelchair use is significant, further slowing loading and unloading.  However, the special ride vehicles are equipped with both the regular pull-string shooters that the other vehicles have and also with a ”fire” button which is good for those who unable to pull the string.  The fire button is faster, allowing riders to boost their score.

For many of the shows, such as Muppet*Vision 3D, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Fantasmic!, One Man’s Dream, and even the Great Movie Ride which is both a show and a ride rolled into one, wheeled access is only available at the very back of the theater or car.  This will changes the view at times, but shouldn’t rule experiencing these attractions. The shows will still be enjoyable, but might not be as amazing others report. Perspective does change the show and the magic, but it doesn’t ruin it.

Many people declare that the Studios is only truly a half-day park.  However, the number of attractions that the mobility impaired individual will see in that half-day is fewer than those who do not have impairments.  Plan accordingly and expect to spend ¾ to a full day at the Studios to take in everything.  It is well worth the additional time and effort.  Bear in mind that the Studios does not have a lot of places to park an ECV or wheelchair inside.  If it’s raining or looks like it might rain plan on covering your wheelchair or ECV, otherwise, the chair’s seat won’t be the only wet seat!

Tips for Touring Disney’s Animal Kingdom with Mobility Impairments
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the newest and largest of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World.  While it has the advantage of space and newness, this does not necessarily translate into being the easiest for the mobility impaired to navigate.  While the size of the park might lend itself to a more reasonable disbursement of crowds, it also can be exceptionally tiring for the mobility impaired visitor or the person pushing a wheelchair.

The park contains nearly no level ground.  The only flat, level areas are inside or near food, while everything else is made up of rough terrain and constant hills and bumps.  Unless the wheelchair or ECV comes complete with off-road shock absorbers (the ones rented at Disney parks do not have shock absorbers of any type), be prepared for a wild ride just getting to the rides!

The Animal Kingdom has several rides that cannot be ridden in a wheelchair or ECV.  Among these are: Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl, and Expedition Everest.  Additionally, to reach Conservation Station guests must board a train and leave ECVs and wheelchairs behind.  Replacements are available at Conservation Station’s train platform, but be prepared for the necessary transfers before deciding whether or not to take the trip.

One of the things that makes Animal Kingdom unique among the four theme parks at Walt Disney World is that it is intentionally designed to require exploration.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  Whereas in the other parks, there are always one or more landmarks guests use to get their bearings, but Animal Kingdom’s landmark, the Tree of Life, is intentionally not visible from all points within the park.  Animal Kingdom is truly an immersive experience; however, most landmarks used along the trails while exploring are designed for adults who are standing.  Guests in wheelchairs or ECVs are at the height of a child of age seven to nine years old most of the time.  This prevents them from seeing these landmarks, in many cases, making navigation a much more hit or miss experience.  Those with a GPS and an overlay of the park, have a chance to impress everyone with their navigation skills.

Many have called the Animal Kingdom a half-day park for its relative lack of attractions compared to the other parks.  It may be more accurate to say that Animal Kingdom is half-day park for the mobility impaired, but should budget two days to see it all.  Unless used to off-roading in a wheelchair or ECV, the natural bumps, hills, and twisty paths of the Animal Kingdom will be more taxing than expected.  It is recommended that mobility impaired guests spend a half-day at Animal Kingdom seeing what they feel up to, and then returning to their hotel for a soak in the hot tub to recover.  Return for another half-day at Animal Kingdom to see the remaining attractions, repeating the time in the hot tub afterward to refresh body and spirit.

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Posted on May 12, 2009

38 Responses to “Touring Plan Tips For Walt Disney World Visitors With Mobility Impairments”

  • Thanks for posting this. My husband walks with a cane and always relies on an ECV when we do Disney. We’ve got Disneyland down pat but have only done World once since his injury, so these tips are very helpful. Can’t wait for our trip in June!

    • by Larry Heidenberg on May 13, 2009, at 8:48 pm EST

      Heather,

      If you have any questions or need any assistance, just ask. I’m monitoring for comments and working with Len as appropriate on refining things or seeing what other things should be added (not just mobility impairments, but any special needs). Or, drop me an email via the link in the article and I’ll be happy to try to help to.

      Enjoy the Magic!

  • by Jul from MD on May 13, 2009, at 10:28 pm EST

    Fantastic info. On our last trip, one of our party ended up not being able to handle the walking after the first day, so we took her around in a wheelchair. It was a very new experience for seasoned veterans like my husband and I, but I was so thrilled about how accommodating Disney was for people with mobility issues. Still, there’s quite a learning curve if you’re not used to thinking about certain aspects of life with someone who is mobility impaired!

    • by Larry Heidenberg on May 13, 2009, at 10:43 pm EST

      Jul,

      Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been going to WDW since 1971 and for much of my life, I had little to no mobility problems (well, no more than anybody who’s not used to walking so many miles a day!). Still, the last couple of visits I’ve been having to use an ECV, so, I have first hand knowledge of the problems involved and how different things really are when you’re knee-high to a grasshopper (or even shorter than Lou Mongello! ;) Sorry Lou!)

      Any issues you found that I didn’t cover, please, put it up here. If we need to modify the article at some point or add even more things, we want to know!

      • My daughter, now 15, has had two surguries done to her hip. When we went the last two times we rented a wheel chair from a medical comp. in Orlando that dropped it off at the resort. We had a rental car so it was not bad to hall around when we went out to the parks.It worked wonders to take the load off her feet all day. One little tip though bring a small bike chain to lock it up when you go any rides or shows, we had it stolen when we went on Spaceship Earth. Disney did a wonderful job giving us a free pass for the rest of our trip for every park the rest of our trip. By the way when we came back at night to eat and watch the Illumination show we saw a family pushing one of there family members around with it. Secuity took it from them since we had our paperwork with us for proof. Disney was willing to give us a statement claim so we can use for our insurance. It would have been a shame if it was someone that absolutly had to use though.(use the lock), and about the WC, we rented it for $75 bucks for 10 days, Still cheaper than renting in the park eveyday and can take with us outside them also.

        • by Larry Heidenberg on May 14, 2009, at 11:36 pm EST

          Be careful about using a bike lock or other locking system. While making it tougher for the wheel to turn (much like in certain cities, bike riders will often take off the front wheel of their bike and chain it to the body of the bike) is “reasonable”… Disney cannot allow people to chain the wheelchair/ECV/etc to a stationary item in the parks. They need to be able to move the wheelchair for a variety of possible reasons (safety, traffic flow, etc). Marking your wheelchair to make it obvious that it’s yours is always a good idea… immobilizing it to a stationary object can either present a danger to others, or an invitation to Disney to have to cut the chain and (when you ask where’d it go, or ask for reimbursement) possibly an invitation to vacate the park for violating the rules. Be safe, be smart, and enjoy your visits!

  • by Paul Bittorf on May 15, 2009, at 2:07 pm EST

    Thanks for the great article Larry. I have been to Disney many times but in January fell in the ice and broke both bones in my leg. Had to postppone a January trip but can wait no longer (Mickey misses me and I him)! After some screws and a bit of metal walking without assistance but still quite stiff and sore so will probably rent ECV’s in the parks. Going in early June now. Four questions if any can answer: can you park these easily around the attractions (I’ll probably limp on but will use it to go from place to place). Do they have keys so other can’t drive off? How soon do the ECV’s usually run out. Do you need like Dr.’s paperwork to rent? Thanks!

    • by Larry Heidenberg on May 15, 2009, at 3:09 pm EST

      Paul,

      First of all, I understand just how strong the Call of the Mouse can be, as well as the ‘fun’ of trying to get around at less-than-your-best.

      First question: Can you park the ECV easily around the attractions? Yes. HOWEVER, before you do so, I would strongly encourage 2 things. First, be selective about when you do/don’t park your ECV. Especially at Pirates, the walk is MUCH LONGER than you expect from where you park your ECV. Additionally, check with the cast members BEFORE you park your ECV. This is both to make sure you’re parking in a “reasonable” area, and to also ensure that they aren’t RECOMMENDING that you take your ECV with you. For some things (one that immediately comes to mind is Soarin’) you will have a VERY VERY VERY long walk, but an easy ride, and places to park your ECV practically at ride-vehicle side.

      Next: Do the vehicles have keys? Yes… BUT (you knew there’d be a BUT in there, didn’t you), most of the keys are not “customized” keys, they’re fairly standard. So, could someone accidentally take your ECV mistaking it for theirs? Yes. I would recommending customizing your ECV to make it recognizable. In my case, we got some of the Mickey Mouse Paint Samples from Home Depot (shaped like Mickey heads) of a certain color and using wire ties, fastened them to the basket, front, and back of the ECV. These made it distinctive, but in no way damaged or “modified” the ECV. Plus, it got a lot of nice comments, which isn’t a bad thing either!

      How soon do ECV’s run out: Most ECVs from the rental companies will last a full day (& evening) of normal to active touring, if you’re talking about how long do the charges last if you charge fully each night using one of the off-site (Non-Disney Branded, that is) vendors. If you are considering renting one of the WDW “brand” on-site ECVs, those can run out fairly early. Looking at the Crowd Calendar for the first half of June, I would personally suspect that if you choose to rely on Disney’s ECVs, you may well end up finding they have run out of available ones to rent by mid-day, and if you choose to park-hop, while you may have left an ECV at (for example), Magic Kingdom, EPCOT may not have any when you get there. If you rent from Off-site, you will normally have it delivered straight to your hotel (on or off property) on the day of your arrival (either left with Luggage Claim/Valet/Bell Stand, or delivered right to you personally, depending on the off-site company you choose), and it will go with you not only inside the parks, but at your resort, on the buses/monorails/boats/etc, so you know that it’ll be available for you. Plus, while prices for EVERYTHING are always in flux (so do your homework to be sure you’re making the right choice FOR YOU), the last time that I checked, the off-site prices for daily rental of ECVs were less expensive than the on-site rentals from Disney.

      Finally, Do you need a Dr’s note or other paperwork to rent? Absolutely NOT! In fact, it happens to be against the law (the Americans with Disabilities Act, to be precise) for them to require a note to permit you to rent them. You do have to meet certain requirements. You have to be 18+ (in most cases, a couple will occasionally rent to younger patrons), you have to be able to physically turn the steering lever and control the speed, and you have to be able to see so you don’t run into people, pets, in front of buses, etc. Otherwise, nope, they don’t have any paperwork they can ask you for. Still, though rumors are often to the contrary, there are more “time disadvantages” to using an ECV than not, if you’re physically able to get around PERFECTLY WELL without them. You’ll see those in the article. Still, if you can’t actually enjoy WDW if you don’t have some help, than definitely, GET THE ECV AND ACCEPT THE HELP!

      Any other questions, ask away!

      • by Paul Bittorf on May 16, 2009, at 11:41 pm EST

        Thanks Larry. You answered all of my questions and more! I am aware of some of the long queues you are talking about – though would probably prefer to walk in the attraction queue with the others. I can walk some – walked about a mile and a half today but leg gets pretty swollen and sore. I know you can walk much longer in a day at the parks so this should be a great help. Plus would rather not be in a lot of pain walking in my favorite place. Thanks again.

      • Hi Larry

        My husband does not want to deal with an ecv on the buses and monorails etc
        we are going December 5 to 13th and want to rent inside the
        parks
        I saw your note about June – do you think it will be easier or harder to rent in the park during our timeframe?
        thanks for your help
        Holly

        • by Larry Heidenberg on September 7, 2009, at 9:02 pm EST

          Holly,

          I completely understand what you’re saying about not wanting to deal with some of the hassles. First, though, let me say that the monorail is really NOT a hassle at all, other than making sure that the Cast Member remembers to put the ramp down to keep him from taking one giant bump for his rear-end ;).

          To hopefully better answer your question, let me ask, where is it that you’re staying during that time period? Because, depending on where you’re staying, it may make a difference in terms of how much hassle you will/won’t be having to deal with.

          Not knowing that, I’ll try to give a semi-generic answer. The crowd calendar seems to be showing 4′s to 7′s, other than December 5 itself. So, theoretically, you should be semi-ok for ECV’s. The one thing is, I would say that’s the case IF you plan on getting to the parks early. If it’s later on, then I can’t say with any degree of reliability. Additionally, there are plenty of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties that week (5 I think), plus, it’s also Pop Warner during that time. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the retired grandparents will be down to see their kids in Pop Warner, and if their kids are eliminated early or aren’t playing, they’ll probably be touring the parks. Of those, some will need ECVs, which will reduce the availability, especially if you’re coming to the parks a bit later.

          Also keep in mind, if you’re going to MVMCP but will be touring another park earlier in the day, it’s quite possible that you’ll find that the ECVs aren’t available until sometime during the party itself. Be prepared for that possibility and plan accordingly.

          So, what’s my general suggestion to consider? If you’re staying at a Deluxe on the monorail, I think you’ll find it fairly easy to manage an ECV on & off the monorail if you go to the Magic Kingdom &/or Epcot. Also, keep in mind, if you’ve got Park Hoppers and YOUR legs are up to it, you can always monorail to Epcot, walk through the park & the international gateway, and then take the boat to the Studios. He’ll find the boats at the Epcot resorts a breeze to handle, trust me.

          If you’re staying at the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, or Dolphin, you’ll be able to use the boats to get to Epcot & the Studios, could use the same strategy to get to the Magic Kingdom, or you could manage the buses from any of those hotels to get to the Magic Kingdom. The bigger “hassle” is waiting for the bus, in my opinion, than in getting the ECV on or off. Plus, depending on his mobility, he may be able to reasonably get off the ECV before it’s loaded, get into the bus, and have the bus driver get the ECV on/off. For that, I can’t guarantee that all of the bus drivers will be willing to do this, but, most are. Also, you could always call the main WDW Resort phone number (407-824-2222), ask for a Transportation Supervisor, tell them that you’re considering getting an off-site ECV but your husband’s concerned about getting it on/off the bus, and ask them if their drivers would take care of the loading/unloading while he walks on/off the bus, while not on the ECV. They should be able to answer.

          If you’re not staying at any of these listed hotels, yes, there’s more of a hassle to deal with the ECV, because you might have to wait for a bus to arrive that isn’t already loaded in such a way to keep you from being able to have the ECV loaded. If he’s unwilling to deal with the hassles of the ECV at those places, then about all I can suggest is that you should try to plan to arrive early and STAY, because they will not hold the ECV for your return, nor will they allow an unattended ECV to “just sit there” for several hours while you’re perhaps out of the park, hoping to recollect it upon your return. After a while, they WILL move it back to the main ECV area.

          If you have any other questions, please let me know. If you want to let me know what hotel you’re planning on staying at, I’ll see if I can help pin down things with a bit more specifics. Whatever you do, enjoy the trip!

          • Thank you for all your feedback Larry

            We are staying at Port Orleans Riverside
            We hope to do MVMCP on Monday December 6th

            Holly

  • by Larry Heidenberg on May 28, 2009, at 9:55 pm EST

    We recently had someone contact us to ask about places you can rent a wheelchair or ECV from that will deliver right to your hotel, so that you can use them anywhere you need them. Please keep in mind, TouringPlans.Com, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World are not endorsing any one company over another. Neither am I. These are companies, however, that I have either dealt with or that have been well reviewed by people who have used them. As is the case for ANYTHING with your trip, I STRONGLY recommend contacting more than one location, getting quotes and information, and then choosing the best choice for your specific needs.

    Care Medical Equipment: http://www.caremedicalequipment.com

    Walker Mobility: http://www.walkermobility.com

    Randy’s Mobility: http://www.randysmobility.com

    Buena Vista Scooters: http://www.buenavistascooters.com

    Additional companies include Scootaround (http://www.scootaround.com) and Scootarama (http://www.scootarama.com) but I have know direct personal knowledge of them and have not heard a lot (positive or negative) about them.

    Whoever you chose, make sure you ask about ALL fees that are charged (delivery, insurance, etc, as different places have different requirements or offer different options). Keep in mind that, even if the costs are the same as the WDW prices, you will have additional use of your wheelchair/ECV beyond the park gates, which you won’t have (not even as far as the parking lot or bus stop) with WDW rented ones.

    Additionally, I have been told that SOME of the WDW hotel MAY have a FEW wheelchairs that may be borrowed/rented. There have been varying reports as to the condition of these wheelchairs (anywhere from great to awful), questions of cost/no cost, etc. Take note…. These CANNOT be reserved in advance, are on the first-come-first-served basis, and Disney does encourage people to rent from non-Disney sources if the chair is needed for the entire stay.

    Please post any questions you’ve got & I’ll try to help!

  • Watch out for the trolley tracks running down Mainstreet, Magic Kingdom. You must cross dirctly perpendicular to the tracks or risk getting a wheel stuck in the track and dumping the passenger. Also, be prepared for a bumpy ride on all those cobbled streets and pathways.

    • by Larry Heidenberg on June 1, 2009, at 10:57 pm EST

      Good catch, Susan. I thought that I’d put in the tip to cross close to exactly perpendicular, but I must have lost it in the writing and rewriting!

  • by Patricia M on June 6, 2009, at 2:23 pm EST

    I too am concerned about leaving my ECV unattended when I am riding a ride or in a show. Most of the ECV’s have baskets. How likely is there that some one would steal an extra shirt, bottled water, etc left in an unattended wheelchair or ECV? I know there are no guarantees, and it just takes one person, but was wondering about the general atmostphere.

    • by Larry Heidenberg on June 6, 2009, at 7:03 pm EST

      Honestly, I would not choose to leave the basket of the ECV with anything in it while going on the ride. However, that is not really a problem. This picture http://i237.photobucket.com/albums/ff282/mrmagicmph/Disney-Public/Pooh-Basket.jpg (aside from being very cute, of course) is of Winnie the Pooh at the Crystal Palace “taking” my basket. That basket was made to attach onto the rental ECV (almost all of the off-site rental ECVs have removable basics) and be taken off and carried with you onto whatever.

      I would not leave things unattended, any more than I’d leave things in a stroller. People can WISH the best at WDW, but unfortunately, you don’t always get the best from everyone, even at Disney.

      Any other questions, please, ask away!

  • by Kathryn Smith on June 25, 2009, at 8:39 pm EST

    Hi,

    I have an eight year old in a wheelchair. I have been trying to find out if any of the wishes cruise boats are accessible. Any ideas?

    Thanks,

    • by Larry Heidenberg on June 25, 2009, at 10:09 pm EST

      Kathryn,

      I’ve double checked with WDW to make sure that this information is 100% correct. Wishes cruises ARE accessible, with one specific exclusion. DO NOT book a Wishes Cruise to leave from the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian Wishes Cruise is not accessible, but the other locations are. To book a Wishes cruise, you can call (407) WDW-PLAY (407-939-7529). DO let them know that you’ll have a wheelchair, that will make things easier for everyone.

      Any other questions, ask away! That’s what we put this here for!

  • I have Spinal Stenosis and cannot stand or walk for more than a few minutes. WDW sounds much more complicated than DL for touring with an ECV. At DL – On Soarin” & Indiana Jones, I just went through the FP line. On Pirates, I went through the exit..same with Space, Splash, Big Thunder, TOT & CA Screamin’. The only real hassle was the HM. From everything I’ve read about WDW and ECVs, this has me a bit concerned and am now considering just going back to DL instead of WDW.

    • by Larry Heidenberg on February 17, 2010, at 10:13 pm EST

      Sorry to take a couple of days to reply, Joy, but I definitely did want to get back to you. I admit, it’s been a while since I was at DL (pre-California Adventure, to give you an idea, and I did not have my current mobility impairments back then), so I can’t give you an item by item comparison between DL and WDW.

      What can I tell you? WDW is a lot bigger and has more parks. As a result, there IS a lot more “traveling” to do. At the same time, though, while things are DIFFERENT, I would not necessarily say that they’re better OR worse at DL vs WDW. I’m not completely certain, but, from what you said in your post, I would presume that you have your own ECV. Since you do, chances are very good that you’re VERY familiar with its capabilities and can control it well. That’s a major advantage for you, since you’ll have an excellent idea as to where it will/won’t fit, where someone who does not have their own and does not use one regularly may not have the necessary expertise to make such judgements without experimentation.

      I would say that WDW may be a DIFFERENT experience than you’re used to at DL, but not necessarily a reason to not visit; in fact, I would say the differences in experience (not in terms of the ECV, but in terms of the actual available experiences, rides, and attractions) are what makes visiting MORE worthwhile. Should you be prepared for things not being identical with what you’re used to? Yes. Are there some strategies for improving your touring experience at WDW? Yes, hopefully they’re listed fairly clearly in the article. Are there a few things you should be prepared you CAN’T do if you can’t stand/walk? Yes, a couple. Is there anywhere you probably can’t eat? Yes, Liberty Tree Tavern especially comes to mind, as it requires you to climb a few steps inside the restaurant. But, should you throw in the towel? Not unless you really don’t want to see what WDW has to offer. If you DO want to see what’s available, plan for it & go for it! I doubt that you’ll regret it.

      If you have any other questions, please let me know. I’m happy to help if I can! & if you’ve got specific questions you’re not comfortable with asking on here, feel free to click the link with my name at the top of the article & I’ll see what I can do.

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  • My daughter has recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and wants to celebrate her 21st birthday at WDW. We have been many times, but not since her diagnosis. She moves slowly and is unsteady, and may have difficulty boarding rides such as the Haunted Mansion, where the vehicles are constantly moving. I am also concerned that there may be times when waiting in line may make her overly anxious to the point that she may want to leave. I’m wondering what will be the best way to handle this situation.

    • by Larry Heidenberg on June 6, 2010, at 8:37 pm EST

      There are a few things that I can suggest to hopefully help with some of the difficulties you are expecting. First & foremost, FastPass is DEFINITELY your friend! By using Fast Pass whenever possible, you’ll be decreasing the likelihood of being stuck in lines that may make her anxious (note, this will not guarantee REMOVING those lines, but, every bit helps!).

      Additionally, depending on how unsteady on her feet she is, you might consider whether she would be better off with either a wheelchair or ECV. I’m NOT saying that it’s the right choice for her, it’s really more her decision, but, it might be an option. Remind her how far she may be walking each day, & let her decide for herself it might help. If it would, consider both the in-park & also the off-site rental choices. Lately, off-site (who do deliver right to your hotel) has been cheaper, but do price compare.

      Additionally, I would STRONGLY encourage you on your first visit to your first park that you stop off at Guest Services and speak to them about a Guest Assistance Card. If they don’t know what you’re talking about (occasionally can happen if the cast member is new), ask politely to speak to their manager. A guest assistance card is NOT a front-of-the-line pass, but if you’re SPECIFIC about what you need, they MAY be able to accommodate you. Things may include being able to wait away from the crowd (in SOME cases), being able to slow or PERHAPS stop some of the rides to board (there are some that CANNOT be stopped though, such as Peter Pan & I THINK the TTA), things of that nature. Don’t go expecting that if you give them her diagnosis that they will tell you what they can do for you; they can’t. BUT, if you can tell her what she might need, they may be able to assist. One Guest Assistance Card is valid for all 4 parks, so 1 stop is all you need.

      Beyond that, if you specific questions, please let me know! I’ll do my best to answer or to find out if there’s something that I don’t know. Good luck!

      • Thanks so much! That gives me an idea of what I need to talk over with her and prepare her for in advance. She’s a bit nervous about the crowds, but I think once she gets there it will be like coming home again. I’m sure we will have a great time, as always!

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  • Thanks for all of the information you shared with us concerning ecv’s in Disney World. I chose Scootarama and it worked out great for my two week stay at Bay Lake Towers. The battery life of the Pride Revo rocks, only had to charge the battery every four days. Scooter rentals off site is surely the way to go if you need the scooter for more than just the theme parks.

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